Editor’s Note: Mark Cryan, former MiLB general manager and Ballpark Digest contributing editor, is embarking on an epic ballpark tour this summer, and he’s filing regular dispatches from the road. Today’s stop: Security Service Field, Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
We approached Colorado Springs across the plains of Kansas and then the plains of Colorado. I know, we all think of mountains when we think of Colorado, but the plains of Colorado? Yes, there is a lot of flat land after you leave Kansas, and it’s not until you are pretty close to Colorado Springs that mountains begin to spring up.
The Sky Sox are part of the sports holding of Dave Elmore, and we will be visiting several of his teams on this trip, including Idaho Falls, Idaho and Helena, Montana. The Colorado Springs Sky Sox previously operated as the Hawaii Islanders. At some point, Elmore grew tired of the costs and hassles of the travel involved with getting the teams to and from Hawaii, but the players were certainly sad to see the Pacific Coast League depart the Big Island.
The team constructed Security Service Field themselves in the late 1980s for a mere $3 million, and the result has served the Colorado Springs market admirably. Unfortunately, the nearby Colorado Rockies no longer felt this park met their needs, and they departed for a much newer facility, signing an affiliation deal with the Albuquerque Isotopes beginning in 2015. This is the first year the Sky Sox have been affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers, and judging by the crowd on hand on July 4th when we visited, it doesn’t seem to have hurt them too much.
Owned and Operated
As is the case with most parks built on a modest budget like this one, the seating bowl is built into a bank on a piece of land surrounded by some retail and some housing. The stadium palette is very Colorado, with lots of tan and brown, and lots of split-faced stone. The design is very standard, with an open seating bowl topped by a concourse topped by a ring of luxury boxes. One unique wrinkle is the press box, which is located at concourse level and sticks out a bit into the top of the seating bowl.
Additions in recent years include a more imposing entryway and a new building added to the first-base end of the grandstand that includes hospitality space and upgraded team accommodations. Just like the original construction, the team has financed these improvements, and as one of just a few team-owned facilities in minor league baseball, they get to enjoy all the benefits and downsides of this arrangement. They can do what they want, but they pay the piper.
Like every team playing in an older facility, the Sky Sox have added lots of carts and stands on the concourse, which is a great solution most nights, but with a packed house on a fireworks night, it was a tight squeeze. But, any operator will tell you crowded concourses are a good problem to have. In Minor League Baseball, it’s important to create a night of entertainment without relying too much on the quality of the on-field product. But on this night, the boys in uniform didn’t hold up their part of the deal, as the home team didn’t just lose, they took a pounding early, and wound up enduring such a lopsided loss that a late-game Sky Sox run generated big, sarcastic cheers. Nonetheless, most of the fans stuck around for the postgame fireworks show, which was outstanding.
If there is a player in the PCL you’d like to meet, Colorado Springs is the place to go. There is a stairway leading up through the third-base side of the grandstand zealously protected by team staff, and we couldn’t figure out what the purpose was, until the game ended. The visiting team has to walk up this stairway, then across the concourse to get to the visiting clubhouse. Team staff guards the upper end, but the fans walk right up to the fence that separates this stairway from the seating sections. Bring your own Sharpie.
Kids’ Eye View
At the end of the concourse on the left-field side, there was the Sky Sox kids section. All of the activities were at the top of a berm and there was a big inflatable slide and speed pitch, amongst other activities. All the activities carried a small cost, and this area was packed on the night we visited. Right next to the kids’ section is a sno-cone stand for a kid-style treat.