Breese Stevens Field
Review by Mike
Breese-Stevens Field was built as a multi-purpose stadium to serve Wisconsin’s capital in 1926. Squeezed into a long city block, the grandstand has an unusual reverse-“J” shape. Think Polo Grounds with the right field stands removed. It is very well suited for rectangular sports, like football and soccer, and rather less so for baseball, but the Madison Muskies of the Midwest League did play here for 2 seasons in the 1980s before moving on to nearby Warner Park and thence to Michigan to become the West Michigan Whitecaps, playing at the lovely LMCU Ballpark. A “Muskie”, I am told, is a fish.
One end of the grandstand is laid out in a wide arc, with a nice roof, complete with support pillars. Standing in the center of this curve and looking towards the field, you see a long, narrow, straight grandstand to the left and a long wall to the right. City streets are right on the other side of these long structures, which are beautifully made of large, rough stones. The exterior of the ballpark looks like it could stand for centuries, with all entry portals and windows trimmed in stone.
When set up for baseball, home plate was placed in the corner where the covered grandstand met the long, straight seating area, with the left field foul line running parallel to these seats. The right field fence would have been very short, indeed, and I believe a high screen was set up the protect traffic on East Washington Avenue.
The stadium is now used primarily for soccer and concerts and is home to a professional soccer team, Forward Madison FC of the USL League One. The center section of the covered grandstand has been mostly replaced with a party deck that extends out from under the roof. A gift shop underneath the main grandstand gives a nice look at the structure of the old ballpark from below.
They’ve done a really nice job in Madison of maintaining a nearly 100-year-old stadium, find uses for it, and honoring the classic architecture while adapting it with the modern amenities expected by the fans of today. There are concrete medallions on the outside and the name of the stadium is etched into the stone. Thanks to the stadium staff for allowing me inside a few hours before that night’s soccer match for a look around.