Snow. It was snowing. That’s right. May 7 in the Appleton, Wisconsin, area, and that’s what the weather was like. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are the northernmost team in the Midwest League, so maybe that was just very appropriate for my tour of the ballparks in the league. Thankfully the snow was melting as soon as it hit the ground, and 12 hours later at game time, it was long gone.
Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium opened in 1995 and is located in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, which is just west of Appleton. The ballpark is nice, but lacks some of the ammentities of newer parks. Within the Midwest League it is probably the most comparable to Coveleski Stadium in South Bend. It has a mostly open concourse with a small press box at concourse level behind home plate. The exterior is ok, but doesn’t necessarily standout. The location of the ballpark is near a shopping mall and a major highway meaning it’s easy to get to and there is plenty to do near the park, but the fact remains that the stadium is pretty much just surrounded by parking lots.
Give the Timber Rattlers organization a lot of credit though, they’ve put in some very nice features. There’s a restaurant/bar, plenty of group seating options throughout the park, and a new addition, there’s a giant sand box in right-center field, much like what Petco Park in San Diego has. So although the ballpark isn’t the newest, flashiest, park in the league, it’s clear that the club has made efforts to give fans a great night of entertainment.
It’s also clear that the fans in the Fox River Valley enjoy coming out and supporting the team. Part of that is probably due to the switch at the beginning of the 2009 season from being the longtime Mariners affiliate in the Midwest League, to having an affiliation with the in-state Brewers. They’re also tough fans. It was 46 degrees at first pitch on the day I was in Grand Chute, and there was a very good crowd who didn’t seem to mind the weather…probably because they have years of experience toughing out much worse weather 30 miles north in Green Bay at Lambeau Field. The team gets credit for having plenty of heaters placed throughout the concourse so fans can easily warm up for a few minutes by them.
One other thing of note for college sports fans…Fox Cities Stadium has hosted the NCAA Divison III World Series for many years now. Clearly the NCAA likes this ballpark and Grand Chute, or they wouldn’t keep the tournament coming back year after year.
Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium is not a great park of the league, but it’s a venue that has had some money invested in it, and the fans really come out and support their club. That’s worth some serious points right there.