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Recreation Park: The Evolution

Recreation Park - The Historic, Evolving Icon of Tulare County Baseball

"Maybe it's how close the seats are to the field, maybe it's the incredibly friendly and helpful staff, or perhaps it's the lack of distractions, but baseball here just feels right...I am a bit envious of those season ticket holders who get to watch baseball here all summer long."
-Gary Jarvis, MinorLeagueBallparks.com

"A perfectly old-timey ballpark...brings a whole new meaning to such cliched ballpark adjectives as 'intimate' and 'cozy.' The first row of the grandstand is less than 20 feet from home plate, and offers fans a chance to call balls and strikes unlike any other they'll ever have."
-Josh Pahigian, The Ultimate Minor League Baseball Road Trip and 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.

Historic Recreation Park has been the beating heart of Visalia and Tulare County for over six decades. With its small dimensions and unique atmosphere, Recreation has been nationally recognized as a must-see baseball experience. The Rawhide's home facility has evolved significantly over the decades, and is in the midst of its biggest and most important metamorphosis yet.

The City of Visalia built Recreation Park, complete with wooden grandstands and signboard walls, in 1946 to house its new California League franchise.

One of few surviving pictures of old Recreation Park. The signboard-laden wall is visible in the background.

Baseball's brief absence in Visalia from 1963-1967 prompted the city to upgrade the ballpark to attract a new team, as workers tore out the old grandstands and built a new concrete backbone for the stadium's seating. Fortuitously, the U.S. government was constructing Highway 198 through Visalia at the same time, and the city used discarded dirt from the excavation to shore up the grandstand and covered it with a mixture of shot creek rock and concrete. The berm still stands today as one of the most unique and unusual ballpark structures in the world.

The new configuration used metal benches in place of the old wooden seats. The upgraded facility was a success, as baseball returned to Visalia permanently in 1968. Later, several rows of red box seats were added in the lowest rows of the grandstand.

In 2002, the stadium underwent another facelift, as workers ripped out the metal grandstand benches and red box seats, replacing them with 880 individual green fold-down chairs. To compensate for the reduced capacity, the club added two sections of bleachers down the right field line. New wrought-iron fencing around the ballpark's perimeter allowed for enlarged concourse and concession areas. The Rawhide installed new speakers, replaced the metal chain-link fence behind home plate with a less obstructive mesh net, and created a new main entrance. The new tented Groppetti Party Deck also made its debut down the left field line.

After the 2006 season, the Rawhide embarked on a new multi-stage development, beginning with the construction of the innovative Fan Dugout and the Toyota Terrace, complete with cool, luxurious fog misters to combat the infamous Visalia summer heat. The new areas were completed in time for the 2007 season, and helped the Rawhide to a 35% attendance increase.

In March 2008, the Rawhide broke ground on Phase 2 of their expansive renovation plans, removing the metal bleachers down the right field line to begin construction on new box seating, party suites, administrative and ticketing offices, and a grass berm picnic area behind the right field wall. The additions created an even more innovative, fan-friendly experience.

The Rawhide have even more ambitious plans for further renovation in the near future. A new, state-of-the-art grandstand, complete with expanded seating, enclosed luxury boxes, a new press box, and a shade canopy will bring Recreation Park to a new level of comfort.

The Visalia Rawhide are committed to honoring their rich tradition while constantly looking to the future, and Recreation Park's continuing evolution is a prime example of this vision. The new additions ensure that this intimate, historic ballpark will remain the crown jewel of Visalia and Tulare County for years to come.

Special Thanks: Gary Jarvis (http://www.minorleagueballparks.com/recr_ca.html), Charles O'Reilly (http://mysite.verizon.net/charliesballparks/stadiums/visalia.htm).