Big renovations and new ballparks generate the splashiest headlines, but sometimes the best strategy involves annual upgrades that freshen the fan experience—as can be seen at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Low A; Midwest League).
Fox Cities Stadium opened in 1994, and our first visit came in 2004; here’s a comparison from then and now:
Since then, the Timber Rattlers front office has embarked on a series of upgrades. And while there were a few big projects along the way, including the addition of a second-floor club and suites area, most of the ballpark changes have been smaller, incremental upgrades. Check out the contrast between a 2004 shot and a 2019 shot:
The biggest difference you can see between 2004 and 2019: the expansion of the ballpark in right field. Over the last several years Timber Rattlers President Rob Zerjav and crew have done the following:
- Extended the concourse just past the center-field batter’s eye, creating new spaces for a party deck and beach-themed play area in right field.
- Removed seating in the concourse to make way for table seating.
- Moved the kids’ play area from the right-field concourse to a larger space in the right-field corner, keeping the sandy beach and adding an abundance of family activities.
- Replaced the beach area with a new bar space, complete with two cabanas, patio furniture and drink rails. Again, a more casual spot to take in a game, which can also be used as a group space.
The goal, according to Zerjav: give the fans a fresh experience every time they hit the ballpark. Indeed, there’s something for everyone at a Timber Rattlers game, with a Brewers farm team on the field, plenty of room for those who like to wander during a game and watch from a variety of vantage points, spaces for entertaining any group size, and families with kids in need of some non-baseball entertainment. The food is great, the beer is cold and the options are plentiful.
This year sees the addition of Brews on Third beer area, featuring craft beers on draught, a bar rail, games designed to delight millennials (Jenga, Connect Four, foosball, etc.) and tables away from the action. It’s another addition designed to broaden the appeal of the fan experience past the hardcore baseball fans.
Coming up? According to Zerjav, more changes for 2020 are being considered, including the potential addition of ballpark space beyond the left-field fence, giving the ballpark a 360-degree concourse for the first time. Currently the concourse ends at the left-field corner and just to the left of the batter’s eye. There are some limitations as to how far out the ballpark can go, with a wildlife conservancy past left field and a small marsh past the right-field concourse. But with the commitment to keeping the fan experience fresh, the Timber Rattlers have remained a solid draw in the Fox Valley—and the fans keep coming back.
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