America's Coolest Minor League Baseball Stadiums

The Durham Bulls baseball stadium

Sara D. Davis / Getty Images

The experience of attending a minor league baseball game can be very different from going to a major league ballpark. The stadiums are more compact and the teams' rosters change frequently. On the other hand, the proximity to the field, the laid-back atmosphere and the (usually) cheaper concessions may evoke a simpler time when baseball was the undisputed king of American spectator sports.

Some minor league stadiums are set in unlikely places. They are sandwiched in the middle of small-city downtown districts, perched right on the waterfront, or placed in the middle of forests, on hills, or next to mountains. Modest grandstands often mean the surroundings are part of the show. Here are 10 minor league baseball parks with attractive surroundings that add to their character.

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Modern Woodman Park

Photo: Farragutful/Wikimedia Commons

Modern Woodman Park sits on the western bank of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa. It's so close to the river that home runs hit over the right-field fence often splash into the water. The park is home to the Quad City River Bandits, and despite a few name changes over the years, it has hosted baseball in the Quad Cities region since 1931. Major flooding is not uncommon at Modern Woodman, which was previously known as Municipal Stadium and John O'Donnell Stadium, but a berm now provides some protection against rises in the Mississippi — and some additional seating.

Fans can see the river from inside the stadium, but the main features are a tall Ferris wheel and the Rock Island Centennial Bridge, which connects Davenport with Rock Island, Illinois. New investors have funded a series of renovations to the ballpark, which is one of the oldest minor league stadiums still in operation. These upgrades have earned Woodman Modern recognition as one of the country's best parks from publications including Ballpark Digest and USA Today.

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Fifth Third Field

Photo: George Degener/Wikimedia Commons

The Toledo Mud Hens, a minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, have been playing baseball for more than a century. For the past two decades, their home has been Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo (Ohio's Fifth Third Bank holds the naming rights). The stadium is surrounded by historic warehouses and other buildings, conceived as part of an effort by Toledo authorities to revive the neighborhood as an entertainment district.

Fifth Third Field has earned nods from publications such as Newsweek as one of America's best minor league stadiums. Many people might recognize the Toledo Mud Hens because of one fictional superfan: In the TV series "M*A*S*H," Jamie Farr's Cpl. Max Klinger was a rabid Mud Hens fan who donned the team's jersey when he wasn't wearing a cocktail dress or wedding gown. The Mud Hens played in suburban Toledo during the "M*A*S*H" era, not moving to Fifth Third Field until it opened in 2002.

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MCU Park

Photo: a katz/Shutterstock

MCU Park is home to the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league affiliate of the New York Mets. It's adjacent to the Riegelmann Boardwalk, commonly known as the Coney Island Boardwalk, offering views of the famous amusement area from its stands. The park is also used by New York University's baseball team and the New York Cosmos soccer team, although the future of the latter's North American Soccer League is uncertain.

Hurricane Sandy badly damaged the park in 2012, but it was repaired with the addition of artificial turf before the next baseball season began. MCU Park (MCU stands for Municipal Credit Union, which owns the naming rights) was very popular when it opened in the early 2000s because it marked the return of professional baseball to Brooklyn. The borough had been without a pro team since the Brooklyn Dodgers left in 1958. The ballpark has free-standing concessions buildings and other features that give it the kind of amusement-park feel that people associate with Coney Island.

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Richmond County Bank Ballpark

Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr

Richmond County Bank Ballpark (RCB Ballpark) is on the tip of Staten Island. It's the home of the Staten Island Yankees, which play in the same league (the minor league Class A New York-Penn League) as the Brooklyn Cyclones, whose home games are at Coney Island's MCU Park. The current Staten Island Yankees' park, built in the early 2000s, is next to the site of the original Saint George Grounds, where the New York Metropolitans played professional baseball back in the 1880s.

RCB, which has hosted other events including cricket matches and wrestling performances, is known for its skyline views. The stadium overlooks New York Harbor and the Upper Bay, and the Staten Island Ferry terminal is within walking distance of the park's entrance. Fans can see the Manhattan skyline from their seats.

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McCormick Field

Photo: Asheville Tourists Baseball Club/Asheville Tourists

McCormick Field is in Asheville, North Carolina. The stadium is located on a level area on the side of one of the city's many hills, and the natural surroundings have earned the venue praise as one of America's most picturesque ballparks. Asheville has had pro baseball teams for more than a century, and the current team is the Asheville Tourists, whose nickname recognizes one of the city's most important industries.

McCormick Field is one of the oldest minor league stadiums still in use. It has remained in the same site with the same rural, forested surroundings despite two major renovations. The Tourists are a popular attraction in Asheville, drawing about 180,000 fans to 4,000-seat McCormick over the course of the summer.

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Raley Field

Photo: Mark James Miller/Wikimedia Commons

The Sacramento River Cats, a minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, have played at Raley Field since its opening in 2000. The stadium is on the site of an old train yard, across the Sacramento River from downtown Sacramento and the California State Capitol. It's large for a minor league park, and thanks to a grassy berm beyond the outfield wall, it can hold more than 14,000 fans (with 10,624 fixed seats).

Fans can see the Tower Bridge rising beyond the left field wall, and the tall buildings of downtown Sacramento are clearly visible from the stands. The River Cats have won the Pacific Coast League title on several occasions, and won the Class AAA championship twice (meaning they were the country's best AAA minor league team). Forbes lists the River Cats as the most valuable minor league franchise in the country.

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Southwest University Park

Photo: Visit El Paso/Flickr

The El Paso Chihuahuas, who play in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League, host their home games at Southwest University Park. (Southwest University owns the naming rights to the stadium, but does not have a baseball team). This ballpark is located more than 3,000 feet above sea level. Fans can see the Franklin Mountains beyond the stadium walls, and downtown El Paso is visible as well.

The park sits on the location of a former city hall. The municipal complex was demolished to make way for the stadium, which was built to house the team when it moved from Arizona in 2014. The San Diego Padres are the major league club associated with the Chihuahuas, who won the Pacific Coast League title in only their third year in El Paso.

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AutoZone Park

Photo: Sean Davis/Flickr

AutoZone Park is in downtown Memphis. The stadium's skyline views and retro feel have drawn comparisons to Baltimore's Camden Yards and Chicago's Wrigley Field. Baseball America called this 10,000-seat stadium the country's best minor league park in 2009. The attractiveness came at a price, however: Construction costs exceeded $80 million, making this the most expensive ballpark ever built for a minor league team.

Major league teams have played at AutoZone Park during the preseason, and the venue has hosted music festivals and special events as well as baseball. It's the home stadium of the Memphis Redbirds, a Class AAA team associated with the Saint Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds are a relatively young minor league team, first taking the field in 1998 and playing their first game at AutoZone in 2000.

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Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

The Durham Bulls, now a minor league affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, were made famous by the 1988 movie "Bull Durham." The movie was actually filmed in the original Durham Athletic Park, which was replaced by the current stadium in 1995. The designers of the current Durham Bulls Athletic Park also developed Baltimore's Camden Yards and Progressive Field in Cleveland, giving this 10,000-seat minor league stadium the same retro atmosphere as their major league projects. The historic architecture of downtown Durham, North Carolina, and the former tobacco warehouses are visible from the stands, enhancing the classic feel.

The Blue Monster, a towering left field wall reminiscent of the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park, is one of the defining features of Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The wall is topped by a bull sign, a sturdier version of the sign seen in "Bull Durham." The Durham Bulls began playing more than century ago, and have been affiliated with a dozen major league franchises during their history. The team has won several league and class titles, most recently claiming the Class AAA championship in 2017.

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CHS Field

Photo: whollyatheist/Wikimedia Commons

The St. Paul Saints, part of an independent minor league, play home games at CHS Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. The stadium is in a former industrial area on the edge of the city's downtown. The venue is partially sunken, so the field and many of the seats are below street level. This makes for better views of the surrounding cityscape, limits the stadium's visual impact on the area and provides additional room in the interior.

The stadium's capacity is more than 7,000 for baseball games. The St. Paul Saints are quite popular because Minnesota's major league franchise, the Twins, play in neighboring Minneapolis, and many residents consider the Saints more affordable and accessible. CHS Field has a lawn area instead of bleachers in left field, and boasts features such as solar panels and rainwater-collection systems that help make this one of the most environmentally friendly minor league ballparks.