OK, you’ve had a break to celebrate the end of the 2017 season—time to start prepping for the 2018 season. Today, we take a preliminary look at Impact Field, one of two new pro ballparks on tap for next season.
The Chicago Dogs (independent; American Association) will debut next season at the Rosemont ballpark, which we toured last week. As you can tell by the photos, the ballpark is very much a work in progress, but with construction reported as being slightly ahead of schedule by Chicago Dogs co-owner Shawn Hunter (shown above), there should be no issue with a May 25, 2018 debut.
The Dogs made some waves when the team name was unveiled; some found it cheesy, some found the logo too simplistic, and some lamented the lack of Rosemont in the team name. We’re guessing that the ballpark experience will cut down on many of those complaints. It’s not an urban ballpark, which is the big trend these days, but it’s also not a typical suburban ballpark. Part of an expansive entertainment and sports district that includes a cluster of restaurants and venues (including the Rosemont Theater) as well as Fashion Outlets of Chicago, Impact Field is nestled on a small site close to The Ballpark at Rosemont, home of the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch women’s league. Though the ballpark and the entertainment district is intersected by I-294, Balmoral Avenue provides easy access to both areas. And with ramps on two sides of the ballpark, parking should not be an issue. (In case it does, the ballpark will sport a dedicated Uber pickup/dropoff area.)
“We want this to be the nicest facility in the United States,” Hunter said at a press event centered on a ballpark update and the announcement of Butch Hobson as team manager. If some of these photos look familiar, they should: the design owes a lot to CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association), our 2015 ballpark of the year. (Hunter, in a tour of the ballpark, acknowledged the debt to the Saints ballpark: “We took every good idea and improved on them.”) AECOM, which worked on the Saints’ Lowertown digs, also designed Impact Field. Roger Bossard, the legendary Chicago White Sox groundskeeper, oversaw the installation of the turf.
But Impact Field goes even farther than CHS Field in creating distinct areas within the ballpark, as it’s clear group sales will be a big part of the Dogs business plan. One group area sure to be a hit: a screened-in left-field corner space at field level. Seating 60, this area will also have access to the ballpark’s batting cages. Hunter says he expects this area to be popular even on non-game days. A smaller private club will be located down the right-field line, with capacity for 250. Tickets for this space will be sold with food and alcohol inclusive. The ballpark also features eight suites and a large party deck down the left-field line, again with room for 250 fans and geared for groups, but open to the public on when there are no group reservations. A triple-level party deck in the left-field corner and a picnic area in center field rounds out the group areas. For fans on more of a budget, a 600-capacity set of bleacher seats in the right-field corner will sport tickets under $10.
Levy Restaurants/PSC is the concessionaire, so expect plenty interesting takes on a Chicago dog at the six fixed concession stands and 16 specialty carts. Remember: no ketchup on a Chicago dog.
One thing to watch—or listen for, anyway—is how the Dogs handle the ballpark noise. I-294 runs right past the left-field concourse, and nearby O’Hare International Airport means there are plenty of flights taking off over the ballpark. Fans in the enclosed spaces won’t feel the noise as much as fans in the seating bowl—but then again, tying a promo to a plane overhead would be a smart business move. The team will also be taking advantage of the freeway location by using the rear of the outfield scoreboard essentially as a billboard advertising team partners.
In a move for instant credibility: the Dogs also announced the hiring of MLB and indy-baseball vet Butch Hobson as team manager. Hobson spent 16 of the last 17 years in independent baseball, a streak broken in 2017 when he managed the nearby Kane County Cougars (Low A; Midwest League). Hobson has been through indy ballpark openings before, and he’s built contenders from scratch. The American Association has slightly different player rules than other independent leagues, but in a pre-tour meeting Hobson expressed familiarity with those differences and promised a winner. “We will win a championship in 2018,” Hobson said. “Of course, I make that promise every year.”
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