In a ballpark already known for a Ferris Wheel and other amusements, it takes a lot to stand out. The Quad Cities River Bandits added another set of unique amusements to a formerly dead part of Modern Woodmen Park, earning Ballpark Digest’s 2017 Award for Best Ballpark Improvement Under $1 Million.
The Midwest League’s River Bandits had already gained notoriety for the center-field Ferris Wheel and other amusements, but this year saw the transformation of an open concrete deck into a new amusements area. Even before these improvements, Modern Woodmen Park was positioned as a venue stressing experiences for the whole family: amusements and games for the kids, high-quality food and beverage for the adults, and baseball for all. The new amusements make Modern Woodmen Park a destination on non-game days, open and running during the popular weekend Farmer’s Markets next to the ballpark. It’s also turned the left-field corner of the ballpark into a prime family gathering spot.
“Modern Woodmen Park has been become a cornerstone of the community with its family-friendly atmosphere,” said Ballpark Digest Publisher Kevin Reichard. “The additional amusements just take things to a whole new level. After seeing them in action and seeing the lines of kids waiting for a roller coaster or another ride, it was clear these amusements were a big hit.”
“Our new rides have been a great addition to our ballpark and this award is incredibly humbling,” said River Bandits owner Dave Heller. “We’re attracting more guests – and different guests. And we’re bringing people to Davenport from well beyond our home counties. But most important, we’re putting smiles on the faces of children from Galesburg to Dubuque, and from Princeton to Iowa City. We’re not just entertaining fans, we’re making memories!”
The five new amusements:
- The Double-Decker Carousel was purchased from Pier 39 in San Francisco and then restored and repainted for use at Modern Woodmen Park. Plenty of MLB and MiLB ballparks feature carousels, but this is the only two-level in baseball, to the best of our knowledge.
- The Genesis Kidz Koaster is a punchy roller coaster with spinning seats and sharp corners. It’s popular with children of all ages.
- The Wind-Up is a natural for a ballpark: it whirls children a full 360 degrees while simultaneously spinning riders in a clockwise direction.
- The Double-Play thrusts riders into the sky in a pendulum motion, then moves into a full 360-degrees for added thrills, all while rotating the seats sideways to create a whirlwind sensation.
- Finally, an oval-tracked kiddie train runs the concourse and is aimed toward the youngest of fans.
Though the direct proceeds from the rides went to various charities (see our story here), they also worked on a business level: keeping fans inside Modern Woodmen Park deeper into a game. That means fans sticking around on a night when the River Bandits are losing in a blowout or on an evening where the weather isn’t optimal.
“There are still plenty of hardcore baseball fans in the Quad Cities who love the game and are devoted to seeing every pitch, and they’re treated very well by the River Bandits,” Reichard added. “Today, a ballpark needs to attract more casual fans who love baseball but also love socializing with friends or hanging out with their families. The new amusements cement Modern Woodman Park’s status as one of America’s most family-friendly sporting venues.”
One team has earned an honorable mention in this category.
Prior to the 2017 season, the Oklahoma City Dodgers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) renovated the former Diamond Lounge at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark into the new Oklahoma Fidelity Bank Club. This resulted in several improvements, including increases in square footage (2,300 to more than 5,000) and maximum capacity (150 to 250), while creating a previously unavailable panoramic view of the field. “These renovations were a critical step to modernize a key part of the ballpark and enhance the experience for our fans. From the time we unveiled the space, it has consistently delivered the ‘wow factor’ to anyone visiting the ballpark,” said OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes. “We are very proud of the relationship with the City of Oklahoma City that allowed us to improve the ballpark and then align with a great partner in Oklahoma Fidelity Bank.”
2017 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
Best Charity: Quad Cities River Bandits
Editor’s Choice Award: National Eclipse Games
Best New Food Item: Beercheese Poutine
Best New Concessions Experience: Miller Park
Best Ballpark Improvement (Over $1M): Great Dane Duck Blind
Executive of the Year: Ryan Keur
Best New Logo/Branding: Down East Wood Ducks
Best Ballpark Renovation (MiLB): Fluor Field, Greenville Drive
Broadcasters: Howard Kellman and Mick Gillespie
Ballpark of the Year: SunTrust Park, Atlanta Braves
Past Ballpark Digest Best Ballpark Improvement (Under $1M) Award Winners
2016: The Perch