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Blue Wahoos Stadium Voted Ballpark Digest Best Double-A Stadium 

For the second time in five years, Blue Wahoos Stadium was crowned by Ballpark Digest as Double-A winner of its Best of the Ballpark fan voting contest. (Illustration By Daniel Venn)
July 9, 2020

Even in a season without baseball, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos have won another national honor. Spurred by an endearing fan base and community partnerships that helped deliver a mass voting effort, Blue Wahoos Stadium was crowned at midnight Wednesday as the 2020 Ballpark Digest “Best Double-A Stadium” in the finals

Even in a season without baseball, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos have won another national honor.

Spurred by an endearing fan base and community partnerships that helped deliver a mass voting effort, Blue Wahoos Stadium was crowned at midnight Wednesday as the 2020 Ballpark Digest “Best Double-A Stadium” in the finals of its annual contest.

The Blue Wahoos supporters outvoted Hodgetown Stadium in the championship round to bring the title to Pensacola. The ballpark of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, the $45.5 million Hodgetown location opened in April 2019 was the 2019 Best of the Ballparks champion.

“We’re very excited to bring the title of Best Ballpark back to Pensacola,” team president Jonathan Griffith said. “Our mission as an organization is to improve the quality of life in our community, so it's an honor for us to bring recognition to our city. While we’re proud to have a great ballpark, we’re even more proud to have such incredible fans who voted us to the title.”

The annual contest run by Ballpark Digest is Minor League Baseball’s most popular ballpark-ranking competition. The 2019 contest in all levels of the minor leagues received more than 400,000 combined votes.

This year, Ballpark Digest reported the Double-A voting received over 80,000 votes, including more than 11,000 votes in the final round between Pensacola and Amarillo.

“Despite all the bad news, the Blue Wahoos ownership and management have responded with verve and imagination, refusing to let down their fans,” said Ballpark Digest Publisher Kevin Reichard in a release from the publication. “The win in the fan vote against such a tough foe really shows how loved the Blue Wahoos are in the community.”

Pensacola previously won the Best of the Ballparks competition in 2016. What has made this year's award so different, of course, is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has wiped out the 2020 season throughout all levels of minor league baseball

It caused the Blue Wahoos to pivot into becoming an events facility and home of the nation’s first Airbnb experience at a sports venue.

In effort to keep the ballpark an vibrant part of the community, the Blue Wahoos have hosted nearly 100 different events since the first onslaught of the coronavirus in mid-March shuttered all levels of professional baseball.

“As I have said throughout this year, this is probably my favorite year I have ever had owning the Blue Wahoos,” said team owner Quint Studer. “And it’s the first year we haven’t had baseball.

Blue Wahoos Stadium won five different matchups with stadiums across the 30-team Double-A level, including Southern League rivals Biloxi and Montgomery, along with the Texas tandem of Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi in the semifinal and Hodgetown in Amarillo.

The two Texas League members had paired together during the semifinal rounds in their fan appeals to try and beat Blue Wahoos Stadium, but it did not happen. The Blue Wahoos edged Whataburger Field by just 80 votes in the semifinals after both teams tied with 50-percent of the vote apiece.

Whataburger Field is home to the Corpus Christi Hooks, a franchise owned and operated by the Houston Astros.

Other honors over the years for Blue Wahoos Stadium have included 2012 Ballpark of the Year by Ballparks.com, Best Minor League Ballpark Experience in 2013 by Stadium Journey, Best Seat in the House in 2015 by Minor League Baseball, Best View In Double-A by Minor League Baseball, along with three Southern League honors (2012, 2013, 2016) as the league’s best Ballpark of the Year.

“When Rishy and I got involved in 2005 to build a stadium, we said it was going to be a community melting pot, a neighborhood," Studer said. "We never said it was only for baseball. We are really excited for what we are doing.

“This is the year we know we are going to lose money. And we don’t want to nickel and dime ourselves to death…as much as embrace the community impact we are making. That is our goal this year. Great memories, great things.”

Another great thing was added late Wednesday.

BALLOTING TO TITLE

In winning the annual Ballpark Digest “Best Double-A Stadium” contest, Blue Wahoos Stadium outperformed in five head-to-head voting matchups.

Here they are:

ROUND ONE -- Beat Prince George’s Stadium by 67-33 percent. Stadium is home to Bowie Baysox (Bowie, Maryland), Double-A affiliate of Baltimore Orioles in Eastern League

ROUND TWO -- Beat MGM Park by 57-43 percent. MGM Park in Biloxi, Miss. is home to Biloxi Shuckers in Southern League, the Milwaukee Brewers affiliate.

QUARTERFINALS -- Beat Riverwalk Stadium by 54-47 percent. Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Ala. is home to Montgomery Biscuits in Southern League, the Tampa Bay Rays affiliate.

SEMIFINALS --- Beat Whataburger Field after a 50-50 percentage tie by just 80 votes. Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas is home to the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Houston Astros affiliate.

FINALS -- Beat Hodgetown Stadium by 54-46 percent. Hodgetown in Amarillo, Texas is home to the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the San Diego Padres affiliate.