(Note: This is the third installment of a four-part series featuring the four ballparks of the Pioneer League North. The “Day at the Park” series profiled Billings’ Dehler Park and Missoula’s Ogren Park at Allegiance Field in recent weeks and will look at Centene Stadium in Great Falls next week. Parks are graded on facility, food, entertainment and overall atmosphere. The final installment will run in next Thursday’s Billings Gazette.)
As history goes, baseball has seemingly always held a special place in Helena. One of the benchmark events of the Capital City’s pastime passion was the 1932 opening of what is now Kindrick Legion Field, home of the Milwaukee Brewers’ Pioneer League farm club, the Helena Brewers.
“This place has seen a lot of ballgames,” said Dustin Daniel, the Brewers’ director of broadcasting and media relations. “As far as the atmosphere it creates for a ballgame, this is classic baseball here. It’s not going to be anything fancy that you see, but it definitely gives you a great summer vibe to come out to the ballpark.”
Helena is the smallest of the four Pioneer League North cities, so that classic feel fans get at Kindrick Legion Field fits nicely with the community. It’s not the biggest or fanciest, but it just feels like a ballpark.
When you walk into Kindrick Legion Field, it doesn’t look like much has changed since it opened more than 80 years ago. It’s a predominantly wood structure with a small grandstand.
“It’s got some neat stuff going on,” Daniel said. “Our seats in the box seats and reserved area were actually pulled out of the old Oakland Coliseum, so we have some chairs that used to belong to the Athletics.
“Obviously, it’s not major league quality, but it gives off the same kind of vibe as Fenway or Wrigley.”
Kindrick Legion, with a seating capacity just north of 2,000, does provide a unique vibe with its old ballpark charm, but more upgrades are probably necessary. There’s a fine line between “old” and “classic,” and it’s definitely toeing that line.
Rating: Single. Vintage parks provide a unique setting and cool atmosphere, but Kindrick Legion Field could stand to take more steps into this century.
While the park itself is toeing the old-versus-classic line, Daniel said the Brewers’ organization is having no problems playing with another line.
“I think we kind of erase that chalk line between having a crazy time on the field with promotions and baseball,” Daniel laughed. “In between half innings for three or four minutes, you kind of forget you’re at a baseball game and you’re just cheering on people that are trying to catch this big foam fish in a giant net.”
From the “fish fling” to dancing hot dogs, the Brewers have their share of minor league promotions. They’re planning on hosting more theme nights – think “Stars Wars night” or “country night” – this season than they’ve done in the past, too.
Even with the added gimmicks, though, baseball is still at the forefront of games at Kindrick Legion Field.
Rating: Triple. The Brewers do a good job of balancing baseball and entertainment. There’s nothing too far over the top, but still plenty to keep casual fans entertained.
Fans at Kindrick Legion Field can grab a meal at two different locations: the regular concession stand near the main entrance or the BBQ Pit situated behind the first-base line.
The regular concession stand is where you’ll find the traditional nachos, hot dogs, popcorn and such. The BBQ Pit, though, offers chicken sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches and the Helena Burger, a $9.25 behemoth of two patties covered in different kinds of cheeses sandwiching slices of bacon.
“We’ve got some neat stuff going on,” said Daniel, noting the concessions offer a once-a-year Irish corn dog he would get “every game” if it was available.
“(There’s) nothing too out of the ordinary,” he continued, “but the super nachos will definitely get you.”
Rating: Double. Like Daniel said, there’s nothing too unique about the Brewers’ offerings, but ballpark staples are staples for a reason. And the super nachos are a big hit.
The fans are what make going to a game at Kindrick Legion Field an experience. Though the Brewers annually average less than 1,000 fans per home game, they’re “rowdy” as Daniel calls them.
They often have something to cheer about, too. The Brewers most recently won a Pioneer League championship in 2010, and big leaguers Gary Sheffield, Ryan Braun and, more recently, Jonathan Lucroy played at Kindrick Legion.
“We may not have the biggest attendance in the Pioneer League, but our fans are loud,” Daniel said. “I think I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much noise, you know, 800-900 fans can make here at Kindrick. So when you come out to a game, there’ll be some fun stuff going on and there’s going to be some rowdy fans around you.”
Rating: Triple. The fans certainly add to the game-day experience of classic Kindrick Legion Field, which is also enhanced by the view of Mount Helena looking past center field.