The Ballpark – Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
E. Emerson Cummings Boulevard
Old Orchard Beach, ME 04064
Year Opened: 1984
Second Act at The Ballpark
The Ballpark was built in 1984 to be the home for the AAA Maine Guides, which lasted only five seasons before moving to Moosic, PA. The park was unable to attract another baseball team, and was utilized as a summer concert venue as it sat mostly dormant. Over the years, the ballpark sat neglected, overgrown with brush, and was falling apart. It became a popular spot for drug use, fires, and vandalism. A lightning strike at the site caused a significant amount of fire damage in 2007. The town of Old Orchard Beach considered plans to sell the land for development, and it was a mainstay on Ballpark Digest’s endangered ballparks list. The tide turned for The Ballpark in 2008, when a volunteer group called the Ball Park Group began to clean up and renovate the ballpark for special events and ballgames. The Raging Tide moved to Maine and began calling The Ballpark home in 2011.
Food & Beverage 2
There is one concession stand at The Ballpark, and it offers a very limited menu consisting of hot dogs ($3), burgers ($4/$4.50), French fries ($3), and nachos ($2.75). Fans looking to snack can choose from cotton candy ($2), popcorn ($1.50), chips ($0.75), or candy bars ($0.75). Bottles of Pepsi products can be bought for $2. Ice cream novelties are available for $2.50.
Fans looking for a more adult alternative can choose from several varieties of beer and wine. The beer garden at The Ballpark has bottles of Coors Light ($4), Corona, Guinness, and Heineken for $5. Angry Orchard Cider and glasses of wine are available for $5, and Cayman Margarita can be had for $6.
Fans looking to purchase Raging Tide gear will be happy with the selection of t-shirts, hats, and novelties available at the souvenir stand.
Try as you may, there is just no way to create a festive atmosphere when a couple hundred people are scattered in a 5,000 seat concrete stadium. To their credit, the Raging Tide staff do try, with music, games, and promotions throughout the game. The staff are very friendly and genuinely grateful to see the fans that do show up. Unfortunately, there is only so much they can do, and their efforts generally fall flat. Add to the mix one of the saddest looking mascots in creation, and the atmosphere at a Raging Tide game is not the most electric you will ever come across.
The Ballpark is located in a secluded, wooden area adjacent to the Old Orchard Beach High School and behind the Old Orchard Beach Police and Fire Departments. There is little to see or do in the immediate vicinity of The Ballpark, but that changes in a hurry as you head towards the ocean. About a mile away from the ballpark is the Palace Playland, the Pier, and other Old Orchard Beach attractions. The area, once one of the largest tourist destinations on the east coast, has been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to hurricanes, fires, and blizzards. The current incarnation of the beachfront is significantly smaller than past versions, but still attracts a great deal of tourist traffic during the summer, particularly from Quebec. It is not uncommon to hear conversations taking place in French during the summer months.
The year-round population of Old Orchard Beach is under 9,000, but swells to almost 75,000 during the summer. Interestingly enough, Old Orchard Beach is the closest oceanfront beach to Montreal, explaining the lure of the area to French Canadian tourists. In fact, most shops in the area have signs in their windows proclaiming “ici nous parlons Francais” (we speak French here). The Futures League season begins in June, when the tourist industry is just getting started. If you venture to the area later in the year, you may be dealing with an entirely different crowd.
Crowds at The Ballpark can vary wildly from night to night. In their three seasons in Old Orchard Beach, attendance has averaged in the 500 range. On weekend nights the Tide can attract close to 1,000 fans, and crowds less than 100 have also been reported. The fans that do show up are knowledgeable about the team, and enthusiastic about their efforts.
Old Orchard Beach is easily accessible via Interstate 95 (Maine Turnpike). Simply take the Interstate 195 exit, which will quickly turn into route 5. The Ballpark is located just off of Route 5 behind the Police and Fire Stations.
Fans seeking alternate methods of transportation to the seaside town will be pleased to know that Amtrak’s Downeaster train stops just feet from the beach during the summer months. From there, The Ballpark is a short cab ride away.
Once inside The Ballpark, there is more than enough room to spread out. With a capacity of 5,500, The Ballpark is the largest facility in the Futures League. The concourse is located underneath the grandstand, and is more than large enough to accommodate even the largest Raging Tide crowd. One major drawback of the concourse area is that it isn’t paved or landscaped, so fans with unsteady gait should step carefully. Also, if you can help it, don’t look up. The underside of the seating bowl is not the most attractive view one will come across at a ballpark. Despite the great efforts of the volunteers who have tirelessly worked at renovating The Ballpark, it still has an unfinished feel to it.
The concession stands and locker rooms at The Ballpark are built to resemble the pine cabins typically seen in lodges and campgrounds in this area. The bathrooms are new, clean, and more than large enough for any Raging Tide crowd.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets at The Ballpark cost $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for children aged 7-12. Children under 7 are admitted for free, as are active members of the military. Free parking is available in the large parking lot adjacent to The Ballpark. Food will not cost you an arm and a leg either, so a night at a Raging Tide game is a very affordable alternative to many other activities in the area.
The experience at The Ballpark is a bare bones one, to be sure. The staff are friendly and helpful, which goes a long way towards covering up the shortcomings of the ballpark. Still, ballpark aficionados will undoubtedly enjoy visiting this once endangered field.
The locker rooms here are located in a separate building located behind and underneath the seating bowl, meaning that the players have to walk the concourse through the crowd after the game to get to their lockers. It was an autograph hound’s nirvana back in the day, and that tradition continues today. The Raging Tide players were more than accommodating to any children wanting their items signed.
After spending a day at The Ballpark many fans will marvel over the fact that this ballpark was ever considered adequate for AAA baseball. It’s even more unbelievable that Sports Illustrated once called The Ballpark the best ballpark in minor league baseball. It’s entirely made of concrete, it’s cold, and it’s ugly. It was only used for five seasons before the Guides moved on to the greener pastures of Moosic, PA and the equally unattractive Lackawanna County Stadium. Still, it’s a monumental achievement that it is still standing and in usable condition. Kudos to the volunteers who gave their time, energy, and money to preserve a ballpark that would have easily faded away into history.