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Wade Stadium / Duluth Huskies

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Wade Stadium / Duluth Huskies
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Is there a better place on the planet to watch a ballgame? Forget about Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park -- give us the simple joys of a Duluth Huskies game at Wade Stadium. Sure, there's no exploding scoreboard, no sideshows like trained pigs or Norwegians, no nuns dispensing massages. But the Wade -- which faced the wrecking ball in the early 1990s -- was lovingly restored by volunteers who were passionate about their city and their baseball, and that commitment to a pile of bricks -- 381,000 of them, to be specific -- and concrete makes the Wade a ballpark that's truly cherished by the community.

FAST FACTS

Year Built: 1940-41
Capacity: 4,200
Dimensions: 343L, 380C, 340R
Playing Surface: Grass
Website: duluthhuskies.com
Phone: 218/786-9909
League: Northwoods League
Parking: Free but limited.
Address/Directions: 101 N. 35th Av. W. Duluth, MN. Wade Stadium is in a residential neighborhood south of downtown Duluth. To reach the stadium from either the north or south, exit I-35 on the 40th Av. W. exit, head west (to the left) on 40th Av. W., hang a right on Grand Avenue and stay on it until you reach 34th Av. W., on which you'll hang a right. Drive two blocks (past the bowling alley) and you'll see the parking lot for the Wade.

Why does Wade Stadium evoke such strong feelings among ballpark lovers and local residents? Because over the years Wade Stadium has become an integral part of the city. Summer without a baseball game at Wade Stadium just wouldn't be the same, and that proud sense of tradition -- which seems especially pronounced in Duluth -- shines through when people discuss the Wade. It is more than just a pile of bricks and concrete.

Let's face it: ballparks constructed during the Works Progress Administration (WPA) are a dying breed, as many of them are too small and too old to serve the needs of today's baseball fans. The brick-faced Wade Stadium -- or, the Wade, as the locals say -- undoubtedly been torn down in the early 1990s had the Northern League not come to the area, according to city officials. At that time, a Wade renovation was structural in nature, ensuring fan safety, while changes were made in the concourse area. In recent years the parking lot was (finally!) repaved and a new concession area was added to the third-base-line area.

Though seating capacity at Wade Stadium has shrunk over the years (bleachers once extended far down each line), the basic ballpark experience has changed little at the Wade since the Duluth Dukes of the original Northern League hosted dreaded crosstown rivals Superior Blues. That experience makes the Wade the best place to actually watch a baseball game in both the Northwoods League and in all of Minnesota.

True, the ballpark is not perfect, and a little preparation is necessary should you attend a Huskies game. If you go to a day game on a sunny day, you can be reasonably sure that temperatures will remain steady. However, if you go to a night game, all bets are off. If a cold wind and fog rolls off of nearby Lake Superior, it can be 10 or 20 degrees cooler between the beginning of the game and the third inning. (We've been to more than one game that was called or postponed on account of fog.) Season-ticket holders tend to bring quilts, blankets and sometimes parkas to night games, no matter how warm the temperatures are during the day. And those outfield metal bleachers can get mighty chilly at night.