Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wuerfel Park, Traverse City MI

Basic Information
Team: Traverse City Beach Bums (Frontier League)
Game: Beach Bums vs Rockford Aviators-5/25/2013
Team Website:
Ticket Information: (231) 943-0100 or
Tourism Information: (800) TRAVERSE or
Online Broadcasts:
Local Newspaper: Traverse City Record-Eagle

Team History: The Traverse City Beach Bums can trace their lineage all the way back to the Frontier League's inaugural campaign of 1993, when they played as the Kentucky Rifles. After two years playing in the Bluegrass State, the Rifles were sold and moved to Richmond, IN, where they were renamed the Roosters. The Roosters were a member of the FL from 1995 through 2005, playing at McBride Stadium. In August 1995, the Roosters were sold to John and Leslye Wuerfel and moved from Indiana to Northern Michigan, and the Beach Bums were born.

Seating Capacity: Wuerfel Park has a seating capacity of 4,685, but with standing room and outfield berm seating, the club drew a crowd of 8,211 on September 5, 2010.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened on May 24, 2006, Wuerfel Park is located
just south of downtown Traverse City in the Chums Village commerce park. The stadium, which cost $6 million to build, was named after the Wuerfel family, who purchased the Beach Bums and engineered their move from Indiana. The Beach Bums are the first professional baseball team to represent Traverse City in over ninety years.

Other Tenants: None.

Getting There: Wuerfel Park is located just north of the intersection of  US Route 31 and M-37.  The park is visible from the highway, and a large sign points you towards the correct route in.

On The Town: Located in picturesque northwest Michigan, Traverse City is one of the area's largest tourist attractions. With it's fine freshwater beaches, vineyards, and forests, Traverse City is the destination of thousands of Michiganders during the summer months.
Traverse City is in the heart of the "Cherry Capital", as the region is the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States. Traverse City is located just over four hours northwest of Detroit and two hours north of Grand Rapids. US-31 is the main road servicing Traverse City, which has a population of just over 15,000.

The city gets its name from the Grand Traverse Bay on which Traverse City sits. The bay was named by French voyagers, who in the 18th century made le grande traverse ("the long voyage") across the bay.

In 1847, a Captain Boardman purchased a parcel of land on a river near the mouth of the bay. Boardman and his sons built a saw mill on what is now the Boardman River. After selling the saw mill a few years later, the group that purchased the mill began investing in the mill, and more settlers moved into the area. In 1852, the owners of the saw mill petitioned the United States Post Office to build a post office at their new settlement. Originally, the new post office was going to be called Grand Traverse City, but the government convinced the owners to shorten the name to Traverse City.

Nearby Airport: Cherry Capital Airport is located to the west of Wuerfel Park, but the largest major airport would be in Grand Rapids, two hours south.

What To Do Before The Game: As I had mentioned, Traverse City is located in an area graced with great natural beauty, with something for all tastes. Unfortunately, I didn't have any time for real sightseeing in the area, so I would recommend visiting the Traverse City visitors bureau website for ideas.

Where To Eat: Immediately around the ballpark on US-31, there are several fast food restaurants, but I would consider waiting until you get into Wuerfel Park, since the ballpark food is of a high quality.

Where To Stay: Before I go any farther, I do have to say that lodging in the Traverse City area is not exactly wallet friendly. Before making this trip, I investigated some of the larger chains that had locations in the area, and the least expensive I could find was in the $150.00 range. Granted that this was a holiday weekend, but the popularity of Traverse City as a summer vacation hotspot is proven by the "sellers market" in terms of lodging.

Ticket Prices: Beach Bums tickets are priced as follows: $12.00 (chairback) and $6.00 (lawn seating).

Parking: Wuerfel Park has a large lot behind home plate which is more than serviceable for a park of it's size. Parking in this lot costs $2.00, and is easy in and out to US-31.

The Good Seats: The main grandstand at Wuerfel Park is in the traditional "wishbone" shape, and runs from halfway down the right field foul line to halfway down the left field line. A large berm goes all the way around the outfield wall, which makes for a great way to watch a game under the stars on a warm summer night.

Getting In: The main entrance and box office is located just behind home plate. After passing through the "wind tunnel" (as team staff call it), a large main concourse opens up to the seating bowl.

Ballpark Food: Everything I sampled here was definitely a cut above the normal stadium fare, with some items ranked as "outstanding". In addition to the traditional ballpark menu, Wuerfel Park has a microbrew pub, which sells some items from local breweries, a sandwich shop, and a cheesesteak stand. I sampled the ballpark hot dog, which although was probably pre-made, was very tasty, served warm, and on a fresh bun. The pizza, made by Michigan pizzeria chain Jets, was fairly good as well. The stadium's signature pretzel (which came highly recommended by Bums GM Leslye Wuerfel) was as good as she recommended.

However, my highest compliment, interestingly enough, was for the soda served. It wasn't your
standard Pepsi or Coke, but was made by a local company, Northwoods Soda and Syrup. I tried the orange cream soda with my meal, and WHOA! Now, I know I'm trying to cut back on the sugared soda, but this was so good, I couldn't stop myself from having a second.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the home of the Beach Bums:

Hot Dog: $3.00   Nachos: $4.00   Draft Beer: $6.00   Pretzel: $3.00   Large Soda: $3.00   Ice Cream: $3.00   French Fries: $3.00   Pizza Slice: $3.50

ATM: There is a Fifth Third Bank ATM located on the main concourse near the souvenir shop.

Souvenirs: There is a good sized souvenir shop located just to the left of the main entrance, which sells a larger than expected line of merchandise.

Restrooms: Located on the first and third base sides, all are impeccably clean and in good working order.

Mascots: Two large, loveable bears named Suntan and Sunburn.

Dance Team: None.

Program: The Beach Bums sell a large, full-color magazine at their games, which tells all about the team and about some of the community-based programs that they are involved with. At a cost of $2.00, it's a good deal.

Scoreboard: Wuerfel Park has an appropriately-sized video scoreboard in left center field. The video
portion gets a better than anticipated amount of use, as prior and in between innings, it plays music videos and well timed movie clips. The PA announcer is good as well, and the music selection is appropriate and played just loud enough.

Stadium Staff: Three words: very nice people. Everyone I spoke to was more than friendly and helpful. A special thank you to owners John and Leslye Wuerfel, PR director Chad Cooper, and merchandise director Dana Quigley for their warm welcome and hospitality.

Atmosphere: It was a quiet night for Wuerfel Park, as the unseasonably cool weather (although the sun was shining brightly) kept the crowd down to about fifteen hundred or so. Those who were there were intensely into the game.

Overall Rating: Wuerfel Park in just about all facets is one outstanding ballpark. It was definitely worth the trip, and with a little planning, should be on the "bucket list" of any fellow ballpark aficionado.