Tiger Park - Belle Plaine Tigers
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
201 S Eagle Street
Belle Plaine, MN 55318
Year Opened: 1885 Capacity: 600
The Tiger Town of Minnesota
The Belle Plaine Tigers are members of the River Valley League (Class C) and have been playing baseball on the same site since 1885. The first park was Union Square, and its location has continuously been used for baseball. It is not just one of the oldest original fields in Minnesota but one of the oldest in the world.
Baseball was originally supported by local cigar factories and flour mills that made sure the ballclub was fully funded, dressed, and ready to play ball. The teams went through various interesting nicknames, including Red Caps, Red Stockings, Governors, Juniors, Giants, and White Lilies. Finally, in 1923 the name Tigers was adopted, and it has been used ever since in town.
Baseball hit a lull in the late 1950s when the Tigers disbanded for several seasons, prompting local boosters to dip into their own pockets to start the team again. The group led by local legend, player, manager, and future hall of famer Gerry “Mize” Meyer was able to put a squad together while maintaining the field of play. The club would even turn a $10 profit at the end of the season.
However, by the late 1980s, the old ballpark was in disrepair and condemned by city officials. An entire new grandstand was constructed that included moving the diamond 40 feet to the east producing a 305 feet right field corner. The new structure accommodated 1,500 people, and its design harkened back to earlier renderings featuring a covered wooden grandstand, a fresh coat of green paint, and ivy-laced outfield walls.
The Tigers have appeared in 15 state tournaments and have been state finalists in 1948, 1952, 1991, and 2013. In 1994, the Tigers were Class “C” State Champions. The ballpark has also been home to the Tigertown Classic tournament since 1999 and has co-hosted 5-state tournaments in 1966, 1981, 1992, 2004, and 2014.
The little ballpark is a shining example of what town ball is in Minnesota, creating a perfect opportunity to visit a piece of baseball history that has been gravely overlooked in the other 49 states but etched in lore in Belle Plaine.
Food & Beverage 3
There is one concession stand underneath the wooden grandstand operated by volunteers from the community. The stand has a little league or high school feel. The food is tasty and includes hot dogs that are locally made and smoked at Rick’s Meats; the dogs snap when you bite into them and are much better than what you would find at many major league ballparks. Also delicious is Rick’s beef jerky, which is taken from a plastic bag by the chunk.
Other treats include popcorn, nachos, and hamburgers. Interestingly, beer is served either by the can, a six-pack, or a 12-pack. If not a beer drinker, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, O’Doul’s, and Coca-Cola products are available.
There is one approaching the grandstand. The small, wooden structure looks and feels much older than its construction date. At the top of the grandstand, there is a small press box and a radio broadcast area. In addition to its play-by-play man’s smooth and sweet voice, KNUJ occasionally broadcasts games. Also, 2-3 times a year KCHK Radio out of New Prague does a game at Tiger Park.
In addition to the five plaques recognizing Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame members who once played in town, a mural highlighting the city’s championship years, and two circular markers marking the year baseball began, there is also history everywhere.
Most fans take residency down the 1st baseline on picnic tables or the small seating area against the fence. It is busy with kids tossing baseballs, adults talking about the game, and others looking to see what is good to eat at the concession stand.
You will not find mascots, merchandise tables, or whacky promotions. You will find updates, announcements from the PA announcer, and ivy-covered outfield walls. The laid-back atmosphere is more than enough to engage the common fan, and the place has a strong sense of nostalgia, being the ancestral site of the first amateur baseball games in 1885.
There are a few choices in town for a bite to eat before or after the game. Emma Krumbee’s Bakery & Restaurant is a popular spot in the area and recommended by locals at the ballpark. Cindy’s Kitchen is another nice choice for breakfast or lunch, and Andy’s Bar & Grill features chive fries, breaded cauliflower, sloppy chips, and other pub food delicacies.
Many residents consider SpareTime Tavern the best place in town for burgers, and former all-time great Tiger and Mariner farmhand Jeff “Hot Dog” Miller recommends Annie’s Cafe. Belle Plaine is home to the HomeTown Inn & Suites.
The Tigers produce a good showing of fans at each game; many are relaxed as they enjoy the game with friends and family. The faithful in attendance engage themselves by talking with friends, watching their favorites on the field, and enjoying a night out during the summer.
Located off Minnesota State Highway 169, Tiger Park is about a 45-minute drive from Minneapolis. Use the GPS to navigate to the ballpark since there are no street signs. If you get lost in town, most people can point you in the right direction. Once inside, the park’s size makes it simple to get around with comfort. Bathrooms are marked and are near the entrance of the stadium.
Return on Investment 4
The price of admission to a game is only $4. Students aged 13-17 are admitted for $2 and anyone under the age of 12 is free. There are even season ticket prices starting at $25. The prices are in line with other town ballparks within the area of the state.
On certain nights, a local sponsor will cover the cost of a meal with a paid admission. The price of food at the concession is also inexpensive and similar to that of a high school event, but a whole lot tastier. The experience appreciates a little more once you leave and are far away from the ballpark and town, making the investment that much greater.
The ballpark earns an additional point for the delicious and natural casing hot dogs that snap when you bite into them. Several major league teams should take note of these amazing franks. The ballpark earns another star for the mural in the back of the press box. It adds a modern touch to what feels like a throwback facility.
A third point for the ivy-covered outfield walls, you can never go wrong with this look on any building or stadium. The staff makes a ballpark hunter feel welcomed.