Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Impact Field

All photos of Impact Field available on Flickr.

I once again managed to leverage my insane work travel schedule into another ballpark visit, this time to the brand spankin' new Impact Field in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, on my way home from a site visit in nearby Elmhurst.  I attended the 4th game in stadium history this past Friday, which is boldly nestled between one of the busiest interstates and busiest airports in the country, and not to mention right next door to The Ballpark at Rosemont which houses the Chicago Bandits softball team.  Impact Field was built specifically to host a new expansion team in the independent American Association - the aptly named Chicago Dogs - and holds about 6,300 people.

The comparison I kept hearing leading up to the ballpark's opening was the breathtaking CHS Field in St. Paul, home of the Saints, which opened only a few years ago.  It's an understandable comparison as the stadiums share an architect, are both wedged between within major infrastructure, and are in the same league.  However, that is where the similarities ended.  I found Impact Field to be merely a bastardized version of CHS Field, perhaps taking a few cues of inspiration but lacking the flair and attention to detail that Julie Snow brought to the table in St. Paul.  Rich woods are replaced with cold metal panel.  The backdrop of a historic city center is replaced a bland business park and shopping centers.  The hallmark cohesiveness of CHS Field's concourse is disjointed with a series of out buildings that relate in no way to the concourse.  Perhaps most importantly, there is almost no gateway or entry experience to speak of.  Whereas in St. Paul you walk through the historic downtown and past the train depot to a main entrance, you simply emerge onto the Impact Field concourse from the connected parking garage, as in some sort of concrete mockery of Field of Dreams.  This also means that there is really no "outside" of the stadium that is visible to the public.
Other than the aforementioned freeway adjacency, I really saw no discernable or valid comparison of Impact Field to CHS Field.  However, that's not to say this is a terrible place to watch a ballgame.  The constant rushing of cars on I-294 beyond gave an unspoken energy to the park in an otherwise lowly populated area.  I really enjoyed how wide open the concourse was and how it engaged with the freeway instead of turning its back to it.  A double-sided jumbotron and a large net beyond the left field wraparound concourse let both ballgame patrons and motorists proudly know what is going on here.  The choice of red metal panel and black steel, although cold and stark, are certainly unique and memorable compared to the increasingly monotonous modern ballpark palette.  Something that I have certainly not seen at any other ballpark is an area just on the other side of the left field wall, behind a fenced in area, underneath the concourse.  This field-level area offers fans a unique view of the game and of watching pitchers warm up in the bullpen/tunnel area behind them.  Unfortunately this was a private area as are so many other parts of the park, which was one of my major gripes about the stadium.  I certainly understand that to remain competitive in a saturated Chicago sports market, sellable group areas reign supreme.  However, absolutely nothing other than the main seating bowl was accessible to the average fan, which seemed extreme.  All of the money and effort that went into the carefully composed out-buildings and cladding can only be enjoyed by specific seat holders and thus are views most fans will not get to experience in one of the more uniquely situated parks in the country.  There were at least 4 different suite areas (5 if you count the field level area) that I could not access and was quite disappointed.  I was also disappointed in the lack of beer and hot dog selection at this park.  You would think in Chicago - a city that so celebrates the hot dog that they named the team after it - that more than just a standard "Chicago Style Dog" and Chicago Polish would be available.  And serving Old Style should just be a no-brainer, although I did appreciate the Leinie's special draft made just for the Dogs.  
The game itself was a win for the visiting Winnipeg Goldeyes, and it certainly felt like they brought the Canadian jet stream with them.  I made it 7 innings before succumbing to the 50-degree June night I was unprepared for.  Chicago starter Connor Root didn't even make it out of the 3rd inning, giving up 5 ER and 3 walks in 2.2 IP, including a HR by Grant Heyman.  Shane Dawson pitched quite well for Winnipeg, giving up only 2 runs on 6 hits over 5 with no walks, and improving to 3-0 in the process.  Notable names included Shawon Dunston Jr. of the Dogs (who did not play) and former Marlin Reggie Abercrombie of the Goldeyes, who is still managing to hit well over .300 at age 36.  He was never a productive player in the big leagues but I for some reason remember watching him play for the Isotopes back on the tour.  By the looks of his Wikipedia page this year marks an impressive 9th season in the Indy circuit.

If you are a Chicago native and looking for a cheap and fun night out, or a ballpark chaser like me that doesn't want to deal with traffic into the city, then certainly Impact Field is worth the visit.  But personally, I would rather spend the extra $50 and go to Wrigley Field, even despite my unapologetic opinion of it.

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 5 (no visible exterior)
views from park - 7 (I-294)
view to field - 8
surrounding area - 7 (Rosemont entertainment district)
food variety - 3
nachos - 8 (steak, chicken, or carnitas)
beer - 4 (poor variety but bonus points for specialty Leinie's)
vendor price - 7
ticket price - 7 (seats behind home plate feature wait staff)
atmosphere - 4
walk to park - 1 (parking garage)
parking price/proximity - 9 (adjacent garage for $3 is pretty good in Chicago)
concourses - 5
team shop - 8

best food - Chicago Dog (duh)
most unique stadium feature - proximity to freeway and airport
best jumbotron feature - "Lucky Dog" Plinko game
best between-inning feature - stick horse race ("Dog & Pony Show"), general antics of mascot "Squeeze"

field dimensions - 312/390/294
starters - Shane Dawson (WPG) v. Connor Root (CHI)
opponent - Winnipeg Goldeyes
time of game - 3:12
attendance - 2806
score - 6-3 L
Brewers score that day - 8-3 L

Brewers 37-23, +2.0 (2 @ Indians, 3 @ Phillies, 3 v. Cubs)
Reds 21-39, -16.0 (3 v. Rockies, 3 v. Cardinals)
Twins 25-30, -3.5 (4 v. White Sox, 3 v. Angels)

Erik - 4 (+9 worked)
Peter - 7

No comments: