LF: 302' CF: 400' RF: 330'
Kentucky bluegrass and rye grass blend
Affiliate: Colorado Rockies
|Year ||Total ||Average
|* Attendance figures listed are the regular season totals drawn by the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Field
Where the pursuit of baseball never ends.
Suplizio Field certainly isn't a typical ballpark, so perhaps it's fitting that the unique home of Grand Junction's minor league team is best known as the longtime home of the National Junior College World Series, which it has been since 1959, a year after the inaugural JUCO tournament.
Given that lineage, it's no surprise this ballpark isn't the most modern looking of places, nor that it's a lot bigger than a normal rookie-level league venue. Capable of seating about 7,000 folks in a nearly foul pole to foul pole grandstand that's split into three distinct sections, Suplizio Field underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that made it pro ready for 2012, when it lured the Ghosts away from Casper's Mike Lansing Field to a ballpark that's not so much adjacent to as it's conjoined with the local football stadium.
Such a setup is responsible for the dominant feature of both stadiums, as they share a massive two-sided structure that contains observation deck seating, a press box and huge hospitality area, with the multi-use building rising above the first base grandstand, which is the only one containing stadium-style seats. Towering to the heights of nearly the light towers, its name of Lincoln Park Tower seems appropriate and it helps to block the sun that is blinding in the third base stands near the standard evening game time.
Looming in the distance from all seats is a sight you don't want blocked, as mountains frame everything within what's known as the Grand Valley. The mountainous backdrop makes the ballpark feel quaint in comparison, but it can actually hold in excess of 10K during the JUCO World Series, when a large expanse of bleachers in left field that aren't open for Rockies games are utilized.
Regardless, this park has plenty of the cheap style of seats available during the minor league season, and the bleachers that start at home plate and taper down to the left field foul pole are an odd combination of metal seats with and without backs. No two consecutive rows are the same, so every other is backless and vice versa with backs. From a distance, it gives the biggest of Suplizio's three stands a "speckled" look. Meanwhile, the bleachers down the right field line are simply uniformly backless.
Taken as a whole, this is a beautifully set quirky place and Grand Junction is, thanks to the JUCO World Series no doubt, a great baseball town worth a visit...during either of its two baseball seasons.
Suplizio Field is a part of the Lincoln Park Sports Complex, which is found catty-corner to the campus of Colorado Mesa University along a commercial strip. The ballpark is near the intersection of North Avenue and 12th Street. Besides it, the complex contains a football stadium that has a quarter-mile track within it, a nine-hole golf course, tennis and pickleball courts, and a swimming pool with diving boards and a waterslide. An adjoining traditional public park (the actual Lincoln Park) that includes a playground among its green space rounds out the thorough recreational offerings at the site.
The parking lot, which is paved, is beyond the outfield, specifically on the right field side of the ballpark. The lot is quite large, as it serves multiple venues, and parking in it is free.
While the ballpark has a North Avenue address, its public parking lot is accessed from 12th Street.
Notable Ballpark Features
Casey at the Bat statue
A 7-foot tall Casey at the Bat-inspired sculpture stands atop a pedestal near the main entrance for the ballpark, which is far down the right field line. The bronze "Casey" statue is in front of the box office there and was placed in its present location following the 2012-finished renovation of Suplizio Field. Made by Mark Lundeen, a Loveland, Colorado-based sculptor, the statue arrived at the ballpark in 1989 and stood close to the first base side stands before the Lincoln Park Tower was erected and forced a relocation of Grand Junction's Casey, which is actually one of 15 such-sized statues Lundeen produced. The artist also made a small number of 14-foot versions of the statue, one of which is outside Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL. Another of the "Monumental"-sized Casey's is on display in South Williamsport, PA up the hill from the left field fence at Lamade Stadium, the famed site of the Little League World Series.
The concrete base beneath the 7-foot statue at Suplizio Field has two plaques on it. The upper one is titled "Casey" and then is inscribed with the following words: "Dedicated to the coaches, players, and thousands of fans whose support has made the JUCO World Series one of America's finest amateur sporting events, and the City of Grand Junction our nation's number one baseball community." The bottom plaque is entitled "The Mighty Casey" then states "as envisioned by sculptor Mark Lundeen." That's followed by a stanza from the poem that was written in 1888 by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.
Lincoln Park Tower
Rising above the first base stands is the signature feature of the ballpark and the adjacent football stadium, as the 80-foot tall Lincoln Park Tower looks out upon the fields of both. The eight-story structure features a mezzanine level topped by an enclosed press box and hospitality suite. Built by FCI Constructors of Grand Junction and designed by Sink Combs Dethlefs of Denver, the multi-use tower was dedicated in May 2012 as the main improvement of an $8.3 million renovation to the sports complex at Lincoln Park. Notably, the uppermost level of the tower contains a year-round rentable event space that can accommodate up to about 150 people.
Officially, the tower has four levels and the exact designations for them are:
Level 1: Concourse
Level 2: Spectator Platform
Level 3: Reford C. Theobold Press Box Level
Level 4: Hospitality
The spectator platform is an elevated and open-air area that's ideal for accessible seating needs when it's not rented out by groups. Cover for the overlook comes from the press box above it.
The media's working space has been named for Reford Theobold since 2003, when the old press box, which lacked an elevator, was dubbed so in honor of a man who by then had spent a few decades covering games from it, and was still serving as a public address announcer when the new edition Theobold press level debuted in 2012.
The upscale indoor area for groups, known generally as the hospitality suite, is on the highest level of the tower's special access spaces, all of which look out upon the Book Cliffs and Grand Mesa, with the mountainous topography easily spotted east of the ballpark.
|Casey at the gate: the 7-foot tall statue stands near the main entrance of Suplizio Field, which is overlooked by the 80-foot high Lincoln Park Tower.
Suplizio Field Facts & Figures
Prior to 2012, had only been used for amateur baseball. To become suitable for professional baseball, a total of $9.1 million was spent on stadium complex upgrades that were finished just before the Rockies' first season. Of the renovation cost, $8.3 million was going to be spent regardless of the Rockies' move to Grand Junction. The extra $800,000 of improvements done specifically for the Rockies covered their locker room, training room and office space needs.
Owned by the City of Grand Junction. The city's parks and recreation department is responsible for all maintenance.
Lease terms: On October 17, 2011, a 15-year lease between the city and GJR LLC (the team's ownership group) was formally approved by the Grand Junction City Council. The deal began with the Rockies' first season (2012) in Grand Junction and following its conclusion in 2026 the team has three five-year extension options. For the original 15-year agreement, the lease terms are: the Rockies pay the city $25,000 in yearly rent plus another $500 per game, with a maximum of 42 games permitted, and the per game field usage fee increases by $100 every five years. Additionally, the city receives 1% of revenue from alcohol sales.
Originally called Lincoln Park Stadium then became known as Ralph Stocker Stadium in 1972 before being renamed for Samuel V. "Sam" Suplizio on May 25, 1990. Prior to the dedication of "Suplizio Baseball Field" the day before the beginning of the 1990 JUCO World Series, the side by side baseball and football stadiums in Lincoln Park had always been called by the same name.
The ballpark's namesake, Sam Suplizio, was a prominent figure in amateur and professional baseball. He played in the minor leagues for seven seasons, reaching the Triple-A level, held coaching positions with four major league teams, was instrumental in Denver getting a major league team and Grand Junction hosting the Junior College World Series, of which he was the chairman for 33 years. Suplizio was also associated with Grand Junction's former semipro baseball team, the Eagles, as a player and manager for 17 years. As an instructor, his impact was such that Robin Yount, in his 1999 Hall of Fame induction speech, singled out Sam Suplizio as one of his favorite coaches during his long career with the Milwaukee Brewers. Suplizio remained involved in teaching baseball until the very end of his life, as he was an outfield instructor for the Seattle Mariners during the 2006 season, after which he died (on 12/29/06) at the age of 74.
Also serves as the home field for the Colorado Mesa University Mavericks (NCAA Division II) and for the high school baseball programs of Mesa County Valley School District 51.
Stadium's Professional Firsts
First minor league game: June 23, 2012; the Grand Junction Rockies beat the Idaho Falls Chukars, 10-6, with 5,312 as the announced attendance. The game was played in 2 hours and 37 minutes.
Other official stadium pro firsts (all of which occurred on 6/23/12, unless noted):
|Pitch ||Batter ||Hit (triple) ||Home Run ||Winning Pitcher ||Losing Pitcher ||Save (6/24)
|Josh Mueller ||Ethan Chapman ||Cesar Galvez ||Rainier Bello ||Josh Mueller ||Clayton Schulz ||Cory Hall
Suplizio Field and the JUCO World Series
What Omaha is to NCAA Division I baseball, Grand Junction is to Division I of junior college (JUCO) baseball.
Long before a professional game was ever played at Suplizio Field -- 53 years to be precise -- the National Junior College World Series was first held at the ballpark, where it has remained ever since.
Much like the better known College World Series, which began in 1947 and has been played in Omaha, Nebraska since 1950, the top-level two-year schools (that's what a junior college is) have been coming to Grand Junction for almost as long as there has been a JUCO World Series. The first one was held in Miami, Oklahoma in 1958, then the NJCAA tournament made what has turned out to be a permanent move to Grand Junction in 1959. The city's bid to serve as host was accepted on October 28, 1958 by the National Junior College Athletic Association and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
But to expand a bit on that history, the World Series of junior college baseball was an 8-team affair in year #1 in Grand Junction, with the tourney getting underway on May 21, 1959. Four games were scheduled on that day but only the first wasn't postponed -- the following three were rained out. Paris (TX) beat Carbon (UT) in the game that was played, winning 8-5, and Paris wound up going undefeated (4-0) en route to winning the championship. Total attendance was estimated at 4,700 for what was a 14-game tournament. The 5th game was especially significant, as two players from Wilmington (NC) became individual history makers when Jerome Pittman hit a home run and Billy DeBruhl threw a no-hitter against Carbon, with each feat being the first such one in the JUCO World Series' tenure in Grand Junction. The first Series there also eked out a win of sorts, as it turned "a surprising net profit of $137.53" on revenue of $3,759.70, according to the Grand Junction Sentinel on June 12, 1959.
Thus a big deal tradition of showcasing small-time baseball was born and it had been nurtured so well that in 2010 the NJCAA awarded their DI World Series to Grand Junction for a 25-year term, meaning that tradition is guaranteed to continue at Suplizio Field until 2035. (Note: JUCO also has Division II and III levels and the World Series for each is played elsewhere.)
From its humble beginnings everything about JUCO, as it's informally called locally, has grown. The field is now 10 teams, the stadium that surrounds the field has been enlarged to have a seating capacity of 12,000, annual attendance tops 100,000, and revenue and profits have risen to the point where the volunteer-staffed organizing committee is able to make a $300,000 payment each year to the City of Grand Junction to pay off the bond debt that was incurred to build the Lincoln Park Tower.
For the record, the record attendance numbers are 137,920 for a tournament (2010) and 12,309 for a game (5/31/10).
Fans over the years have also seen plenty of future major leaguers. Kirby Puckett (1982), Curt Schilling (1986), Travis Hafner (1997) and Bryce Harper (2010) are the biggest names on a long list of those who have played in the JUCO World Series and MLB.
So Grand Junction was put on the baseball map long before Suplizio Field become home to a minor league team in 2012.
Despite having two prime tenants since then there are no scheduling conflicts. Because the pro team is one that plays a shorter season than most, Grand Junction Rockies games don't start until after JUCO World Series week is over.
And that week has long begun in late May, specifically over the Memorial Day weekend, when the annual reason that Suplizio Field has become what it is takes place in just about the only home the JUCO World Series has ever known.