A new ballpark worth noting: tonight marks the grand opening of Impact Field, home of the Chicago Dogs (independent; American Association). We toured the new Rosemont (IL) facility yesterday; here’s what fans can expect.
Built on a challenging site along I-294 in what’s become Rosemont’s entertainment and shopping district, Impact Field is directly below an O’Hare International Airport flight path. Between the freeway running right outside the left-field concourse and the airplanes taking off to the west, there’s a lot of ambient noise to the ballpark. But then again, the location is also a blessing: the 10.25-acre ballpark site serves as a great advertisement for the Dogs, as the 1,400-square-foot high-def Daktronics scoreboard (tied for largest in the American Association) also serves as a billboard for the team and its 10 founding partners: one side of the scoreboard faces fans, and the back side of the scoreboard acts as a billboard to freeway drivers. That exposure helped team sell 10 founding sponsors, says Tim McBride, Chief Marketing and Entertainment Officer for the Dogs.
The ballpark certainly makes use of the 10-plus acres, with plenty of wide concourses and lots of specialty seating areas. One of the more unique spots in the ballpark: the left-field-corner field-level area combining team batting cages with seating space for 56. Garage doors behind the fencing open to allow direct views of the field. The space can be combined with terrace and picnic tables next to the foul pole, as well as a left-field kids area with inflatables and more to accommodate larger groups as well. On off days, a group event allows fans access to the batting cages for fans to take on a pitching machine.
That left-field picnic and seating terrace also looks directly into a bullpen, as both corners feature bullpens sitting right next to seating.
As you’ve probably figured out, Impact Field is a modern ballpark with plenty of discrete seating areas allowing for groups of all sizes buying tickets at all price points. You can buy the cheap seats in the right-field corner in the only bleacher seating in the ballpark. We’ll run through some of what’s offered on the suite level:
- A Leinenkugel space with full bar and indoor/outdoor seating is available both for groups and individuals, depending on whether a group is scheduled.
- Open spaces flanking the press box are envisioned as branded bar spaces sponsored by beer or spirits vendors. Right now they’re open/group spaces complete with comfy patio seating.
- Speaking of the press box: besides the team’s own broadcasts, there’s a space for media students to practice their skills, with multilingual broadcasts on the way this season.
- The six suites have a capacity of 18 both inside and outside. In a trend we’re loving, there’s no step-downs outside from the suite, opening at the same level with the indoor area. A drink rail and bar seats are in the back of the outside area, while there’s theater-style seating below. Fans in the suites are right at the edge of the concourse and the seating bowl.
- A double-sized suite was leased by Impact Networking, the team’s naming-rights partner. Impact Networking is expected to make use of the suite both for game-day events and non-game-day meetings as a work space. The firm’s annual tech conference is moving to Impact Field as well.
- A large club space down the right-field line s already generating plenty of interest for game-day groups and non-game-day events, such as bar mitzvahs. This season access is via an all-inclusive ticket ($70 as part of a season ticket, $100 as a one-game buy), with menus crafted on the high end and a large bar area serving beer, wine, mixed drinks and other beverages. Its outfitted with plenty of sofas and comfortable seating, as well as multiple rows of outdoor seating. With a capacity of 250 for games and 300 for events (150 for events requiring a dance floor, such as the aforementioned bar mitzvahs), it should be a popular Rosemont gathering spot.
A 360-degree concourse will allow fans to make their way easily through the ballpark: the concourse is wide and undoubtedly the team will add new seating areas next season and beyond. “We’ll let the fans tell us what we should add in the future,” McBride says. “We have plenty of space, and we’ll be using it.” Right now the right-field concourse is open, while a large group picnic area sits behind the batter’s eye. The ballpark design also features a outfield gate large enough for semis to haul in concert gears, as the team envisions hosting 1-2 concerts annually.
To say there’s a lot of attention to the details is an understatement. Roger “The Sodfather” Bossard designed the Kentucky bluegrass field and the accompanying irrigation system. The team also combined with concessionaire PSC and Leinenkugel’s to create a beer exclusively available at Impact Field: Dog’s Best Friend.
Speaking of concessions: there are six concessions stands in the grandstand, with several other stands scattered throughout the concourse. Being a PSC operation, there of course are dedicated Burgertopia and Philly cheesesteak stands. You’ll never be too far away from a Vienna Beef Hot Dog, with dedicated stands on the concourse; there’s nothing like a Chicago dog. (Also in the left-field corner: an oversized hot dog based on the Vienna Beef Hot Dog hot dog logo, perfect as a selfie spot.) For the more adventurous, the second Chicago-area outpost of the irreverent Wiener’s Circle will feature the brand’s famous marquee and signature menu items, such as char dogs and char burgers.
One issue that was addressed by the team and AECOM: this ballpark owes a lot to CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association). No surprise, in a way: AECOM worked on both facilities and borrowed the basic layout (grandstand with dedicated group area down third-base side and large group space down first-base side), and team owners were impressed with how the Lowertown ballpark works. To their credit, the Dogs and the AECOM folks readily credit CHS Field as a direct inspiration. But while CHS Field emphasizes plenty of wood-colored and darker finishes, the Impact Field design draws more on the bright Dogs team colors–particularly the vibrant red in the logo–to good effect.
Again, the Dogs open Impact Field tonight, and we’ll be there.