- Sean MacDonald
Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Photos by Ryan Napralla, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Fox Cities Stadium 2400 N Casaloma Dr Appleton, WI 54912
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers website Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium website
Year Opened: 1995 Capacity: 5,900
Snakes in the Fox’s Den
The community of Appleton, Wisconsin is the largest of the Fox Cities, a collection of towns that lie along the Fox River. Located just over 100 miles north of Milwaukee, and about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay, Appleton is also home to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League. The team continues a proud tradition of minor league baseball in the area, playing out of Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, another of the venues that manage to acquire sponsorship money without giving up the original name of the stadium. The ballpark is actually located in Grand Chute but uses an Appleton mailing address.
The Timber Rattlers began as the Appleton Foxes in 1962 and spent three seasons as the Fox Cities Foxes as well, before rebranding in 1995 in an effort to attract fans from across the Dairy State. It was during that season that they moved into Fox Cities Stadium, which is now in its 23rd year. So how does a trip to see the Snakes play in Fox’s den compare? Read on to find out.
Food & Beverage 5
The food here is among the most varied I have seen at any minor league ballpark. There are several concession stands each with very detailed menus as you can see in the photo gallery. Each stand has a few unique items to do check them all out before deciding. It would be foolish to detail the choice here, as it would take up the entire review. My recommendation is the Authentic Wisconsin Grill, where a freshly made grilled cheese sandwich is just $5, though there are other heartier options such as a helmet mac ‘n’ cheese for $5 or a grilled Cajun chicken mac ‘n’ cheese sandwich for $10. Other stands have fried cheese curds for $5. As you are in the Dairy State, cheese is mandatory.
Pepsi products are available with a 16-ounce soda going for $3.50, 21-ounces for $4.50, and a 32-ounce souvenir cup $6.75 (refills are $3.75), while bottled soda is $4.25. An excellent variety of craft beer is available at most stands, with Leinenkugel’s Snake Tail Ale the obvious choice for Rattlers rooters. $6.25 gets you 16 ounces, two bucks more gets you a large (24 ounces). Domestic beers (Miller/Coors obviously, but Budweiser is also available) are slightly cheaper.
If that is not enough, there is an all-you-can-eat buffet ticket for $30 with seating along the first base line. As well, there are patio sections with wait staff along both sides of the stadium that are great for families that want to share several items.
Box seat holders can also visit the Fox Club, which offers an extended menu. The free program contains a map of all concession stands and can be a good reference guide.
In sum, come hungry to Fox Cities Stadium, it might have the best food choices of any stadium in the minors.
Entering by the main gate, you will immediately be greeted by a giant bobblehead of the mascot, Fang, whose wobbling head is a source of unlimited amusement to children.
In the seating bowl, you will find ten rows of maroon seats to match the team color and ten rows of bleachers with backs. Berms can be found in both corners; behind the right field berm is a kids zone. Behind the right field, fence is the Home Run Porch, a picnic area for groups, while another picnic deck is along the third base concourse.
The concourse is more than wide enough for the crowd, even with several portable concession stands along the walls.
You can walk along a boardwalk behind right field to the bullpens in the outfield, from where you can see the entire stadium. However, you cannot complete the circuit and must return along the boardwalk.
The Call-Up Worthy board lists previous T-Rats who have made the show. This is part of a larger sponsorship across the minors, but this is the first such display I have seen; most parks have a more detailed Road to the Show display.
The scoreboard sits above the left-center field and includes a large video board above the line score.
A new feature for the 2017 season is a party deck behind the outfield fence that includes 2 cabanas for shade during day games, all-you-can-eat-tacos, and a drinks rail. This is a clear attempt to reach newer fans who see sporting events as a social exercise rather than one of entertainment and it should appeal to the younger generation.
The stadium is located in the northwest area of town, surrounded by an industrial park, while I-41 passes by the outfield fence. There is nothing within walking distance in terms of bars or eateries as the area is not particularly pedestrian-friendly, but Osorio’s Latin Fusion is just south on Casa Loma Drive. Further south on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue is the Fox River Mall and all of its attendant chain restaurants such as Chili’s and Olive Garden. The Fox River Brewery and Restaurant is your stop for locally produced craft beer, while the Milwaukee Burger Company has 40 taps and build-your-own-burgers. Downtown Appleton is 5 miles away and includes a number of interesting bars such as Cleo’s Brown Beam Tavern, not to mention Vince Lombardi’s Steak House.
It was very chilly on the night I attended, but that did not stop over 4,700 from joining me, more than double the season average for the Timber Rattlers. The crowd skewed towards families, drawn by the numerous amenities and fireworks that night. Wisconsin folk are hardy and not used to allow a bit of cold to stop them from attending a sporting event, and that was clearly in evidence on this day. Those in attendance were fun, friendly, and polite.
As mentioned, I-41 runs directly behind the stadium, with either the Northland or Wisconsin Avenue exits providing quick access to the stadium. There is a single road to the main parking lot, and this can cause some delays after the game. There are two lanes going in and out, so make sure you are in the correct lane after the game to turn right or left onto Olde Casaloma Drive.
Inside the stadium, there is plenty of room, even with a near-capacity crowd. Concession lines move quickly and there is no issue with restrooms or anything else.
Return on Investment 3
Parking is $5, a bit much for Class A ball, though there was an Uber drop-off point if you wanted to avoid that. There are three ticket options for the average fan: $14 for box seats, $11 for bleachers, and $8 for general admission, with all tickets a dollar cheaper if bought in advance. For a family of four arriving a game day, it would be $49 for bleacher seats before considering food.
There are two special seating options. For small groups, the patio seats are sold in packs of 4 for $76 and include wait service as well as the buffet mentioned above.
The displays in the Legends Lounge are very detailed for this level and deserve a few minutes of your time. There are a lot of baseball greats who have played here and each has a plaque; there are also old style jerseys on display. The Lounge is also heated and thus a good spot to warm up during inning breaks.
There is a bullpen car that zooms around the warning track to drop off the relief pitcher warm-up jacket a rare sighting these days.
It was Pirate Day and both staff and fans participated with vigor. The scoreboard dressed up the Timber Rattlers as buccaneers, which was good for a laugh.
There was a car sale out front of the stadium that could be quite helpful to sports travelers in need of a new set of wheels.
Overall, Fox Cities Stadium is an excellent minor league destination that has aged well since its opening in 1995. I really enjoyed my time here, with the food and fans among the best that the minor leagues have to offer. Appleton is not on many tourist itineraries, but if you are a ballpark chaser, this is one that you should not miss.