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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Carson Park – Eau Claire Express

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Carson Park 100 Carson Park Dr. Eau Claire, WI 54703

Year Opened: 1937

Capacity: 3,800


An Old Classic in Eau Claire

Baseball has been played at Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in some form or another since 1937. Located in a scenic park on a peninsula on Half Moon Lake, Carson Park seats 3,800 fans and is currently home to the Eau Claire Express of the summer collegiate Northwoods League. The stadium previously hosted affiliated minor league baseball with the Eau Claire Bears (later known as the Braves) of the Northern League from 1937 until 1962, excluding a few years during World War II. Hank Aaron played here during that time, and famous Express alumni include Kole Calhoun and Jordan Zimmerman.

Food & Beverage 4

There are several identical concession windows on the concourse behind home plate underneath the grandstand. Meals include classic options like burgers, hot dogs, brats, chicken strips, and a pulled pork sandwich. Snacks include all the usual classics like French fries, cotton candy, popcorn, and more, plus the Upper Midwest Classic of deep-fried cheese curds, which will be a unique item for fans visiting the area but are a standard concession item in this part of the country. Bottled water and fountain soda are also available at this concession stand. The prices are affordable, with most things under $5 and everything $7 or less.

There is a separate stand on the concourse closer to first base which sells beer, including the custom beer of the Northwoods League, Five Tool Ale. A cart inside the seating area sells snacks so fans can buy from there without missing any of the game if that’s all they want. The box seats also come with waiter service so fans sitting there can order from their seat and have them brought to them.

Atmosphere 5

Just walking up to Carson Park can give you a sense of how old this place is. The tan exterior just has those old-time ballpark vibes, and once you get in, you get even more of a classic stadium sense. Like many of the ballparks of its era, there is a covered grandstand behind home plate with a few rows of chairback box seats close to the field and some traditional bleachers further down the line. Although a couple of large sets of bleachers are visible beyond the left field fence in fair territory, these are part of the football stadium next door and are not part of the baseball stadium. A scoreboard in right-center field shows the linescore and other basic information.

In terms of the other goings-on at Carson Park, they rival if not exceed the atmosphere at many minor league games. There are on-field contests or other antics during many inning breaks and music is played between almost every pitch. The songs range from your usual country music to more unusual selections like “C is for Cookie” and the “Campfire Song Song” from SpongeBob. There are also numerous promotional nights to encourage fans to show up, ranging from the Zooperstars to Willy Wonka Night. The Express also has a mascot named Trax, who is supposed to be a railroad engineer but more closely resembles a terrifying abomination of some sort. Then again, he’s so terrifying and unique that it’s kind of cool.

Neighborhood 3

Carson Park is a scenic park, also known as Carson Park, on a peninsula in Half Moon Lake. Other attractions in the park include a playground and several museums. If you want to head into the main part of Eau Claire, you will find many more options along Menomonie Street right by the stadium. The Roadside Ice Cream and Diner is right by the entrance to the park and serves great ice cream and comfort food. Valley Burger Company is just down the road, as is the Eau Claire Ale House. There are plenty of hotels to stay at in the area as well. This is your typical Upper Midwest town, nothing more, nothing less.

Fans 3

The Express draw reasonably well and while they rarely sell out, there will still be many fans in the seats. Those in attendance are knowledgeable not just about the Express but about all the teams in the Northwoods League and are both friendly and extremely passionate about their team. It can get somewhat loud at times but is always family-friendly. The crowd here tends to skew older than many stadiums, with a lot of fans who have been following the team for years, but there are a good number of young families as well.

Access 2

The stadium Carson Park is in a park of the same name, which is on a peninsula, so you will likely access it from the mainland via Menomonie Road, which is the local name for US 12. If coming from out of town, you will take Interstate 94, then exit and drive several miles to the stadium. There is a spacious lot next to the stadium which also serves other areas of the park, and then you will walk up a ramp to the entry plaza.

Getting around the stadium is a bit complex, with multiple areas that have been built over the years, and it’s not always signed well where to go, although the staff will be happy to help you if necessary. There are restrooms on the third base end of the concourse which can get a bit crowded at times, especially between innings, but the wait is never too long, just a bit cramped.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets start at $9 for general admission seating in the bleachers down the line. Reserved seats in the grandstand cost $11, while box seats closer to the field cost $14. These prices are about what you’d pay for a minor league game, maybe a little less, but the experience here is comparable to minor league games, so it’s still a good value. Concessions are pretty affordable, and parking is free, so an Express game is a pretty good deal.

Extras 5

Look for the Hank Aaron statue and Eau Claire Baseball Hall of Fame on the entrance plaza outside the stadium. Each of these is worthy of a star. There are free programs and roster sheets on the concourse. Check out the Carson Park history banner on the concourse down the right field line. Finally, there is a play area for kids in left field.

Final Thoughts

Carson Park is certainly an old stadium, but old does not mean bad in this case, just historic. Although the stadium no longer meets the ever-increasing standards to host affiliated minor league baseball, the fan experience here is comparable to what you would see at a professional stadium. Baseball fans in the Chippewa Valley region of Wisconsin and the surrounding area should check out the Express here in Eau Claire. Carson Park is a great place to check out a ballgame on a nice summer night.

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