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Athletic Park / Wisconsin Woodchucks

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Athletic Park is sometimes called the Wrigley Field of the Northwoods League, and the claim has a lot of merit. Like Wrigley, Athletic Park is old: the original grandstand dates back to 1936, and the stone wall surrounding the ballpark came a few years after that. Athletic Park is nestled in a residential area north of downtown Wausau, though the area lacks the bars and restaurants that make Wrigleyville so distinct. It's intimate: the seating is only 3,000 or so, and the entire ballpark site is fairly small. You couldn't get away with the ballpark's field orientation today: home plate is in the southeast corner of the ballpark and the batter must look northwest to the pitchers' mound, which puts the sun directly in the batter's eyes at the beginning of a night game.

FAST FACTS

Year Opened: 1936
Capacity
: 3,000
Dimensions
: 316L, 350C, 316R
Website
: woodchucks.com
Phone: 877/942-4825; 715/845-5055
League
: Northwoods League
Parking
: The only parking is nearby street parking.
Address/Directions
: 324 E. Wausau Av., Wausau. The ballpark is in the midst of a residential neighborhood north of downtown Wausau. Normally Bridge Street would be the best way to access the park, but Bridge Street is totally closed this summer. You'll want to make your way to 6th Street; the ballpark is west of 6th on Wausau Avenue.

All of this makes Athletic Park one of the more charming ballparks in the Upper Midwest. While the amenities are not great -- the concessions are limited and most of the seating is in metal bleachers -- there's a lot of character to Athletic Park. Take the stonework throughout the ballpark and the grandstand: it's darker than most ballparks and the stones are larger, giving the exterior a very distinctive look and makes the ballpark look older than it is. The wooden roof on the grandstand, which dates back to the 1950s, completes the look.

The ballpark consists of a main grandstand flanked by two sets of metal bleachers. Season-ticket buyers occupy most of the theater-style grandstand seats, while a press box and two suites are at the back of the grandstand.

The Woodchucks are widely credited with making a slew of improvements to the park, which was fairly run-down after the Wausau Timbers of the Midwest League moved to Geneva after the 1990 season and set up shop as the Kane County Cougars. The most obvious changes were the two group areas, including a party deck down the third-base line and a group area down the first-base line. Each group area features its own concession booth; as you can see below a log cabin was constructed to hold concessions.era gem, with a stone grandstand and plenty of charm and character.

CONCESSIONS
Speaking of concessions: the main concession stand is located in the grandstand. It's a fairly narrow area, but the Woodchucks have other concession areas within the concourse area that helps the traffic flow somewhat. There are smaller concession areas located down each line as well.

History
The Wausau Lumberjacks played in the Northern League during three different periods: 1909-1911, 1936-1942 and 1956-1957. Athletic Park was the home of the Lumberjacks from 1936 on; baseball has been played at the current Athletic Park location since the turn of the century.

The Wausau Mets were in the Class A Midwest League from 1975-1978; the team was named the Wausau Timbers from 1979 to 1990, when the team moved to Geneva, Ill.

Parking
There is no parking lot adjacent to the ballpark, so you'll need to claim a spot on the street. On the plus side, the street parking is free.

Before/After the Game
Wausau is a nice mix of the urban and the county, so you should be prepared to take in some of the outdoor delights when in town.

You can combine shopping and nature in downtown Wausau. The Third Street Pedestrian Mall runs parallel to the river and features the Wausau Center Mall (with department stores like Younkers and smaller stories like The Gap) and the Washington Square Plaza. The River Walk Trail runs from Oak Island Park to Fern Island in the Wisconsin River and Whitewater Park, a nationally known kayak and canoe course.

In terms of nightlife, Wausau does offer a few decent options. Blues fans will want to check out the Scott Street Steak and Pub (124 Scott St.; 715/842-2424), where Chicago blues artists like Buddy Guy will occasionally appear. On the mellower side is Kelly's Martini Bar (412 3rd St.; 715/849-8000) and its adjoining coffeeshop, Something's Brewing.

For the archetypal Wisconsin tavern experience, drop by the Chatterbox (102 S. 2nd Av.; 715/842-3059). It's nothing more than a neighborhood bar, but there's something special and unique about neighborhood joints in Wisconsin.

Dining
The Back When Cafe (606 3rd St.; 715/848-5668) features upscale and al fresco dining in downtown Wausau near the River Walk. Kids will enjoy the Wausau Mine Company (3904 Stewart Av.; 715/845-7304), which features a mining-community theme and a menu that includes pizzas and Italian fries. And there's always the local outpost of the popular Madison brewpub, the Great Dane.

Where to Stay
There's no hotel within walking distance of the ballpark, so be prepared to drive in from your hotel. Most of the hotels are located near the intersection of Hwy. 29 and Hwy. 59, like the Midway Hotel Wausau (2901 Martin Av.; 715/842-1616), the Plaza (201 N. 17th Av.; 715/845-4341) and the Hampton Inn (615 S. 24th Av.; 715/848-9700).

Farther away in Rothschild is the  Lodge at Cedar Creek (805 Creske Av.; 888/365-6343, 715/241-6300) which features a Northwoods decor and a 30,000-square-foot indoor water park -- the largest in northern Wisconsin.