Editor’s Note: Mark Cryan, former MiLB general manager and Ballpark Digest contributing editor, embarked on an epic ballpark tour this summer, and he filed regular dispatches from the road. Today’s stop: Aces Ballpark, Reno Aces.
Our visit to Reno was an interesting choice; I’m not a gambler, and my one visit to Vegas left me wondering why anyone goes there. Yeah, I guess I’m a little dull that way. Reno made the cut, though, due to its location on our path west, just as the treacherous alkali flats of Nevada were a part of the Oregon Trail that brought countless settlers to the western territories of the United States. So, for us, it was primarily a stop on the way to San Francisco, although many come here specifically for the gambling. Unlike Vegas, this is gambling that is also close to the beautiful waters of Lake Tahoe.
We were favorably impressed, though. The Aces play in a snazzy newer ballpark, with nice touches like a 360-degree concourse, pleasant outfield picnic area and lots of concourse space. Ty noticed a great facility element: some the concession stands included a sort of recess off the concourse with roll-down doors; that allowed the line for food to stay out of the foot traffic and the roll-down doors create secure space to store carts and such. Clever.
A Night Spot?
In the left-field corner, the park’s most distinctive feature is an area called the Freight District. This is a cool, classy, and fun space with several different restaurant and club spaces, and a plaza with a small stage. It seems that the team envisioned this part of the ballpark being a draw on night including non-game days. It turns out that it didn’t generate enough traffic and is only open on game days. We had a pregame dinner in one of the restaurants, and it was good, quick and reasonably priced. The staff was also very friendly and professional.
Giant Singing Baseball Head
The Aces have a truly unique feature; a huge inflatable baseball that rises up over the outfield wall like a cross between Kilroy and the Great Pumpkin during the seventh-inning stretch and signs “Take Me Out To the Ballgame.” I’ve never seen anything like it, and it made us both smile and laugh.
Kids’ Eye View, Condensed Version
Reno had one of the coolest playgrounds I’ve ever seen. It was shaped like the ballpark and had a miniature field to go with the playground There is a great playground, built to look like a small baseball field, and this is a park with lots of room to run around.
The World Beyond the Ballpark Walls
While the Aces operation seems well-run, the crowd was decent, and the ballpark is a nice, comfortable place to be, the exterior of the park looked a little in need of care, with weeds between the pavers and a broken window with fluttering duct tape. And, the neighborhood is a bit, well, Reno. The most convenient parking had a strange valet arrangement that created a line of people waiting for their cars after the game, while their cars sat, some not more than twenty or thirty feet away, and a small army of young men raced around fetching the cars.
The lot we wound up in, right across the street from the Freight District, was a lot that belonged to a Men’s Club. We didn’t even realize it until we were leaving. We are also in the habit of taking a full lap around the exterior of the ballparks we visit, but I wouldn’t recommend that here. While there seems to have been some successful efforts in another part of town to create a classy river-walk type space, and some parts of downtown Reno seem nice, the area behind the ballpark features a rough gravel path and, on the night we were there, at least one shopping cart full of somebody’s personal belongings.
Take Your Chances, and Take a Dip
Reno can certainly provide a nice night of entertainment for a traveling baseball nut, and if you are into gambling, it would certainly be a winner. The facility, fan support, and location are all better than what I remember from a long-ago visit to a lifeless stucco ballpark in Las Vegas. And, Lake Tahoe is beautiful, and unlike Hoover Dam, you can jump in the water in Lake Tahoe. We stopped by on our way toward Sacramento and took a dip. There were free parking spaces and public access beaches, which I did not expect, and there were hiking and biking trails galore, too. The sparkling blue water was refreshing, and the views are gorgeous.
We’ve hit California! Sacramento, here we come!