College baseball teams and short-season Minor League clubs sharing a ballpark have become commonplace over the last decade. The University of Oregon Ducks and Eugene Emeralds are one of the first partnerships between a collegiate team and a Minor League club. The university built PK Park for a reborn Ducks baseball program, but the Emeralds have made their mark on the ballpark, too.
Arriving at the ballpark
PK Park is northeast of Autzen Stadium, home of the University of Oregon football team. The park is about a 10-minute drive from downtown Eugene. The parking lot is off Leo Harris Parkway. Parking costs $5 per vehicle, but pre-paid parking is available by contacting the Emeralds front office. It is a 20-minute bus ride on LTD‘s Route 13, which stops just east of the ballpark. Traveling from other parts of Eugene take longer and will likely require a transfer. LTD’s single-ride fare is $1.75 and a day pass costs $3.50, but LTD does not provide transfers.
Entering the ballpark
There are two entrances to PK Park. Fans who park in the team’s parking lot will see a gate near right field first. However, the team’s ticket office is across from the ballpark in the shadow of Autzen Stadium. So fans picking up tickets at will call or buying tickets will need will walk past the first base entrance.
The home plate entrance is much more photogenic than the first base gate.
Entering the ballpark near home plate means fans get to see the Eugene Emeralds’ multiple championship banners while climbing the stairs to the main concourse.
Exploring the ballpark
Atop the stairs by home plate, visitors will see two notable things. On the left side is a banner listing all the former Eugene Emeralds who have played in the Majors. On the right is a giant Sasquatch next to the game’s starting lineups and the current Northwest League standings.
Guest services is front and center on the main concourse. There are several concession stands in each direction. An RV near the first base entrance serves as the team mascot’s summer home.
Also near the first base entrance is the team store, which is a former shipping container. It has doors that open outward and a retractable awning. The container is new for the 2019 season and gives the team ample space to display its wares.
Fans entering the ballpark at the first base entrance will see stairs flamboyantly decorated in the colors of Ninkasi Brewing’s Brightberry Raspberry Lime Ale. The design is the first hint about the craft beers available at the ballpark.
Up the stairs down the right field line are two bronze busts. The statues are of former University of Oregon head baseball coaches Mel Krause and Don Kirsch. Krause was a baseball and basketball letterman at UO. He also coached the Ducks from 1971-1981 before the program was dropped. A former two-sport star at UO, Kirsch coached the baseball team from 1948-1970. He never had a losing season during 23 years in charge and took the Ducks to the 1954 College World Series.
Eating at the ballpark
The Eugene Emeralds offer a variety of food regardless of your tastes. The most popular place for traditional ballpark fare is Dugout Diner, which is just behind first base. It offers burgers, hot dogs, and fries. On field level past first base is a food truck that serves a mix of typical ballpark food, but also some unique items like the Donut Burger and Sweet Heat Burger.
Along the third base line there are two unique options. The El Super Taco food cart serves tacos carne asada and tacos al pastor in addition to loaded nachos with a choice of carne asada or al pastor meat. The other option is locally-made ice cream from Prince Puckler’s. A Eugene institution since 1975, Prince Puckler’s serves Em and Em (made with M&M’s) at the ballpark just for Sluggo fans.
It was difficult choosing between the different items at the ballpark. I opted to split the difference and sampled traditional ballpark fare and something out of left field. I got a cheeseburger from Dugout Diner and a Maple Bacon Brat from the Pitchin’ Kitchen food truck.
I usually avoid typical ballpark fare, but the cheeseburger was really delicious. The beef was juicy and tasty, the Tillamook cheddar was flavorful, and the fresh lettuce and tomato brought a great crunch to the whole item. The Maple Bacon Brat was a mix between salty and sweet as the maple syrup complemented the salty bacon and bratwurst.
Drinking at the ballpark
Almost every concession stand serves beer. However, the best location is the Ninkasi Brewing Beer Garden, which is past home plate on the third base side. Mixed drinks are also available at the beer garden.
The best spot for drinks on the first base side is the Party Yard. There is a canopy tent that serves the public, but also those in the picnic pavilion to the right.
Additionally there are a handful of portable beer carts throughout the concourse, which are clearly labeled “beer” using the Eugene Emeralds’s unique lettering.
Ninkasi Brewing is the exclusive craft beer available at PK Park. However, fans can also find macrobrews on draft. The best deal is $3 Thursday when Hamm’s tall boys are only $3 and 32-ounce Pepsi fountain drinks are also $3.
Watching the ballgame
With seats right behind home plate, my wife Katie & I watched a few innings before we sought out food. The backdrop for PK Park is rather plain, but trees seem appropriate for a ballpark in the Pacific Northwest. A benefit of a 4,000-seat stadium is that virtually every seat has a great view of the action. However, the extension of ballpark netting makes it more difficult for the average fan to get a clear photo of the game action without moving around during the game. So after having a bite to eat at my seat, I found spots just past the netting on the first and third base lines that allowed me to capture some game action.
I missed out on capturing photos of the top prospects playing for the Boise Hawks and Eugene Emeralds, but did capture the Ems wearing their tie-dye jerseys on “Animal House” Night. Perhaps most importantly Katie & I got our photo taken with Sluggo, the Emeralds’s mascot, wearing last season’s “Animal House” jersey.
Recapping the fan experience
The Eugene Emeralds may share PK Park with the University of Oregon baseball program, but they have done a lot to make the ballpark their own. Fans may see a lot of Duck logos walking into the ballpark, but once you are inside you’d never know you were on a college campus. From the food to the promotions and beyond, the Eugene Emeralds have made PK Park a true Minor League ballpark and provide fans with a winning experience.
Final: Boise 1, Eugene 11