According to Stadium Journey, a site that visits and ranks a slew of different sporting parks and arenas and fields, Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium is the 23rd best (7th worst?) Triple-A ballpark in the nation. How fair is that ranking? Well, let’s examine the facts. But first, let’s see what they had to say about the stadium.
"The lower concourse provides plenty of great seating, much of which are right up next to the game action, and down the foul lines there is bleacher seating on the upper concourse. There is even an upper deck which includes eight suites which have their own private seats, all of which have a great view of the action. Plenty of grass seating in the outfield is also available."
So, without going into critique mode, they were able to compliment Tucson’s nice suites and seating close to the field. But something caused it to be ranked so far down this list. Here are some of the quick facts:
Year Built: 1998
Home to: Tucson Sidewinders (1998-2010), Arizona Diamondbacks (spring 1998-2010), Chicago White Sox (spring 1998-2010), Tucson Padres (2011-)
Location: Click here (it’s easier to show you than describe)
Nearby Attractions: None
As many of you know, I live in Tucson. I have lived here since the early 90’s but spent most of my summers in San Diego. Growing up in Tucson, I remember the announcement that Tucson would be building a brand new ballpark and would become the host of the Arizona Diamondback’s Triple-A affiliate. Representatives from the Pima County Stadium Stadium District even put on presentations at local schools to attract the attention of students and parents. It was an exciting time.
However, that excitement quickly faded when people learned where the park would be located. On Tucson’s south side, with the nearest attraction being the Pima County Sheriffs Department headquarters, the ballpark was built. It was out of the way for most Tucsonans. But the one thing that could save it would be a revitalization of the are in which the park was being built.
In 1998, Tucson Electric Park (as it was known then) opened. There were plenty of Tucsonans excited about a new spring training facility and Triple-A baseball. Yet, after a few games it became clear that this park was not attracting the number of fans you’d like to see at a brand new stadium.
So what changes were made? What revitalization efforts were taken up? What did Tucson do to fix the problem they created? None, none, and nothing. The area surrounding the ballpark is as bland as can be. The closest restaurant is an In N Out Burger about a mile away. There are no upscale restaurants. There are no sports bars. There’s not even a nearby hotel.
The bottom line is the location of Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium is probably the biggest reason it ranked so low on Stadium Journey’s list of top Triple-A parks. It’s a fair ranking. As you drive to the ballpark, you wonder if you’re being taken to some desolate desert prison. As the freeway snakes southeast of Tucson, there are less and less noticeable buildings and businesses. It’s a long trip for most, and in a town where sports generally don’t rank high on anyone’s priority list, making that drive is not always an option.
It’s a terrible location for a ballpark, but once inside, the park is very nice. You almost forget where it is located as you step through the gates and are hit with the smells of concession stand food, you see the sprawling baseball field, grass seating, and luxury suites. There is not a video board, but it almost gives the park an old school feel having to rely on seeing the plays live.
Yes, Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium was built in about as bad a location as any ballpark in history, but the actual park is great. However, the location makes this park easily the 23rd best Triple-A stadium in baseball.