For some, it might be easy to write off a ballpark that’s over 20 years old but when walking into LewisGale Field, it feels more like the Salem Red Sox (High A; Carolina League) are continuing to grow into it. Upgrades over the years have kept the ballpark in great condition and continuing improvements ensure that it’s not only fan-friendly, but has room to grow in the future, which could be why LewisGale Field finished second in the Advanced-A bracket in our recent Best of the Ballparks contest.
It’s an easy drive through Salem’s city center to LewisGale Field with a sprawling parking lot in between the impressive ballpark ahead and the looming Salem High School football stadium just to its left. The Salem Civic Center is on the other side of the parking lot and there are Little League fields just beyond the right field wall.
After walking into the concourse, it’s easy to imagine that a Double-A team could play in this venue which has over 6,400 seats, multiple group areas, including the Carilion Clinic party deck and The Roanoke Times party pavilion, and ten luxury suites. The concourse feels like a hybrid because it’s not fully underneath the grandstand, and it’s not flush with the concourse.
The main concession stands look like they are in cutouts in the stands to allow room for people to walk on the concourse. The way everything is arranged, there is plenty of room on concourse for large crowds to move and there is plenty of leg room throughout the park from general admission to the seats right behind home plate. The four sections directly behind home plate are the premium seats and they even come with their own waiters and waitresses during the game.
While there isn’t much cover for fans in case of bad weather, the mountains that absolutely surround the area break up storms to where rain is rare. In fact, general manager Ryan Shelton said the team is situated so well among the mountains that even if bad weather were to roll in, they can spot the front early and have plenty of time to prepare for it.
Perhaps one of the more unique features of the park is found near the front gate. It’s a huge island like you would find in a kitchen but does three vital things that make entry run smoothly. The side facing the front gate is broken up into two sides with one serving as an ID station for fans to get checked to purchase alcoholic beverages, and the other side serves as guest relations. The back part of this island is a bar that serves craft beers with about a dozen tables and chairs for fans to sit down and enjoy their drinks behind home plate.
LewisGale Field has your traditional concessions offerings including hamburgers, hot dogs, and nachos as well as Snack Shacks that were added to help relieve pressure on concession stands during peak crowds. On the first base line, there is Swine Drive which focuses on specialty hot dogs including a Mac-a-Cheese Dog and a highly recommended Midwest Twister Dog which is a hot dog with bacon, cheese, BBQ sauce, and onions. On the third base side, is Fowl Territory, which focuses on specialty chicken wings with a variety of different sauces.
The store is large and a huge array of pretty much everything you could ever want, from brands such as 47 Brand and Under Armor. The store is located near the front offices, which are behind the grandstand on the third base side of the field. Because of the location of the store, it’s hard for fans to find it, which is why the team also has a stall near the park entrance to lead fans to the store. The store is pretty cool because there are banners of notable former Salem players covering the windows, including several players who have made their way up to the parent club.
Another unique aspect of LewisGale Field in mini-Fenway that is close to the team store behind the left field grandstand. It is a to-scale replica of Fenway Park that fits into the official Wiffle Ball Tournament size regulations. It even has its own Green Monster. The Red Sox leave a Wiffle Ball bat and Wiffle Balls out of the field so kids can play during the game. It has proved so popular that the Red Sox even book mini-Fenway for corporate team building exercises.
LewisGale Field has another feature that sets it apart from some minor league teams: they have tunnels where both home and visiting teams can pull their buses up to the clubhouse which is a big help when loading all of the equipment that teams take with them on the road.
So while LewisGale Field might not be the newest or the flashiest ballpark out there, its beautiful view of the mountains, big league atmosphere, and family-friendly features make it a ballpark not to be missed.