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Been a while: Oldest Minor League ballparks

Entering the 2021 season, a look at the 11 most venerable facilities
The 11 oldest ballparks in Minor League Baseball opened within a 37-year period between the years 1914 and 1951.
February 18, 2021

Nine new ballparks will make their Minor League Baseball debuts in 2021, perhaps the most ever in a single season. But what about the stadiums on the other side of the spectrum that have been around the longest? This article is dedicated to detailing just that. The Minor League Baseball

Nine new ballparks will make their Minor League Baseball debuts in 2021, perhaps the most ever in a single season. But what about the stadiums on the other side of the spectrum that have been around the longest?

This article is dedicated to detailing just that. The Minor League Baseball landscape will be drastically different in 2021, meaning it's time to update the list of its oldest ballparks. The following 11 stadiums dating back to 1951 or earlier are rich repositories of baseball history, American history, architectural history and the intersections thereof.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark (Daytona Beach, Florida)
Opened:
1914 as City Island Ballpark
First Minor League tenant: Daytona Islanders (Florida State League, 1920)
Current Minor League tenant: Daytona Tortugas (Cincinnati affiliate; Low-A Southeast; established as the Daytona Cubs in 1993)
In 1989, 75 years after it opened, Daytona Beach's City Island Ballpark was named after Jackie Robinson. This rechristening was in honor of the events of 1946, when Robinson played at City Island Ballpark during Spring Training. This marked his first appearance as an active player in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, more than one year before his epochal Major League debut. When City Island Ballpark opened during the Woodrow Wilson administration, it was little more than a playing field and wooden bleachers. Of course, many improvements have occurred since, the most recent being an HD videoboard to complement the vintage hand-operated scoreboard in left field.

LECOM Park (Bradenton, Florida)
Opened:
1923 as City Park
First Minor League tenant: Bradenton Growers (Florida State League, 1923)
Current Minor League tenant: Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh affiliate; Low-A Southeast; established 2010)
LECOM Park, which also serves as the Pittsburgh Pirates' Spring Training home, has hosted the Marauders since 2010. This marked the first time that this iconic Spanish Mission-style facility had hosted Minor League Baseball since 1926. Spring Training has been a near-constant, however, beginning with the 1923 St. Louis Cardinals. The LECOM Park name was first used in 2018; from 1962 through 2017, it was known as McKechnie Field in honor of Hall of Famer (and longtime Bradenton resident) Bill McKechnie.

McCormick Field (Asheville, North Carolina)
Opened:
1924
First Minor League tenant: Asheville Tourists (South Atlantic League, 1924)
Current Minor League tenant: Asheville Tourists (Houston affiliate; High-A East; established 1914; continuously in operation since 1966)
One of Minor League Baseball's longest-standing entities, the first team bearing the Asheville Tourists name dates back to 1914. There have been many league and affiliation changes through the years, as well as several periods in which the franchise was non-operational. But on the whole, the relationship between team and ballpark has been one of remarkable consistency. McCormick Field, a throwback ballpark in every sense of the word, features a hilly wooded backdrop and a carnival-esque atmosphere on the external concourse.

Modern Woodmen Park (Davenport, Iowa)
Opened:
1931 as Municipal Stadium
First Minor League tenant: Davenport Blue Sox (Mississippi Valley League, 1931)
Current Minor League tenant: Quad Cities River Bandits (Kansas City affiliate; High-A Central; established in 1960 as the Davenport Braves)
The Quad Cities are technically the Quint Cities, comprised of Davenport and Bettendorf in southeast Iowa and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in northwest Illinois. Modern Woodmen Park, located in Davenport, is situated on the banks of the Mississippi River and features views of the Centennial Bridge crossing the river into Rock Island. A Ferris wheel, constructed on the left-field concourse in 2014, adds to the ambience. The River Bandits, stalwarts of the Class A Midwest League from 1960 through 2020, are entering their first season as a Kansas City affiliate.

Bank of the James Stadium (Lynchburg, Virginia)
Opened:
1940 as City Stadium
First Minor League tenant: Lynchburg Senators (Virginia League, 1940)
Current Minor League tenant: Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland affiliate; Low-A East; established in 1963 as the Lynchburg White Sox)
Bank of the James Stadium adopted its current moniker in 2020. Throughout the majority of its history, it simply has been known as City Stadium. The ballpark was built in tandem with a football stadium located on the third-base side. Lynchburg was a member of the Carolina League from 1963 through 2020. The Hillcats name was adopted in 1995, 20 years prior to their ongoing affiliation with the Cleveland Indians. The Elmore Sports Group bought the team prior to the 2016 season and soon initiated a series of improvements that brought the facility up to current Minor League ballpark standards.

Excite Ballpark (San Jose, California)
Opened:
1942
First Minor League tenant: San Jose Owls (California League, 1942)
Current Minor League tenant: San Jose Giants (San Francisco affiliate; Low-A West; established in 1962 as the San Jose Bees)
The San Jose Giants appear on two notable Top 10 lists -- oldest ballparks and longest affiliations, as their partnership with San Francisco dates back to 1988. With the exception of a two-year stint in the Pacific Coast League, Excite Ballpark hosted a California League team in nearly every season from 1942 through 2020. Originally known as Municipal Stadium, the facility was constructed during the Roosevelt administration as a Works Progress Administration project. These days, it is well-loved for its the whimsical concourse artwork as well as exemplary churros and barbecue.

Recreation Ballpark (Visalia, California)
Opened:
1946
First Minor League tenant: Visalia Cubs (California League, 1946)
Current Minor League tenant: Visalia Rawhide (Arizona affiliate; Low-A West; continuously in operation since 1977)
From San Jose, it's an approximately three-hour drive to the next oldest Minor League stadium, Visalia's Recreation Park. Also like San Jose, Recreation Park had a long history of hosting California League baseball. The Rawhide moniker was adopted in 2009, marking the first occasion in which Visalia's team wasn't named after its parent club. Recreation Park's current grandstand was constructed in 1963, comprised of dirt repurposed from Route 198 construction efforts and then poured over with concrete and gunite. Capacity and amenities have been expanded via recent renovation projects, resulting in expanded berm and group areas.

Funko Field (Everett, Washington)
Opened:
1947 as Everett Memorial Stadium
First Minor League tenant: Everett Giants (Northwest League, 1984)
Current Minor League tenant: Everett AquaSox (Seattle affiliate; High-A West; established as the Everett Giants in 1984)
Funko Field is an anomaly among the parks on this list, in that it was open for the better part of three decades before hosting a Minor League team. That team was the Everett Giants, who debuted in 1984 and became the AquaSox in 1995 following an affiliation change from San Francisco to Seattle. The Funko Field name was adopted in 2019, the result of a naming rights deal with the Everett-based toy company. The ballpark, part of a much larger athletic complex, is owned by the Everett School District. Everett will field a full-season team for the first time in 2021, as the AquaSox (and every other member of the six-team High-A West) previously operated out of the Class A Short Season Northwest League.

Grainger Stadium (Kinston, North Carolina)
Opened:
1949
First Minor League tenant: Kinston Eagles (Coastal Plain League, 1949)
Current Minor League tenant: Down East Wood Ducks (Texas affiliate; Low-A East; established 2017)
After a five-season absence, Minor League Baseball returned to Kinston, North Carolina, in 2017 in the form of the Down East Wood Ducks (named for a region of North Carolina located in close proximity to Kinston). This marked the latest chapter in Grainger Stadium's long Carolina League history, which began in 1956 and had its longest stretch of continuous operation between 1978 and 2011. One of the park's most unique elements isn't even in it -- a water tower emblazoned with the Wood Ducks logo stands beyond left field.

FirstEnergy Stadium (Reading, Pennsylvania)
Opened:
1951 as Municipal Stadium
First Minor League tenant: Reading Indians (Eastern League, 1952)
Current Minor League tenant: Reading Fightin Phils (Philadelphia affiliate; Double-A Northeast; established in 1967 as the Reading Phillies)
Minor League Baseball and Reading, Pennsylvania, go hand-in-hand. FirstEnergy Stadium opened in 1951 as Municipal Stadium and began hosting an Eastern League team the following season. The Reading Phillies debuted in 1967, beginning an affiliation that is currently tied for the longest in Minor League Baseball. FirstEnergy Stadium has long had a reputation for its "best of both worlds" appeal, combining a throwback feel with an oft-zany larger atmosphere populated by beloved cult figures such as the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor and his pet ostrich, Rodrigo.

Nat Bailey Stadium (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
Opened:
1951 as Capilano Stadium
First Minor League tenant: Vancouver Capilanos (Western International League)
Current Minor League tenant: Vancouver Canadians (Toronto affiliate, High-A West; established in 2000)
Canada's oldest Minor League ballpark is also Canada's only Minor League ballpark. Nat Bailey Stadium, christened as such in 1978 in honor of a local restaurateur, has been a consistent presence on the Minor League scene for 70 years. The Canadians spent the past two decades in the Class A Short Season Northwest League, but from 1978 through 1999, a Triple-A Pacific Coast League iteration of the Canadians called Nat Bailey Stadium home. This year marks a return to a full-season schedule, which is sure to include plenty of well-attended "'Nooner" day games (it's a Canadian thing).