Melaleuca Field – Idaho Falls Chukars
Photos by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Melaleuca Field 568 West Elva Idaho Falls, ID 83402
Year Opened: 2007
Me Like Melaleuca
In the world of travel, Idaho Falls is known as one of the gateways to Yellowstone National Park, attracting families throughout the summer who use the town as a base for exploring all of the incredible natural scenery in the area. For those more interested in sports travel however, the destination is the city itself, more specifically Melaleuca Field, home of the Idaho Falls Chukars of the Pioneer League.
Located in a residential area about a mile north of downtown, the naming rights were bought by a wellness company owned by local billionaire Frank L. VanderSloot. According to some residents I spoke to, there was controversy over the name, but as VanderSloot and Melaleuca provided $600,000 to help with the construction of the facility, the name stands. The stadium opened in 2007 to replace McDermott Field, which was demolished just a few days after the final game was played there.
Food & Beverage 4
For a ballpark at this level, the food options are extremely varied and offer a few things beyond the usual. There are two permanent concession stands, which offer an excellent variety and include some healthy options like carrots and celery ($3), or my personal favourite, apples and caramel ($3 for sliced Granny Smiths served with melted caramel, as good as it sounds but messy). The signature item is the Chukar Clukar, a chicken breast sandwich topped with bacon, french fries, and cole slaw, a bargain at $9, but one too heavy for me. I chickened out and avoided the Clukar, choosing a simple hot dog ($3). Other items worth noting include a Po:Boy chicken sandwich for $8, walking tacos for $7.50, and a double cheeseburger (2/3 lb.) for $10. There are many other choices at these stands, so check the menu in the photo gallery for the full list.
There is also a sno-cone stand, which is likely the best of its kind in baseball. A small cup is only $2.50 and the young men staffing the stand are extremely generous in doling out the syrup; it took me about 3 days to come down from the sugar high.
Beer is reasonably priced as well, with small domestics going for $4.75 and large $6.75 (add a dollar for craft beers). A 16-ounce domestic can is $5; again another buck gets you the good stuff. Pepsi products are your soda choices, with a small fountain drink going for $3.75 and a large for just 50 cents more, while bottled water is $2.50.
All in all, you should be more than satisfied with the options here, which are possibly the most diverse for a Rookie League ballpark.
The main entrance is next to the ticket window, atop which stands an inflatable batter to ensure that you are in the right place. Once inside the main entrance, you will be on a concourse behind the stadium structure, where you will find all the concession stands and historical displays. You’ll find the starting lineups and standings along the concourse as well.
The seating bowl is typical – 7 sections of Kelly green seats, and then some general admission benches further down both lines. The sections directly behind the plate is C, then L1, L2, and so on along third base and R1, R2, etc. along first base. There is also a walkway at the top of the seating bowl and you can stand here, particularly behind home plate, though it does get slightly bothersome with fans walking by all the time.
Three suites are on each side of home plate, and picnic areas down the lines, as it now customary at minor league venues. A bouncy castle is also available behind the stadium proper along first base.
The sun sets behind third base, so those GA seats fill up quick. If you end up at first base, you will have the sun in your eyes for a few innings, though netting should protect you from any foul balls lined at your head.
The scoreboard is basic, with just an electronic linescore and no video board.
For those wondering, a chukar is a type of partridge found in the area and Charlie is the friendly feathered mascot here. The Chukar moniker was the result of a name-the-team contest in 2004, after the team changed affiliations from the Padres to the Royals, who are still the parent club.
Idaho Falls is actually a Mormon town, with over 60% of residents belonging to that faith, but there are still a few bars in the downtown core, with the different types each offering something for everyone. Many of the bars allow smoking, but one that doesn’t is BlackRock, which also has good craft beer offerings and friendly staff.
Other choices that are open after the game are The Celt Pub & Grill that catered to a younger crowd, and Samoa Club, which seems to be more of a dive bar. Most of these places closed early on the Monday I visited, but there is an Applebee’s on the other side of the Snake River that was open a bit later. Snow Eagle Brewing and Grill is also close by, though you will have to visit before the game as it will be closed by the time the final pitch is thrown.
West Yellowstone is just over 100 miles away to the northeast, while Craters of the Moon National Monument is a couple of hours west should you be spending a few days in the area. As Idaho Falls is a base, hotels are surprisingly expensive for the quality, particularly early in the season, when many families make their pilgrimages, so book well in advance if you are on a budget.
I was amazed at the turnout at the game I attended, with nearly every seat filled, very surprising for a Monday night. There was a promotion involving a local insurance firm that might have had something to do with that, but whatever the case, empty seats were few and far between. Fans were polite, knowledgeable, and had a good time. Charlie was busy with all the kids as well. It was a quintessential minor league crowd and really added to the experience.
There is a free but tiny parking lot next to the stadium which was nearly filled by the time I arrived an hour before first pitch. Given the proximity to the ballpark, you might want to park on the street a block away to minimize the risk of a cracked windshield.
Inside, the venue is quite small, and with the large crowd, there were lineups at concessions for much of the evening. Getting around the concourse and stadium itself is easy enough, though the lines do occasionally force you to the outside. I did not notice any issue with restrooms, and getting out after the game seemed to be easy enough.
Return on Investment 4
Prices here for the reserved box seats are $12, while GA is $8. Normally I would suggest the latter, but in this case, the GA sections ended up full and several patrons had to stand. Capacity is 3,400 and there were over 3,200 seats sold, but average attendance is about 2,400 so for most games, you will not have trouble finding a good spot to sit.
With decent food prices and free parking, this is a great little evening out for those who might be stopping by on their way to one of the natural sights in the area.
There is a board describing the history of baseball in Idaho Falls, which is worth a read despite it being behind the Sno-Cone stand.
There are some retired numbers (and a retired microphone for Jim Garchow, who passed away in 2009) beneath the press box windows. Don Werner managed here between 1996-2000 as well as 2002 but is better known as the catcher of Tom Seaver’s only no-hitter in 1978. Billy Butler played here in 2004.
As well, banners for those in the Idaho Falls Hall of Fame can be seen, including ex-Jay Devon White.
Overall, I found Melaleuca Field to be an enjoyable evening, helped by the overflow crowd and excellent concession offerings. If you are thinking about a tour of Yellowstone or the northwest in general, try to stop in to Idaho Falls for an evening with the Chukars.