Review by Gary
The venerable Stade Fernand-Bédard ballpark is home to the Trois-Rivières Aigles of the Frontier League. Built in 1938, Stade Stereo+ holds 4,500 fans and looks very similar to Stade Canac in Quebec City, just up the St. Lawrence River. Fun Fact: The city's name is French for three rivers. I wondered what three rivers flowed through the town as I could find only two on a map. I discovered that the city is named for the fact that the Saint-Maurice River has three mouths at the Saint Lawrence River. So, in reality, the town should really be called Trois-Bouches, but who am I to judge?
From the front, the stadium looks like an hexagonal building. Frosted office windows on the building’s exterior are actually natural luminations for the hallways that guide fans to the steep ramps leading up to the seating sections. There are numerous doorways that open to a variety of access ramps that dump unsuspecting folks to differing levels and parts of the stadium. One portico deposited me by the concession stand when I thought I was heading back to the seating area. I felt like I was in an Escher painting. The park itself is in very good condition and I thought the modern touches added to the Art Deco era style very nicely.
The game I attended was Game 3 of the Can-Am playoffs against the visiting New Jersey Jackals. I made it to the stadium early hoping there were seats available and was surprised to find that the ticket booth was not in the stadium, but rather in a freight car placed on the outside of the building. With tickets purchased, I discovered that the only way to enter the ballpark was through the main entrance.
Immediately upon entering the ballpark, the souvenir stand stood on the left with a mixed drink bar across from it on the right, both having fans loitering, shopping or drinking in front of them. To add to this logjam was the original concession stand opposite the entrance, with a line of hungry locals that stretched back out of the main entry and into the parking lot. Note: the next day, I would luck out and be able to gain access to Stade Canac, who had the same cozy layout at its entrance AND with it’s own ticket booth/freight car outside.
Before the game, I saw the debut of the team’s mascot, Grand Chelem de Aigle, with whom I was impressed, not only because it actually resembled something to do with the team, but also regaled us with a series of running forward flips behind home plate. Throughout the game, Grand Slam wandered through the stands eagerly interacting with the fans and cheering as loudly as a mute mascot could. During the game, the smell of wood pulp from nearby paper mills permeated the nostrils. Quick research revealed that Trois-Rivières was once known as the paper and pulp capital of the world. Three of the original five mills that operated in the late 1920s until the early 1960s are still operating today and you could smell it.
An interesting seating area called The Lounge sits on the warning track in the left field corner. At 317’ away, I imagined the left fielder ranging over to rob a home run ball and then rewarding himself with a swig of Labatt’s before returning to his position. Reserved seating is at field level, six steps lower than the rest of the stands. The press box hangs from the front of the wooden roof like that found at Ray Winder Field in Arkansas.
The grandstand roof covers every seat and runs well past the first and third base bags. While there were many lights hanging from the underside of the roof, none of them were turned on during the game, creating the effect of being at a play, where the only lighting was on the stage. This was an interesting and cool experience, but it made it a little more difficult to see the excellent hot dog and poutine on which I supped.
Unfortunately, the Jackals, the league’s oldest team, would jump out to a 5-0 lead en route to a 7-2 thumping of Trois-Bouches and would eventually advance on to the finals and claim the Can-Am League championship. Despite not understanding the French spoken or displayed on the video board, I did enjoy the language of baseball at the grand old Stade Fernand-Bédard in Trois-Rivières.