In a world of baseball marketing glitz and glitter, Security Service Field is something of a throwback. The home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox might best be described as understated. If you are looking for sideshows and other distractions, you won’t find much to your liking here. If you’re seeking a comfortable place to watch top-notch minor league baseball staffed by friendly and helpful personnel, the Sky Sox organization will put a smile on your face.
Year Opened: 1998
Architects: Michael Hallmark and Thomas Beckenbaugh
Owner: Elmore Sports Group
Dimensions: 350L, 385LC, 410 C, 385RC, 350R
Playing Surface: Grass
League: Pacific Coast League
Affiliation: Colorado Rockies
Parking: $5 at the ballpark
Address/Directions: 4385 Tutt Blvd., Colorado Springs, 80922. From the north: I-25 to Woodmen Rd. Exit 149, left (east) on Woodmen, right on Powers, left on Barnes. From the south: I-25 to Highway 24 east, turns into Fountain Blvd., left (north) on Powers Blvd., right at Barnes.
Words and Photos by: Jim Robins
In a world of baseball marketing glitz and glitter, Security Safety Field is something of a throwback. The home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox might best be described as understated. If you are looking for sideshows and other distractions, you won’t find much to your liking here. If you’re seeking a comfortable place to watch top-notch minor league baseball staffed by friendly and helpful personnel, the Sky Sox organization will put a smile on your face.
This kind of basic baseball experience is a little usual situation for a ballpark that isn’t yet two decades old. Anyone who hasn’t visited the place recently might assume that the description of Security Safety Field as “understated” probably is generously vague at best. By their own description, the Sky Sox front-office staff admits that the ballpark started out as a cookie-cutter design.
What more would you expect from a Triple A stadium built in 90 days for well less than $4 million in 1988?
From 2004 to 2007, however, the Sky Sox undertook no less than $8 million in renovations. This amount of money could have been spent in any number of ways — and could have created a huge splash. Instead, the team went for essential changes that serve the interests of the ballplayers, fans and the entire Colorado Springs community. The result is still “understated” — in the best meaning of the term.
The first of the improvements came to the ballfield itself where drainage was significantly improved. In Spring 2007, this came in especially handy when central Colorado got hit by an exceptionally rainy spell over the first three months of the season. On our visit (rescheduled from an earlier rain- and chill-out), a thunderstorm hit the ballpark area hard just 90 minutes before game time. The field drained very quickly and thoroughly. Then again, in a game featuring no less than 10 homers and 34 runs, the infield didn’t come into play too often.
Other subtle changes not likely to be noticed by the typical fan include a subterranean indoor hitting and pitching practice area with a new home-team clubhouse at field level beneath the grandstand. The original arrangement had ballplayers departing the clubhouse on the third level along the concourse on the first-base side descending past the grandstand to the field. (In fact, visiting teams still use the original visitors’ clubhouse on the third-base side.)
Fans are more likely to appreciate a number of other changes, including replacement of the original boxes with wider seats and cup holders; major renovation of the 18 Sky Box Suites to a modern, truly “luxury” level of accommodation, accompanied by newly covered skyway that doubles as protection for all fans entering through main gate. The exterior area was spiffed up considerably with the addition of wrought iron fences replacing chain link.
The most significant and visible improvement, though, came with the addition of the Centennial Banquet Hall and picnic terrace down the right-field line. The naming of the banquet facility commemorates the rich history of the Pacific Coast League dating to 1903. For the first time, some fans have a good view of Pike’s Peak and the Rockies although you have to step away from the game action to see the mountains from the other side of the banquet hall. The banquet hall and terrace addition allowed for a significant upgrade in food concessions and expanded storage facilities. The Sky Sox organization now employs a full-time chef, and the banquet hall serves the community year-round.
Banquet groups of up to 250 can be handled on game days (allowing for some overflow onto the terrace), while the facility can accommodate 175 persons contained indoors for non-game events, according to assistant GM Mike Hobson, who was generous with his time with us on a game day when it looked uncertain if the weather would cooperate.
The best views of the Rockies can be found looking out away from the field on the fourth-floor banquet area atop along the right-field line. The Coors Terrace is the most notable of $8 million in major improvements since 2003.
The banquet facility and accompanying catering service has been fully operational since 2005. As word got out about the upgrade, the banquet facility really has hit its stride after a year in operation, according to Hobson. Now operating as a year-round venture, it has helped that the Elmore Sports Group is owner of the entire operation, including the ballpark.
The final piece of the four-year renovation effort was replacement in 2007 of the rudimentary scoreboard in left field. The size and location of the scoreboard is pretty much the same, but the new one is modern with streaming video. The old version was hardly more than a “glorified light bright set,” as Hobson describes it. At times you might have wondered if the batter count had reached 9 balls and 2 strikes due to bulbs constantly malfunctioning and burning out. Sky Sox management listens to input from the community, and when word filtered out that the Rocky mountain range scene on the scoreboard was likely to go away some loud grumbles were heard. So the new scoreboard has the scene – which is about the only mountain view you’re going to get while looking eastward from the grandstand.
The food scene at Security Service Field can be rated quite highly with a “V” for both value and variety. Rather than stopping before the game at one of the many suburban mall chain fast food restaurants located less than a mile from the ballpark, you’ll be much better off finding something you like at a reasonable price while enjoying the game. Of course, you might want a little refreshment to go with your meal. If you head down the concourse along the third-base line, you’ll find the specialty beer selections especially good.
If you aren’t in too much of a hurry and can fight off the hunger pains, you will want to spend a few minutes studying more than one of the food concessions stands so you can make the perfect selection. The variety of food offerings not only compares favorably to most minor-league ballparks, it puts to shame a few of the big-league contenders. (This would be especially true if you happen, say, to be coming from Minneapolis.)
For instance, you can pick from a number of brats and sausages, including a “hot & spicy” or “Wisconsin” (definitely on the mild side) bratwurst reasonably priced at $4.75. Or, for the same price you can get Wagonwheel chili and fries. A footlong dog, roasted peanuts or Cracker Jack will set you back $3.75.
At the Zebulon Grill near the main gate, the featured item prominently displayed on the board is CHEESE STEAKS that will almost certainly fill you up Philly-style, priced at $6.75. If you have a craving for Pike’s Peak Nachos, you can have them loaded with chili and sour cream for $5.50, or go with the slightly leaner version for $1 less.
Given that the new terrace has prominently displayed naming rights from a particular mega-brewing house headquartered over in Golden, you might assume that choices in beers would be limited at Security Service Field. That would be a shame considering how Colorado has firmly established itself as the brewing capital of the western states.
In fact, you will find an excellent selection of beers and ales with an appropriately strong emphasis on Colorado brews. The locally produced Laughing Lab from Bristol Brewing is a Scottish-style ale that has proven to be the largest micro-brew seller at the ballpark over the years, according to the longtime vendor situated on the concourse down the third base line. Despite a pleasing malt presence, the taste is lighter than you’d expect from the typical Scottish ale. The specialty 24-ounce drafts run $6.75, priced only 50 cents more than a routine “domestic.”
Nothing quite like the high sky on a cool evening in the mountain air — that’s exactly what hitters for the Sky Sox and Rainiers had to be thinking on their way to bashing out 10 taters and 34 runs on June 7th.
WHERE TO SIT
You really can’t go wrong with main grandstand seating at Security Service Field. The stands are especially close to the field. The box seats are new and comfortable; best overall views are from the higher rows of the box seats. The berm down the leftfield line draws a younger crowd for day games and night game overflow — but the view there is marginal. Although the Sky Sox are clearly very kid-friendly with various game promotions and the popular Sox the Fox mascot, youngsters will find slim pickings at the lonely playground area remotely located down the left field line.
Security Service Field has a lot of suburbia growing around it as Colorado Springs sprawls gradually and persistently away from the Rockies. A preservation greenway located just beyond the left field fence will safeguard the existing view, but eliminates the possibility of expanding the ballpark to include majestic ball field views with mountains in the background. So the closest thing to a real mountain view for spectators at the highest ballpark in professional baseball will continue to be glances at the painted top of the Sky Sox scoreboard.
Still, you can get pretty close to some fascinating nature here. The fact that suburbia has grown around the ballpark apparently has triggered an unanticipated side effect for displaced wildlife. A pair of owls took up residence in the ballpark not too long ago, and their baby has a keen eye for the game perched from the overhang just below the skybox suites. Hawks are also often seen circling around in the outfield.
A few other pleasant distractions are a draw to this ballpark. The Sky Sox received some national publicity in the early 1990s when they introduced the first hot tub at ballgames. Up to eight fans each game can arrange for its use down the right field line, and the hot tub attraction has remained popular from the start. Another great way to relax is by getting a message offered by the Colorado Institute of Message Therapy.
Good food, fine refreshments, cool mountain air, and a friendly atmosphere are all subtle draws to Security Service Field. Ultimately, though, the real attraction is the opportunity to focus your attention on the ballgame at hand — played on an intimate, well-kept ball field. So simple and satisfying.