Memorial Field Stadium
Review by Mike
Memorial Field Stadium in Huron, SD may be one of the oddest ballparks I have ever visited. It all starts with a giant bird. South Dakota has a lot of pheasants and is famous for its pheasant hunting. It's the state bird, no less. Did not know that. As a result, there are many homages to pheasants to be found, the most dramatic of which is the giant pheasant statue you will find near the entrance to Municipal Stadium (scroll down to see the background of this page).
Speaking of the ballpark, it's like no other that I have seen. Built in 1950, it has hosted professional baseball sporadically over the last 70 years, both affiliated and independent, with the last pro team in residence in 1994. One enters from the dirt parking lot at the top of the stadium, passing through passages in a brick building that serves as ticket booth and, presumably, concession stand. This structure seems to be well-maintained, freshly painted green, with large photos of ballplayers on the outside.
Passing through the portal, the field spreads out before you, built into the side of a hill, a nice park spreading out beyond the outfield fence. The first thing you notice is that the grandstand is made of metal. This, by itself, is not unusual, but the design is. Rather than the traditional silver erector set grandstand, Municipal Stadium is made of solid expanses of welded steel. The whole seating area is like one giant hunk of metal... the stairs, the walkways, the seats, the seat backs. All painted dark green and welded into a solid mass that looks heavy enough to sink right through the ground to the center of the Earth.
My goodness, it must be unbearably hot to sit on this frying pan of a grandstand on a sunny day. It's one solid block of seating, straight across behind home plate, with a center aisle for access. It looks like the foundation for an outsized water feature, only someone forgot to install the plumbing. Did I mention how odd it looks?
To either side of this orgy of metal are terraced picnic areas, accessible from the main grandstand. These have been refurbished relatively recently with very nice Belgian Block retaining walls. There are no railings to prevent inattentive children from tumbling down from one level to the next, should the picnickers below have more enticing goodies, but I guess South Dakotans are a tougher breed... who don't fear insurance liability.
The entire ballpark is surrounded by a lovely wooden slat fence that starts at one side of the main building, winds its way down the slope, makes a turn at the foul pole to become the outfield fence, jukes again at the other foul pole and gently climbs the hill back to the other side of the entranceway. It's a fine fence that seems to embrace the entire ballpark.
Tall, erector set light stanchions look down upon the whole affair, with towers down the 1st and 3rd base lines actually on the field of play, albeit in foul territory. I can't imagine how many 1st basemen have tracked pop flies into foul ground, ready to make the catch, only to have the baseball drop into the towering pachinko machine instead. Rest assured, there is padding at the base for protection, although very little can prevent peril from errant ricochets.
I don't know how to rate this park. It deserves something for being so strange, but it really looks like an uncomfortable place to actually see a baseball game. I'll give it a two dogs, just for being so delightfully oddball. If you find yourself in Huron, look for the big pheasant, then look for the rusty light towers and, if you're lucky, maybe there will be a high school or American Legion game going on. However, you might want to bring a seat cushion... and an umbrella... and lots of water.