Soccer may have garnered the nickname “The Beautiful Game,” but baseball can make a case it deserves a similar moniker. At least its ballparks can.
While other sports compete in stadiums that stick to uniformity, baseball parks aren’t limited to set dimensions, allowing architects to creatively design fields with quirky outfields or eye-catching grandstands.
The Midwest is home to several unique ballparks and top-flight venues that can host tournaments of all sizes. Here are nine of the finest baseball facilities in the Midwest, in alphabetical order, ranging from quaint, classic parks to colossal modern complexes.
1. Art Van Sports Complex, Rockford, Michigan
Opened in 2015, this $7.8 million facility is a championship-caliber baseball/softball complex that resides on 79 acres. The venue features nine baseball and softball fields, including a 385-foot fenced championship field and covered championship grandstands that seat 1,000, and a Miracle Field with a rubber surface designed to give children with mental and physical disabilities the chance to play the game. All nine fields contain covered dugouts, bleacher seating, scoreboards and concessions while the championship field also sports a public address system. The complex plans to undergo a second phase of construction in which four more baseball and softball fields will be added along with a championship softball field and press box, warm-up areas, picnic shelters and adjacent sporting facilities.
2. Ballparks of America, Branson, Missouri
Situated in lovely Ozarks Mountains country, Ballparks of America provides 10 to 13-year-olds with the chance to play on mini replicas of five legendary Major League Baseball stadiums. These two-thirds scale ballpark replicas include: Wrigley Field, complete with an ivy-covered outfield wall; Busch Stadium, a stadium that boasts 600 tiered seats and a lighted 100 percent synthetic turf playing field; Fenway Park, featuring an 18-foot-tall green monster; Tiger Stadium, including the classic park’s famous overhang in right field; and Ebbets Field, featuring a retro stadium scoreboard and 96 reclaimed seats from Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Opened in 2016, the initial $20 million Ballparks of America is the host facility of the Babe Ruth League/Cal Ripken World Series M70 tournament in which teams from across the world compete for a championship.
3. Canal Park, Akron, Ohio
Home of the Akron RubberDucks, an Eastern League minor league team, this stadium sits just off the University of Akron campus in the northwest section of the city. With a capacity of nearly 9,500, it’s one of the city’s largest baseball facilities. Players enjoy a grass field and state-of-the-art scoreboard that is the largest in the league while fans can savor the game from one of the stadium’s 25 luxury boxes, a restaurant and a picnic area. Canal Park often hosts local high schools and college baseball teams and tournaments.
4. Carson Park, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
One of the most historic parks in the Midwest, Carson Park was built in 1937 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This 3,800-seat-facility is located in 134-acre Carson Park, a community park that was donated in 1914 to the city of Eau Claire. The Carson Park baseball field is home to numerous high school teams, amateur teams, and an American Legion team along with the Eau Claire Express of the Northwoods League. One of the park’s most memorable features is a stone grandstand with a statue of baseball legend Hank Aaron out front. Aaron played his first summer of professional baseball in Eau Claire for the Bears, who were then the Milwaukee Braves’ Class C affiliate. Baseball notables Joe Torre and Bob Uecker also got their starts in this park. The ballpark has undergone several renovations, with the most recent involving a re-leveling and resodding of the field prior to the 2007 season and new sections added along the first and third base lines in 2009.
5. Grand Park Sports Campus, Westfield, Indiana
This massive complex spans 400 acres and features 26 baseball and softball diamonds. Grand Park opened in 2014 as the largest publicly-funded complex of its kind in the United States and also offers championship-level outdoor facilities for soccer, football, field hockey and lacrosse. Eight diamonds feature college dimensions; four are grass, four are synthetic and five offer lights. The complex also features an abundance of green space and more than 10 miles of pedestrian and bicycle trails, giving those who attend tournaments additional options to explore. The facility recently announced it is investing $2.5 million to install synthetic turf on the infields of 18 of the 26 diamonds with the other eight already sporting turf surfaces. The turf is expected to replicate the look and feel of grass and clay but provide more durability and drainage. With 750,000 annual visitors, Grand Park has been a huge boon to the regional economy.
6. Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, Peoria, Illinois
As the only Louisville Slugger facility in the United States, this 125,000-square-foot, dome-style building has all the amenities necessary for a sporting event. The complex contains 10 outdoor fields with live streaming and 100 percent synthetic turf, Major League Baseball-style walk-out dugouts, bullpens, electronic scoreboards, two indoor baseball/softball fields and multi-purpose hard courts. The facility also includes clubhouses that host weeklong baseball fast-pitch and training events.
7. Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center, Sandusky, Ohio
This $23.5-million complex ranks among the finest in the country as it offers 12 professional quality, synthetic turf baseball fields, including a replica Progressive Field championship diamond and 11 synthetic turf softball fields. The facility’s youth fields utilize permanent and temporary fences to create an authentic atmosphere and includes eight youth diamonds, four full-size diamonds, batting cages, scoreboards, bullpens and five lighted fields. Sports Force Parks also offers eight NCAA regulation soccer and lacrosse fields, and one adaptive field for inclusion programming and sport-specific training areas. This Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible field has been used to host sport camps, leagues and play days for children with mental, developmental and physical disabilities. When not being used as an adaptive field, this field doubles as an 8U baseball field and home run derby stadium.
8. Standard Bank Stadium, Crestwood, Illinois
Get all the atmosphere of a major league park without spending the big dollars. Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood is the home of the Windy City ThunderBolts, a professional baseball team that plays in the Frontier League. The stadium seats upward of 3,000 people and is a perfect destination for a major championship game at any level. Nearly every seat in the house is a major league-style seatback chair and there’s even an upper deck along the third base line. A full range of concessions is also available to feed the hungriest of fans.
9. Woodside Sports Complex, Mauston, Wisconsin
The largest all-turf, multi-sport facility in the Midwest, the Woodside Sports Complex features outdoor synthetic turf fields and a 90,000-square foot indoor multi-purpose dome. Located 19 miles from Wisconsin Dells, the 245-acre property opened in June of 2013 and consists of eight synthetic turf baseball and softball fields. This western-themed facility offers a unique experience as visitors can enjoy various activities such as horseback riding, wagon rides and amusement parks. A related venue in Wisconsin Dells, also called Woodside Sports Complex, consists of six synthetic turf multi-purpose fields, four synthetic turf baseball and softball fields, two grass/sod fields and six batting cages.