At a time when it seems the minimum cost for a new pro-level ballpark is $12 million, the Idaho Falls Chukars have accomplished the seemingly impossible: open an impressive new ballpark for $5.6 million without cutting corners or scaling back expectations. In a world where minor-league facilities are now starting to look the same in terms of wraparound concourses and oversized picnic areas, Melaleuca Field occupies a great niche: a cozy neighborhood facility hosting rookie-level baseball.
Year Opened: 2007
Cost: $5.6 million
Architect: Kevin Bodily of Nielson, Bodily and Associates
Construction Manager: Bateman-Hall General Contractors
Dimensions: 340L, 400C, 350R
Luxury Boxes: Eight
Playing Surface: Grass
Ticket Prices (2009): Box Seats, $9.50; General Admission, $6.50; General Admission Sr. & Jr., $5
League: Pioneer League (rookie)
Affiliation: Kansas City Royals
Parking: Free in adjoining parking lot and city streets
Address/Directions: 568 West Elva, Idaho Falls, ID 83402. From I-15, take the Broadway exit and go east, left on Memorial Drive, right on Mound.
Words and Photos by: Kevin Reichard
This article covers the opening day for Melaleuca Park in 2008.
Chukars GM Kevin Greene has already seen SRO and near-sellout crowds in this young season, something that never happened when the team played at McDermott Field, the glorified Legion facility that served as the team’s former team. “I think we’ve created a stadium that is functional and has charm,” he says. “We’re pretty happy with how things work out.”
And the ballpark was built on a tight schedule, to boot. Destruction of the McDermott Field grandstand didn’t start until Halloween 2006, with a groundbreaking of the new ballpark held Nov. 7. Not everything was scrapped from McDermott Field — four of the eight light stands, the scoreboard, the outfield fence, the utilities infrastructure and the actual playing field were retained — giving construction crews a leg up in the process.
The new ballpark has a main grandstand with two large concession booths and eight suites, and a large press box. If you’re in your seat, you won’t need to worry about being interrupted by fans: an aisle in the back of the grandstand serves all the seating. Group areas include an intimate picnic area in front of the brick wall down the third-base line, picnic tables on a bleacher deck down the left-field line, and a larger party area down the right-field line. Given the ballpark’s budget, there’s a surprising amount of brick and brick-like facades throughout the ballpark, making for an inviting and classic warm feel.
The party deck down the right-field line includes a sponsored hot tub. For the most part, Greene says, the construction managers hewed to the budget, with some small changes (like the paving of the adjacent parking lot) that added minimally to the overall cost of the ballpark.
When you attend a game at Melaleuca Field you’ll be impressed by how cozy the ballpark is. You’re never too far from the field unless you sit in the left-field bleachers (which are remote), and the surrounding neighborhood is very visible beyond the outfield fences — in fact, a second-floor deck in right field gives lucky fans a clear (if somewhat sunny) view of the on-field action. If you can, sit in the chairback seats between the dugouts; otherwise you’ll be sitting on backed aluminum bleachers.
Concessions are spread out in back of the grandstand. Two large stands offer standard ballpark fare — $2 hot dogs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Meadow Gold ice cream, wine, beer, BBQ pork sandwiches candy, etc. Satellite concession stands offer beer, sno-cones, pretzels, cotton candy, and more. A can of Coors will run you $4. The beer selection ranges from corporate brews like Coors and Budweiser to microbrews from Sam Adams and Widmer.
FOR THE KIDS
At the present time there’s not a lot for the kids past the game and a speed-gun booth in back of the grandstand.