Monday, August 8, 2016

Rivets Stadium

All photos of Rivets Stadium available on Flickr.

With only two weeks left in the season already, I finally got my butt in gear and made it down to Rockford to see the newest Northwoods League team, the Rivets.  Their stadium is actually just north of Rockford in the suburb of Loves Park and is very visible from I-90.  However, with easy freeway access generally comes large team-operated parking lots; I arrived just before first pitch driving down from work, and immediately lamented the fact that parking cost almost as much as my front row ticket. 

My first impression of the stadium was that, other than the name and new branding, it had not changed at all in the 10 years since I had last been there.  This was way back in the Year 1 B.B. (Before Blog) when it was known as Riverhawks Stadium, which I am just learning now was the park's inaugural season.  Through all of the name changes and tenants - most recently the indie-league Aviators and now the Rivets - many of the familiar architectural elements and finishes remain the same.  The primary material is still the imposing gray block, and the front gate still has the memorable steel truss towers, only this time with the new Rivets logo banner slapped on the side. 

The inside of the park was exactly the same as well.  It is sort of reminiscent of the what the Kane County park looked like before the renovations - the concourse is completely open to the field of play, aside from a small press box building.  There is no canopy or any structure between the service areas (concessions, restrooms, offices, etc) along exterior of the stadium, and the seating bowl, only a wide open walkway.  While I love that you are able to see the field from almost everywhere, having some public covered areas would be nice.  I do recall in my last visit here that a huge thunderstorm rolled just past us, and if it were only a few feet more in our direction, everybody would have gotten drenched.  There is an enclosed bar area near the main entry along with a team store, but both are about the size of a closet and even with the sparse crowd in the hundreds, would not have been able to fit everyone during a sudden rain event.  The stadium is bookended with a couple of large private party areas in left field, and a beer deck in right field.  The beer deck was basically just some picnic tables with a little shack that sold Miller and "craft beer," and it operated just about as well as it looked - it took about 10 minutes for my debit card to process and then when it finally did, it charged me twice.  The concourse unfortunately stops at the beer deck and does not extend behind the outfield wall, although you wouldn't be missing out on anything in an outfield concourse other than corn and staring at a bunch of empty seats.  The stadium still looks very new and is comfortable for a ballgame, but once you get into the details of it, you can tell that a lot of corners were cut and decisions were made strictly on cost.  Judging by the number of teams that have already left this city, that might have not been the best approach.

This game was the 2nd half of a pretty awesome feature of the Northwoods League the last couple years: the home-and-home rivalry doubleheader.  Rockford played in Madison at 11:35 AM and won 10-9, then both teams hopped on the bus for the hour drive down to Rockford for the 6:35 nightcap.  The league used to schedules these doubleheader games very close to each other and the 2nd game would always start late, so I see that has been corrected.  I still can't imagine what it's like for Thunder Bay and Duluth to have to drive 4+ hours and play two baseball games in one day.  Anyways, the game moved along at quite a brisk pace compared to a lot of games in the circuit.  The Mallards scratched across single tallies in the 2nd and 4th, but other than that Rivets starter Jake Perkins more than held his own by scattering 7 hits over 6 innings.  It was only when Nick Kamrada entered the game that things got out of hand.  He was all over the place, walking 4 in the 7th inning and giving up an unearned run.  It was clear even from watching him warm up in front of me and throwing the ball past the catcher several times that it was going to be a rough outing for the young man.  The Mallards would then load the bases in the 9th off of Quinton Forrestor and plate 2 on a Zach Jarrett double to put the game out of reach.  Rockford mustered only 3 hits.  Perhaps most the most disappointing part of the evening is that I was literally the only person sitting in the stands between the 1st base dugout and the foul pole and I did not get one foul ball.

The Northwoods League is supposed to expand yet again next year, and it should be interesting to see where the Rivets fit into that plan.  This was by far the emptiest stadium I've been to in the league, and they are dead last in total attendance by a substantial margin - both are pretty sad for a first year team.  And as I previously mentioned, it's not like this stadium has a great track record of retaining tenants either.  Hopefully my trip down to Illinois will not have been in vain.

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 3
views from park – 2
view to field - 10 (not much netting, open concourse)
surrounding area – 1 (freeway)
food variety - 4
nachos - 5
beer - 6 (fair variety, cheap, but only one stand)

vendor price - 9
ticket price - 9
atmosphere - 2
walk to park – 1
parking price/proximity - 2 (the only Northwoods park I can think of that charges for parking)
concourses - 6 (not active but open)
team shop - 2

best food – burger
most unique stadium feature – entry
best jumbotron feature – cheering for the beer batter to strike out
best between-inning feature – very unique and random pop culture music selection

field dimensions – 312/380/312
starters – Westin Wuethrich (MAD) v. Jake Perkins (RCK)
opponent – Madison Mallards v. Rockford Rivets
time of game – 2:47
attendance – 329
score – 7-1 L

Brewers score that day – 7-3 L

Brewers 49-60, -19.5, -9.0 WC (4 v. Braves, 3 v. Reds, 3 @ Cubs)
Reds 45-65, -24.0, -13.5 WC (3 @ Cardinals, 3 @ Brewers, 4 v. Marlins
Twins 45-66, -18.0, -16.0 WC (4 v. Astros, 3 v. Royals, 2 @ Braves)

Erik - 11 (+19 worked)

Peter - 25

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