It is a ballpark that pays homage to the rich horse-racing traditions of the region while not forgetting that baseball is the main attraction at a ballpark. It’s also a facility where there are plenty of diversions, but not so many that you won’t keep en eye on the diamond action. Welcome to Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends (Low Class A; Sally League) and one of the best venues in the minors.
Year Opened: 2001
Architect: Brisbin Brook Benyon Architects
Cost: $13.5 million (privately financed)
Owner: Lexington Professional Baseball Company, LLC
Naming Rights: Whitaker Bank bought naming rights for 10 years for unspecified sum, with contingent five-year extension.
Former Name: Applebee’s Park (2001-2010)
Ticket Prices (2011): Diamond Club, $22; Super Club, $17; Club, $13; Field Box, $10; Box, $8. Bleachers, $5; Lawn, $4. Prices are slightly higher for weekend games.
League: Low Class A South Atlantic (Sally) League
Parent: Houston Astros
Parking: There are 1,200 spots adjacent to the ballpark and 3,000 more within a 10-minute walk. The cost: $3/$5.
Address/Directions: 207 Legends Lane, Lexington, KY 40505. The ballpark is located on North Broadway Road, northeast of downtown Lexington. From New Circle Road (Hwy. 4): Turn right on North Broadway Road; the ballpark is three blocks southwest on the right. From I-75/I-64: Take the North Broadway Road exit (113) and head southwest. The ballpark is adjacent to Northland Shopping Center.
It’s impossible to spend any time in Lexington without running into some reference to thoroughbred racing, as the 77 miles between Louisville and Lexington is the center for horse racing and breeding in the United States. Plush and green, the area is a slice of Americana, filled with lush pastures and working farms still dedicated to raising the fastest horses on the planet.
No surprise that the design and operations of Whitaker Bank Ballpark are built around a racetrack theme, with an exterior reminiscent of a Churchill Downs and accoutrements inside the ballpark. The spires on the grandstand roof are a direct homage to a racetrack, while he horsey theme is continued in the Budweiser Stables, a group area down the right-field line, festooned with racing memorabilia and a large statue of a thoroughbred (shown above). It can seat up to 300 people and has its own concessions menu. It’s geared toward groups.
Perhaps the most amazing this about this ballpark was that it was built at all. In the late 1990s Alan Stein had proposed a new ballpark for the Lexington and identified a number of potential downtown sites. The city shot down any funding of the ballpark construction, but Stein went ahead and privately financed the ballpark. With the Legends a reliable and top draw in the minor leagues, Stein has had the last laugh.
The ballpark continues to draw good crowds because of some solid management and a fun, whimsical approach to the game. You don’t need to be a hardcore baseball fan to enjoy a night at the ballpark. For those seeking diversions, there’s a pool table in the V.I.P building down the right-field corner. In the left-field corner: a Children’s Play Area, complete with inflatables, games, a carousel and rides. There’s just the right amount of on-field activity between innings, with kids involved in most of the proceedings. This is a great ballpark for a kid: Children’s Play Area is always busy, and there’s enough flash and bang to command attention though most of a game.
If you have a chance, spend some time in the Kentucky Ale Taproom. Lexington is solidly Bourbon country, but local brewer Alltech brews a tasty line of beers, including Kentucky Ale and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. Both are available at the comfortable lounge inside the Whitaker Bank Ballpark grandstand. You can watch the game from inside the club or on patio tables overlooking the action.
Whitaker Bank Ballpark is showing its age pretty well. The team and ballpark ownership have made plenty of improvements to the ballpark over the years and it’s now seemingly settled into a comfort zone of sports. The ballpark design is interesting, though a little dated. There’s no wraparound concourse, which is a key part of most new ballparks, but fans still manage to mill around the ballpark throughout the course of a game. The concessions are located in the grandstand, which means you’ll miss the action when you head out for a brew and a burger. The compromise is a grandstand design with almost no bad seats; it has a very vertical design with the suites at the back, rather than jutting over the general seating. Though you can spend a lot of money at the ballpark, the vast majority of seats are $8 (for box seats) or less ($5 for bleachers, $4 for lawn). With a large scoreboard, a slew of group spots and a nice view of the field from any spot in the ballpark, Whitaker Bank Ballpark is still as vibrant a facility as it was when opening a decade ago.
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