Going on my summer trips now to MLB cities, I am already making it imperative to stop at a town with a Minor League baseball team. Heading to my hometown near Detroit from Atlanta, Lexington, Kentucky is pretty much the halfway point. And thankfully the city of Lexington has a team, the Legends (Single-A, South Atlantic League). So for my "Father's Day gift," my wife and kids agreed to go to a game against Savannah. So I was excited.
Getting to the park however, was anything but exciting. The park is somewhat distant to the interstate (I-75) and the oddball issue was they placed the stadium not on a major road. I don't know how to really describe it as I guess you could call it they put it in a suburban area of Lexington. It was right by a mini-mall with a large grocery store next to it. What made it worse was that parking was stashed behind the store and the park, which made major traffic hassles before and after the game. Parking was $3 but after going through something you would feel on rush hour maybe in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and DC, they should have given you free parking. Parking was plentiful though.
The stadium itself was lovely and you really knew you were in Kentucky with murals of what Kentucky is famous for (Kentucky Derby, making Bourbon, and baseball-well, not really famous for that as Louisville is pretty famous for their baseball contribution). And all along the exterior had small banners of the other South Atlantic League teams. But even the exterior made you feel like you were in Kentucky as it had a Kentucky Derby feel to it.
When we got in and got to our seats (somewhat expensive for a South Atlantic League game-$9 for box seats all over the park, but the ones behind the dugout and home plate are $18) and it was great. Sightlines were magnificent and even the seats were comfortable. Inside the park, you felt like you were in a ballpark in Kentucky with a "Stable" for conecssions, which covered a pavilion of picnic tables along the first base side. In right field had a Pepsi Party Deck, which looked like you were at the Kentucky Derby. I thought it was pretty neat. The scoreboard structure out in right field was very tall and having that Kentucky feel to it, but there were more ads on it than the actual scoreboard screen and the line score underneath it, but still not too bad. There was another screen in left field, but it was out of order (which to their credit, looked neat, having an animation looking like a baseball smashed it) and there was a manual out-of town scoreboard for the other South Atlantic League teams which I thought was a very nice touch. It would have been a nicer touch if the guys doing it didn't stop after the 6th inning. The view of the field was great, though the outfield felt cluttered with structures for advertisements out past the wall.
The food was actually pretty disappointing despite the good selection. I had the "Backwards Bourbon Sammie," a 3 meatball sandwich stuffed with bacon and cheese inside the meatballs with a sauce with bourbon glaze on it. I saw it on MILB's foodfight as being one of the candidates and HAD to try it. I was very disappointed as the meatballs, cheese, and bacon were all bland though the sauce was magnificent. The hot dogs my kids had were okay, but the one thing that was good was the freshly squeezed lemonade. Prices for food were insanely high as most things were OVER $5 (felt like I was at a Major League game). The souvenir selection was pretty good with a variety of shirts involving the Legends new logo and using their "mustache" as a battle cry. Cheesy but it works. Prices were average on that.
In terms of the atmosphere, wow. Lexington fans were very involved in the game I went to and it was packed (probably typical for a Saturday night). They were very knowledgeable and incredibly friendly. Probably only Greenville has better fans in terms of the South Atlantic League which says a lot as I really hold those fans in high regards.
I give Whitaker Bank Ballpark an 83% on my trip, which is very good in my book, but it didn't get me off to a good start with the whole location/parking fiasco. Definitely if you stop in Lexington, you need to try to get to a Legends game, though I am not sure with the location I would make it a habit unless you want to feel like you're in rush hour traffic.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE STADIUM:
1. The structure of the park. It really felt like you were in Kentucky at this place. One other thing I liked was seeing all the names along the park that graced the Legends playing with a "ring of honor" bit.
2. Seat comfort. Very comfortable seats and sightlines are great.
3. Atmosphere/fans. You were at a Minor League game without question, with all the gimmicky stuff at the park as well as fans being very active and into the game. Even an usher would get the crowd to his feet with his dancing skills.
4. Employees. Very friendly.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE STADIUM:
1. Location and Parking. Probably the worst for both that I've been to. The parking, not so much, but having to pay $3 for the headache of even getting in is overkill to me.
2. The food. Just avoid the Backwards Bourbon Sammie. I probably should have given I was the only genius around eating one. Also cost $9 which probably wasn't a smart idea on my part.
3. Food prices. I wouldn't expect cheap-o prices at a professional ballgame, but I shouldn't expect a Single-A park to have Major League prices.