U.S. Steel Yard might be the closest park to me time wise, yet I have only been to it three times in the seven seasons which it has been open. Why is that you ask? I think the answer is simple. It is in Gary, IN. In all reality the odds of something going wrong are astronomical. That doesn’t mean that you are completely safe though. Gary has always been around the top 10 most dangerous cities in the United States. When I went a few weeks ago I really did not feel too bad. I parked for FREE just outside of the stadium in right field. I could look through the screen and see the field. After I left my FREE parking spot I walked around the block to the main entrance. The police presence was very noticeable. Did I mention the FREE parking. After paying $23.00 at Sox games this season $4-$5 parking is pretty good. Free is even better. Another reason might be the fact that it is a Northern League Stadium. I think part of the fun of visiting a minor league park is the potential that is there. The next big superstar could be developing right in front of your eyes. In the Northern League the dream is just to make it/get back to the Majors. I have been to the park three times though (8/03, 7/06, and 6/09). Based on this information I would guess that my next visit will be around May of 2012. As much as I had on this visit I would guess it would be a bit sooner though.
This stadium is very nice. It has aged well in the short time it has been around. I moved around the entire stadium during the game, and never had a bad seat or view. You can walk the outfield, and except for a short distance for the batters eye you can follow the action. For a truly different experience you can go into the Bennigans that is attached in right field and eat. They also have some table set up so that you can watch the game while you eat. Beyond the left field wall stands the South Shore Train line that the team is named after as well as the U.S. Steel Mills that the park is named for. The Indiana Toll Road can also be seen. With no cityscape in the background you rely on the stadium itself for beauty. While it is cool that you can see the steel mill and the South Shore tracks it does not make a very scenic backdrop. I am not sure that turning the stadium to face Gary would have added anything though. They do have two mascots that spend the game getting in peoples way so that they cannot see the game. They are named Rascal and Rusty, and I think they have a contest to see who can ruin the game most for the most fans. Mascots are nice, but have them play away from the field. I root every time for one of these beings on top of a dugout to get knocked off with a line drive. I paid to see the game, not see a man/woman dressed in a costume re-enact some old Chaplin moves. They had no special promotion the day I went, but they do have some cool giveaways at the stadium throughout the season. It is not listed on their site, but all over the stadium they had flyers for July 13th when Fergie Jenkins would be appearing at the stadium. That is also a dollar Monday so I may have to break the trend and go to that game. I can find nothing on the internet about the promotion so it makes it seem weird to me. If you are having a promotion why keep it secret? The announcer is a little different than at most parks as well. His way of telling the crowd about a lineup change is great. You know something is going on when you hear him start with “People, people, people.”
The scoreboard is very simple by today’s standards, but it gets the job done very well. As someone who keeps score it gives you all of the information that you need. You get the basic line score with a small video board. In a league like the Northern League good communication is key for substitutions. They really did a good job letting you know the player and number when they came in. They did a great job before the game giving out the lineups in a manner that did not require me to use shorthand as well. The clock at the top is simple, but effective. I like the old school look. One thing that I did not see until the fifth inning though was the pitch speed board that is located in centerfield. The main scoreboard is in left-center, so I really never looked that way. I wish I had seen that sooner, but you think after three trips to the stadium I would know where that is.
U.S. Steel Yard By the Numbers:
Broke Ground: June 22, 2001
First Game: May 26, 2003
Cost of Construction: $45 million
Left Field Dimension: 320
Center Field: 400
Right Field: 335
Seating Capacity: 6,000
Date(s) of my visits: 8/20/2003, 7/28/2006, 6/7/2009