Great Falls, MT
Review by Mike
Centene Stadium in Great Falls, MT is the home of the Great Falls Voyagers of the Pioneer League. This is a lovely hybrid of a ballpark in a nice town in northern Montana. The old main grandstand runs from 1st base to 3rd while new, modern picnic areas and extend down both lines, with a new main entrance on the 3rd base side. The old and new have been blended seamlessly at Centene Stadium resulting in a classic old ballpark with a fresh new feel to it.
Little advertised, but worth a visit, is the Logan Hurlbert Hall of Fame Room that can be found on the 2nd floor of the new building. Through an unassuming glass door you will find Jim Eakland, the team historian. When the stadium was renovated in 2003, the Voyagers provided Jim with a room that he has packed with photos and delightful memorabilia celebrating more than 100 years of baseball in Great Falls. Stop by before the game and Jim will be happy to show you around.
The stadium opened in 1940, but construction continued thru 1941. According to Jim, the roof was meant to be extended to the ends of the grandstand, but then Pearl Harbor happened and completion of the roof was abandoned in favor of donating the steel to the war effort. At either end of the grandstand are vertical steel I-beams that appear to have no purpose. These are roof supports that never saw their destiny fulfilled.
The ballpark is set near the river, but you can't see it from the stadium. There are nice views all around, though, and even a press box suspended from the roof that also contains a pair of modest private boxes. The concessions were varied and reasonable, served both on the left field party deck and in the traditional portals under the main grandstand.
The team logo caused me some consternation, as I had assumed that the name "Voyagers" referred to explorers such as Lewis & Clark and other great pioneer adventurers. However, there is an alien theme to the logo and all of the merchandise because "Voyagers" refers to alien voyagers from outer space. Apparently this take on the name has been highly successful, so who am I to judge?
The Great Falls club spent many years as both a Dodgers and Giants farm team prior to their current affiliation with the White Sox. The seats are all Dodgers blue as that was the affiliation when the current seating was installed.
The Thursday night game had a lively crowd and I found friendly folks all around the park. I chatted with Jim and then the cameraman behind home plate. Bill Hart, a member of the team board, spent an inning talking Great Falls baseball and allowed me up into the "luxury boxes" suspended from the roof. Then there was the nice woman who let me take some photos from her private box. It was a fine small town baseball experience.