Monday, June 29, 2009

Waterloo Riverfront Stadium

All photos of Waterloo Riverfront Stadium available on Flickr.

Two weekends ago, I concluded my move to Waterloo, Iowa. As I mentioned in the Cedar Rapids post, there are a ton of ball teams around me that I look forward to exploring (I guess I should also mention that my job is pretty cool). Naturally, before even settling in, I spent my first full day as an Iowan attending a Waterloo Bucks game. My dad left early Sunday after the move, but Lauren and Erik stayed for the day to take in some Sunday matinee action.

The Waterloo Bucks are celebrating their 15th season in the Northwoods League in 2009, and they play at Waterloo Riverfront Stadium, which is just west of downtown. The ballpark was built in 1946 and hosted the Waterloo Diamonds of the Midwest League for 35 seasons before becoming the home to the Bucks and the University of Northern Iowa Panthers, whose campus resides in nearby Cedar Falls. Anyone who was following the news closely last year can recall the devastating 100-year flood that caused tons of damage along the Cedar River, including Waterloo's riverfront. The Bucks had to play about 3/4 of their season on the road last year due to flood damage and a high river, and even currently, a heavy rain is still capable of soaking the field to the point that it causes a postponed game. The city's refusal to update the ballpark was one of the main reasons the Diamonds left for Lansing, but with the flood damage sustained last year, the city had no choice but to rebuild. The evidence of the new building, besides the construction trailers, can be seen in the transition from exterior to interior. As you exit your car and walk through what resembles a marshland, the exterior appears brand-new, with a nice stone gate with tickets windows built in. However, on the inside, one can see the water mark on the 25' wall in the outfield, and all of the rust and paint damage on the metal bleachers around the park. There is also now a retaining wall beyond the fence to protect the street and train tracks from ballpark flooding. I later read in the program during the game that there were new clubhouses and batting practice cages built as "structures inside the structure" that can be wheeled out during a flood.

With that being said, after we arrived at this beautiful gate and took in some BP at the brand-new batting cages, we were understandably disappointed once we got inside. We were there plenty early and got to walk around the entire circumference of the ballpark, watch the players warm up from the retaining wall in the back, and hit the team store/room. Ticket and beer prices were fair, but beyond that, not a lot going on. The party deck, which has become pretty standard at your typical minor league/semi-pro ballpark, is usually the barometer for how well the team draws, and these were nearly empty. The Bucks were 6-17 on the day we were in attendance, and by unfortunate circumstances happened to match up against the best pitcher in the Northwoods League, Zach Varce. He was dominant, striking out 9 over 7 and giving up no runs. The Bucks' starter Scott Williams would have nearly matched him, had it not been for his four walks issued, but he did end up tossing 8 frames. Overall, there were only eight combined hits in the game. Nick O'Shea had the lone offensive highlight of the afternoon with a solo shot in the 6th.

Watching a pitcher's duel in 90+ degree heat with sparse attendance was not how I envisioned my first Waterloo Bucks game, but I will definitely be back for more. Erik and I are in New York City this Friday for our final Tour 2009 trip - New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field! Stay tuned!

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 4
views from park - 3
view to field - 9 (dangerously unobstructed)
surrounding area - 2 (cemetary, park, run-down homes)
food variety - 6
nachos - 9 (loaded with taco fixings!)
beer - 7 (decent variety, dollar-beer batter, points off for false advertising of local beer)
vendor price - 7
ticket price - 8
atmosphere - 2
walk to park - 2
parking proximity - 8 (adjacent lot for free, but more of a field than lot)
concourses - 3
team shop - 5 (good variety for NWL, but small)

best food - nachos
most unique stadium feature - entry
best jumbotron feature - n/a
best between-inning feature - hit target in outfield with water balloons

field dimensions - 335/375/335
starters - Zach Varce (GB) v. Scott Williams (WAT)
opponent - Green Bay Bullfrogs
time of game - 2:18
attendance - 1072
score - 2-0 L
Brewers score that day - 3-2 L

Brewers 40-35, -- (3 v. Mets, 4 @ Cubs)
Reds 37-37, -2.5 (3 v. Diamondbacks, 3 v. Cardinals)
Twins 39-38, -4.0 (3 @ Royals, 3 v. Tigers)

Erik - 25 (+12 worked)
Peter - 32

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