Photo Courtesy of Marc Viquez and The Duluth Tribune
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Wade Stadium 101 N 35th Ave W Duluth, MN 55807
Year Opened: 1941
Old-School Baseball at “The Wade”
Wade Stadium has been hosting baseball since 1941 and the old, venerable facility has shown its age in recent years. It has changed little since it constructed 381,000 bricks from a nearby neighborhood street 77 years ago. However, over time, the old ballpark needed dire repairs that finally occurred before its 75th anniversary.
In 2014 the stadium received $4.6 million in renovations to help resurrect the historic ballpark that was deteriorating. The year before the portion of the exterior walls along the first base side collapsed. The ballpark was also known as having the worst field conditions in the league due to an outdated drainage system that would cause cancellations with the slightest of rains.
In 2015, Wade Stadium was rechristened with a new artificial surface, lights, scoreboard, and much-needed care to the brick walls. The improvements were welcomed by both players and fans and it was becoming a state-of-the-art facility. At this time, ownership is hoping that the second phase of renovations can take place towards the grandstand and concession areas.
The Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods League have called the historic stadium home since 2013 along with local area high school baseball programs. The Huskies have averaged between 1,300 to 1,600 fans per game and have been league finalists in 2004 and 2013.
The ballpark was the longtime home of the Duluth Dukes from 1941 to 1970 in the original Northern League. In 1993, a new Dukes team debuted in the independent Northern League and operated until 2002. Originally named Duluth Municipal All-Sports Stadium, its current name is for Frank Wade, owner of the Dukes from 1935-1953, who died on January 12, 1953; a year later on February 3, 1954, the stadium was renamed Wade Municipal Stadium.
Food & Beverage 3
Wade Stadium has improved its concession areas in recent years providing fans with normal ballpark fare and items that should spark interest in a first-time visitor to the stadium. The prices are reasonably fair and fall in line with other ballparks in the Northwoods League.
There are now three separate concession stands and two beer stands that accept credit cards. The Short Stop Concession stand offers hand-scooped and packaged ice cream, hot dogs, brats, hamburgers, nachos, popcorn, and Pepsi products
The Brickyard Grill includes much of the same items but differs with the inclusion of 4 cheese Polish, chili cheese dogs, and Harley’s nachos (pulled pork, cheese, bbq sauce on nacho chips, coleslaw, potato salad).
The Huskies even have their beer produced locally by Mad Paddle Brewing Company. Wade Wit is a fruity hoppy beer with orange zest. There are also MillerCoors products available on tap or in the can along with Barefoot wine and champagne–you don’t see that at your neighborhood ballpark too often.
When you have an older stadium such as Wade Stadium there is going to be an atmosphere of respect towards the building. There is a wow factor when you first approach the building bare witness to the brick-laced exterior. The simplicity of the entrance also adds a touch of nostalgia, but it’s once you are inside that you either appreciate the place or find it cumbersome.
The covered grandstand offers two sections of bleacher seating with seat backs for added comfort, eight pillars hold up the roof that supports a small press box, and bleacher seating extends down the first and third base side of the stadium.
The brick design is also evident inside the building down the right field and left field lines where tall light towers also make their presence. Picnic tables are situated in the right field area that provides a nice view of the historic grandstand. Harley D. Husky can be spotted almost anywhere in the stadium, the official team mascot is a favorite among fans of all ages.
Underneath the grandstand is a tight and narrow concourse that houses many of the concession areas and bathrooms. It is a design that is quintessential Americana and fits perfectly here at “The Wade.” Fans get a chance to meet up and mingle before making their way back to their seats. A nice social mix of fans creates a true sense of community identity.
The Wade is located three miles from the impressive and vibrant downtown scene that is making Duluth one of those sexy new towns everybody has to visit during the summertime. The ballpark is located in a residential neighborhood on the west side of town and driving is recommended to get to many of the restaurants and entertainment in the area.
The dining options are almost endless with restaurants that include fine dining, breathtaking views of Lake Superior, and places to enjoy typical pub fare. Sir Benedicts offers outdoor seating with views of the lake and happy hour 7 days a week, Clyde Iron Works uses wood fire ovens to serve pizza in an urban industrial environment, and Black Woods Bar and Grill is famous for ribs, rotisserie chicken, and steaks. A complete directory can be found here.
Duluth is home to a few breweries and a distillery. Canal Park Brewing Company, Hoops Brewing, Blacklist Brewing, Bent Paddle Brewing Company, and Vikre Distillery are within the downtown area and provide a way to enjoy some of the area’s finest beers and hard liquor.
The city was voted the “Best Town Ever” by Outdoor Magazine. There are over 6,834 acres of city parkland, 178 miles of wooded trails, 16 designated trout streams, plus scenic drives, walks, or bike rides along Lake Superior. Visitors can spend a day on the water with a harbor cruise, charter fishing, sailing, kayaking, or paddle boarding.
Stadium Journey tip-give yourself at least 2-3 days in town, you will be surprised by what Duluth has to offer and how scenic the city is from up on the hill down to the lake walk. If you ask me, spend an extra day in Duluth before heading two hours south to Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The fans have hovered around a base average of 1,348 per game since the Huskies' inception in 2003. With that being said, attendance did see an increase in 2015 (the first year of field renovations) and 2016 (where a record of 1,611 fans per game watched a 30-43 ballclub).
The collegiate summer team appeals to many since games begin in late May or early June and the nights are not as chilly as they are in early April in this part of Minnesota. The folks in the audience are a collection of individuals of all ages rooting for their home team or enjoying a night out at “The Wade.” If you are lucky, you might even get a chance to talk to a few old-timers who can tell you stories about the place from many seasons ago.
The Wade was built with old bones and houses one main concourse underneath the grandstand that is home to concession stands, bathrooms, and entrances to the seating of the ballpark. They are narrow and somewhat cramped but with crowds of around 1,300, never cumbersome.
The occasional weekend or firework promotion will swell the crowd and concessions lines could get long, but generally move rather quickly. The stadium is about a 5-minute drive from I-35 and parking is abundant around the facility. Downtown is about 3 miles away from the stadium and is best accessed by car or Uber/Lift.
Return on Investment 3
The cost of a ticket to a Huskies game is $10 for grandstand seating and $11 for reserved seating; as with most baseball clubs, there is a savings of $2 if tickets are purchased in advance.
The Kennel Club is a ticket to the grandstand seating area that includes 3 beverages and 2 plates of food for $27/$30. The club does offer a Sunday Family Pack that includes 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 sodas, and 4 small boxes of popcorn for $50.
On Wednesday, the team partnered with The Duluth Experience to offer a package that includes a 30-minute tour of the stadium, a shuttle ride to and from Bent Paddle Brewing Company, four flights of beer, and a game day ticket for $25.
The Wade stands out due to its exterior finish of repurposed stone. There isn’t another stadium quite like the one here in Duluth and its appearance harkens back to baseball of a different era.
The recent improvements have made the stadium a much better place for both fans and players. The synthetic turf field holds up better to the rain, the updated drainage system causes fewer delays and cancellations, and the updated scoreboard is a welcome sight.
The Wade is only three miles from a vibrant downtown, scenic lake views, plenty of walking trails, and other outdoor activities. During the baseball season, Duluth is a great city to spend a long weekend with friends, family, or that certain loved one.
It’s old-school, simple, vintage, and charming. It should be loved by all, but perhaps scorned by few who don’t necessarily enjoy watching games at baseball’s closest thing to a time machine-a 77-year-old building. However, take in the smell of a hot dog or freshly popped popcorn; hear the crack of the baseball and watch a few kids laughing, this is good baseball, no matter the decade.