This is the second post in my 2012 “Down on the Farm” series that chronicles visits to various minor league parks throughout America. (The entire 2011 edition and last month’s story can be accessed here.)
Though baseball actually began in this eastern Iowa town of 27,000 citizens more than a century ago, it was not until the construction of Riverview Stadium as a WPA project in the 1930s that the National Pastime returned in earnest to the banks of the Mississippi.
Riverview Stadium — which was renamed Alliant Energy Field a decade ago and Ashford University Field last fall — still stands three-quarters of a century later.
Several renovation projects have occurred in recent years, yet the 4,000 fixed seat ballpark continues to exude class, charm and character.
The facility, which resembles historic Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana (the oldest minor league yard in America at 97 years young), offers seats nearer to the field than what you’ll find in newer ballparks. Being incredibly close to the action, and with overhangs covering the vast majority of stands, heat and sun aren’t a factor on hot days.
A protective screen also run from first base to third in an attempt to keep fans safe; however, many seats beyond that, including ample picnic areas approaching the left field berm and right field “Lumber Lounge,” lend more unencumbered views.
There are a few rows of box seats immediately behind the screen that include waitress service, with the concourse running directly aft, and the remainder of seats above the concourse are bleacher style.
Overall, the experience is very baseball-centric, lacking an abundance of between-inning gimmicks, rightly leaving bats, balls, and gloves to tell the story.
To the immediate west of the park, away from the river and just beyond active train tracks, the regal Clinton County Courthouse, replete with a patriotic Veterans Memorial, sits in view from the outfield.
The LumberKings are nearly 2,000 miles from their parent club in Seattle and have had 10 total Major League affiliates in their history; thus, as is the case down river in Burlington (Oakland), fans may not feel connected to the overall organization. And that’s fine. In fact, unlike in many large Triple A cities, this means spectators know the players’ names and actually want to see a winning club in Clinton.
Thought attendance when we visited was just over 500, this was a Monday night. Clinton had drawn 10,000 fans over the past weekend (two sell outs), and currently averages just under 1,500 fans per opening.
LumberKings’ alumni include Neftali Feliz, Ian Kinsler (hit .402 in 2004), Grady Sizemore, Mike Scioscia, Dave Stewart (17 wins in 1979), Matt Williams, Orel Hershiser (undefeated in four 1979 starts), and more than 200 others who’ve come through Clinton on their way to fame in The Show.
Next time you’re near Chicagoland, for example, make the easy 140 mile drive west to Clinton, Iowa, for some baseball fun. Traffic is light, while parking is free and plentiful.