Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Where Pigs And Baseballs Fly
An Airhog, out at second base (way to go, Cats!). . .
Our family baseball Jones continues unabated; for an early father's day "present" M. and the boys took me over to Grand Prairie, to watch our own Fort Worth Cats play the Grand Prairie Airhogs in spanking-new QuikTrip Park. We'd debated whether to go to Grand Prairie or drive another 30 miles more round-trip to see AA Frisco play; we opted for spending less on gasoline than more for better baseball! The Airhogs are as new as their ballpark, a first-year division rivals to the Cats in the American Association independent league baseball. The team name honors Grand Prairie's aviation industry heritage.
From the outside, QTPark resembles an aircraft factory. . .
QuikTrip park is plopped down among acres of asphalt parking north of I-30 off Belt Line Road, in the same complex as the Star-Plex and Lone Star park. Built for around $20 million, the ballpark includes such must-have minor league amenities as a huge kid's playground area (with climbing wall, minature golf, basketball hoops and a whiffle-ball field) and outfield swimming pool (available for group rental). Out in left field, there's an open-air cigar bar and a sports bar. Ticket prices range from $6-12; given its isolated location amid nothing but parking, parking, parking, I found it interesting that they charge $4 to park on the property (there's really no other way to get there than your private automobile).
An impressive, aviation-themed entrance. . .
Appearance-wise, the place is designed to resemble aircraft hangers. This is a rather interesting approach to ball park design--create a motif based on the team name. One would assume the architects didn't plan on a new team with different name to move in any time soon.
From the outside, about the only thing that gives away that this is a baseball field are the tall light standards; otherwise, it recalls nothing so much as an aircraft factory. There is a grand entrance with arched steel framework, anchored on either side by structures that bring to mind airport control towers. The aviation theme is reinforced by paving work, markings, and recessed lighting similar to that found on an airport runway. Outside the front gate, bronze sculptures of aviators enjoying a bull-session are a visitor focal point.
Comfortable seating, and skyboxes above. . .
View from right field, where all the foul balls land. The kids playground is behind me. . .
Inside the park, the seating is comfortable and close to the action. All seating is on a single-level; a large upper section holds a press box and luxury suites and is clad in aluminum sheathing that during the game we went to was getting pounded by foul balls. Also pelted by foul balls: the kids playground area! I. and E. spent much of the second half of the game out there running around, and while I watched the game from a nearby vantage point, at least half-dozen baseballs came wizzing my way.
The swimming field in center field: close enough for an occasional homerun to make a wet landing. . .
The requisite mascot. . .
Fan with a silly hat. Pull on the strings and the pigs' wings flap. . .
Though not a ballpark that will please the "traditionalist" baseball fan by its appearance, you can't argue that the place is extremely fan-friendly. There's plenty of diversions here beside the baseball game, which is a good thing, given the mediocre level of play in this league. The game was quite lack-luster; the Airhogs won it, I don't even remember the score, but it really doesn't matter. The Airhogs are selling a whole entertainment package for a low ticket price. Given the amount of major-league sports in the Metroplex, it'd be a hard sell to fill this place just for the baseball. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we'll get up to Frisco for a game there; next week, it looks like our first trip of the year out to LaGrave to watch our Cats at home.
The boys stuck a Cats hat atop one of the bronze statues out front of the ballpark. . .