With a handful of minor league ballparks less than three hours from central Illinois, including the Peoria Chiefs’ away games into the summer family fun is easy!
Travel time:1 hour, 40 minutes, 98 miles
Dating back to 1889, Burlington, Iowa has one of the longest histories of any minor league organization. When a fire destroyed the 24-yearold Community Field in 1971, volunteers worked nonstop to rebuild a new stadium, which opened in 1973. In 2005, a $3 million renovation added a 75-foot canopy cover which shelters the concourse area and parts of the grandstands. The canopy roof was designed to mimic the look of the Great River Bridge that spans the Mississippi River on Highway 34, connecting Burlington to Illinois. Aaron’s Hall of Fame Suite—an indoor suite for up to 20 people which includes heat, air, refrigerator and television— was among the additions, as were a new concessions area, souvenir store and expanded clubhouse facilities. This year, Buzz’s Bee Hive, an inflatable playhouse for youngsters, was brought in to complement the existing playground. The Bees are in their 7th season as a Kansas City Royals affiliate.
Travel time: 2 hours, 52 minutes, 152 miles
The Harry C. Pohlman Field in Beloit, Wisconsin, was built in 1981 and dedicated to Pohlman, who threw out the first pitch at the community-owned ballpark, in 1987. Prior to 1982, the only professional team in town was affiliated with the old Class D Wisconsin Association back in 1905. The Snappers, the Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, received their moniker because of a turtle-shaped Indian mound on the campus of Beloit College. Beloit was also formerly called Turtle Village. Renovations to Pohlman Field include a triple-tiered picnic deck in right field and with advance reservations, groups of 25 or more can “tailgate” (without the car) in the catered picnic area. While you’re in town, beat the heat with some famous Wisconsin custard. Located west of I-90, which travels south to Chicago and north to Madison, and connecting directly to Milwaukee via I-43, Beloit is situated midway along the Wisconsin/Illinois border.
Kane County Cougars
Travel time: 2 hours, 43 minutes, 152 miles
The Cougars have called Elfstrom Stadium their home since 1991, and for the past five years have been an Oakland Athletics affiliate. Have a blast at one of the 35 fireworks shows planned this year along with post-game concerts. Pull out your Hawaiian shirts and get into an island state of mind for Jimmy Buffet day; have fun with the other various theme days at the stadium too. Take advantage of the area’s sprawling picnic spots and sun-loving open areas. While you’re there, play a round of golf at Settler’s Hill or visit Fox Valley Ice Arena, both located a short distance from the field. Younger fans can also enjoy a fun play area and the team’s animated mascot, Ozzie the Cougar. More than 500,000 fans have descended on this ballpark for each of the last six seasons, one of the highest attendance figures in minor league baseball. Elfstrom Stadium is located on the west side of Geneva, just 45 minutes from the Chicago Loop.
Travel time: A ball’s toss from downtown Peoria
Compared to many minor league ballparks, O’Brien Field is the new kid on the block at a mere 5 years old. In 2002, the stadium’s first year in town, the Peoria Chiefs won a franchise record 85 games and had the best home record in team history. Since then, there have been 25 ballpark sell-outs—including three last year alone and an all-time record crowd of 9,602 on July 28, 2005. The open concourse, which runs almost all the way around the $23 million ballpark, and real palm trees, which line the perimeter of the field alongside a tall wrought iron fence, offers fans some major league ambiance. Visitors are also enticed by cushy ballpark suites offering closed circuit televisions, 12 outdoor seats and a high-quality dining experience. Led by a manager who happens to be a legend of the game—former Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg—there is a major league feel to the River City this season. Along with the foot-long hot dogs—see the next page—and the relaxed atmosphere, your backyard ballpark will strike a home run for friends and family this summer. For a complete schedule of all games, visit www.peoriachiefs.com. a&s