Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Welland Stadium 90 Quaker Rd Welland, ON L3C 7K6
Year Opened: 1989
New Kids on The Pond
There is no doubt that the Intercounty Baseball League is historic. Dating all the way back to 1919 the IBL features such historic teams as the Kitchener Panthers, London Majors and Guelph Royals. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum is the Welland Jackfish. Moving to Welland from Burlington and rebranding in 2019, the Jackfish are attempting to break the mold from the traditional aspects of Intercounty Baseball. Functioning more like a minor league or independent team that could be found in the USA, Welland is all about family and fun first.
Home for the Jackfish is Welland Stadium. Located in the Niagara region, south of Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, Welland Stadium was home to the Welland Pirates of the New York-Penn League back in 1989. The stadium is comparable to other former affiliated baseball stadiums in the league.
Food & Beverage 3
The concession options at Welland Stadium are not over the top, but they hit the spot. Ballpark favourites including pizza, hot dogs, burgers, popcorn and nachos are all found at the lone concession window. Pepsi products are available for soft drinks in bottles. The beer selection is far better than expected with some products from Newark Brewing to go along with OV and Mill St. The most popular beer, by far, is the Welland Jackfish Pond Water by Newark Brewing, a special product for the team. Concession lines can be long at times.
The Welland Jackfish are rewriting the rule book for Intercounty Baseball. Unlike the other teams in the league which are far more passive when it comes to the gameday atmosphere, the Jackfish are quite active and pushing the Canadian Baseball envelope. The best comparison for the Jackfish south of the border would be the experience of the St. Paul Saints. It is far more about the fan experience than just trotting out a bunch of ball players and some equipment.
Being a former affiliated minor league park, Welland Stadium does have a permanent structure. The exterior of the stadium is not overwhelming but very well-manicured in front of the brick and green roof structure. The field is sunken so the stadium is definitely not overbearing. Unlike the other stadiums in the league, the stadium is made up of permanent seating with general admission benches and select seating benches with backs. Berm seating is available past first and third base to the outfield fence. Picnic tables are available at the top of the first base line, and The Dock seats, which can be all-you-can-eat, are behind third base. The Jackfish do what they can to decorate the stadium with plenty of team branded banners. New to the 2022 season is the best videoboard in the IBL behind the left centrefield fence. The playing field is symmetrical with 335’-400’-335’ dimensions.
The gameday for the Jackfish is next level. It is clear that they are taking some pointers from the St. Paul Saints and dialing up the promos to the max. There is something going on during every half inning. The Kiss the Fish promotion is truly unique and is a neat twist on a Newfoundland classic tradition. The promo team is all over the place. They even use a “Coach” character to rile up the crowd. Their mascot Jacques is also found everywhere, interacting with fans and participating in promos. It is in the gameday atmosphere that the Jackfish differ the most from the rest of the IBL, which is much more simple and traditional.
Welland Stadium is part of the Welland Sports Complex, a larger baseball facility. It is located on the edge of the city in a fairly residential area. The roofs of peoples houses are seen beyond the right field fence and a farm, complete with dilapidated barn, can be seen beyond the left field fence. Welland only has a population of 52,000 but also draws from the Greater Niagara area including St. Catharines, Thorold and Niagara Falls. The Welland Sports Complex, where Welland Stadium is located, has a few other ball diamonds on it and is central to the local community baseball scene. There are a few spots for pre and post game food and drinks on nearby Niagara Street. Large chain restaurants like Boston Pizza, Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and Tim Hortons are all within a congregated area. A couple of unique spots fans may want to try include M.T. Bellies and Mr Mike’s Steakhouse.
There isn’t much in Welland as far as other sports options go. However, the greater Niagara region does have some. The Meridian Centre in St. Catharines is home to the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL and Niagara River Lions of the CEBL. Brock University also fields hockey and basketball teams. Other attractions include the iconic Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, as well as all of the other tourist attractions in Niagara Falls, and there are plenty of wineries in the region.
Fans who wish to stay near the park can hit the Travelodge on Niagara Street or head across the Welland River to the Holiday Inn.
It is difficult to assess the fans at IBL venues as the attendance figures are not published. That being said, it is not a stretch to say that the Welland Jackfish are leading the league in attendance. Where many IBL experiences are friends and family and diehard fans, the Jackfish have clearly tapped into the community and have been rewarded with some strong crowds. The game that was attended, there were more than a 1,000 fans in attendance. The fans in attendance have responded well to the promotions with plenty of noise.
Getting to the Welland Sports Complex is not that difficult. A short drive off of Highway 406 will bring fans to the complex with ease. Welland is not that big to begin with so even getting through the city will not be difficult. Traffic should not be an issue. The complex has plenty of free parking, so finding a spot will also not be an issue. For fans wishing to take public transportation, buses run on nearby Niagara Street. Fans should check out the St. Catharines Transit Commission website for fares, maps and schedules. Getting around Welland Stadium is not too challenging, although bigger crowds do mean more challenges getting around. The washrooms are adequate for the facility.
Return on Investment 5
The Welland Jackfish not only provide the best experience in the IBL, but they also provide the best return on investment. Reserved Seating is an option at Welland Stadium, and the benches with backs go for $12 with a regular General Admission ticket only $10. Berm seating for kids 10 and under is free. Walk-ups will cost an extra $1.50. The concession prices are very reasonable and the parking is free. The grand calculus shows and atmosphere that is second to none in the IBL, a fun atmosphere at a cost that is lower than just about any sporting event there is.
An extra mark for the “Kiss the Fish” promotion where, in a Newfoundland tradition, one lucky fan must actually kiss a fish to be officially “hooked”. Truly an original promo.
An extra mark for the Jackfish thinking outside the IBL box and changing the face of the league.
An extra mark for the Jackfish branding. A Jackfish is a nickname for a pike, which can be found in the local rivers. The colours are bold and bright and plenty of fans are sporting Jackfish merchandise.
It is clear that the best experience in the Intercounty Baseball League is the Welland Jackfish. Although they are new to the traditional league, they are pushing the envelope and changing the expectations of Intercounty fans. Taking in a Jackfish game at The Pond will be a ton of fun and an experience that will harken a return visit.
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9.