Eau Claire, WI
Review by Mike
Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin is the home of the Eau Claire Express of the collegiate Northwoods League. For much of the 20th century, this lovely ballpark was home to two Class C and D minor league teams, the Eau Claire Braves and the Eau Claire Bears. Joe Torre, Bob Uecker and the legendary Hank Aaron all called Carson Park home during their ascent to the major leagues.
The stadium stands on a tree-covered isthmus in the middle of a public park, with water on three sides, but not actually visible from the ballpark. The setting is lovely, though, with forest down the first base line and beyond right field and a football stadium pressed right up against the left field wall.
The main grandstand opened in 1937 and it looks absolutely marvelous. A dozen rows of bench setting are protected by a classic roof that extends nearly all the way to the field, with only few rows of fixed back seating at field level exposed to the elements. A large press box sits atop the roof. Concessions and bathrooms are found under the main stand in a tunnel that is pleasantly claustrophobic and old school.
Large bleachers extend down both foul lines and raised wooden party decks can be found in the right field corner, wrapping around the foul pole. These are new and well-maintained. They are also nestled in amongst the trees making it feel very comfortable and homey, like watching the game from your front porch. Someone thoughtfully added an auxiliary scoreboard to the 3rd base side of the roof on the main grandstand so the people on the party decks could follow the game, what with the main scoreboard out of sight behind the right-center field fence.
The stone clad exterior is lovingly pointed and there is a square behind the main stand that features a stature of Hank Aaron and an informative plaque. Everything about Carson Park evokes baseball of a bygone era, while providing ample conveniences for the modern baseball fan. This is a real gem. My thanks to the friendly groundskeeper who gave me free reign to explore on a lovely June morning.