Like many Minor League teams the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are the center of a development plan. For years Keizer mayor Dennis Koho and community leaders sought to boost their local economy. Ultimately they began looking for a Minor League team to anchor a shopping complex on the edge of town. The plan came to fruition when the owners of the Bellingham Giants agreed to relocate their franchise, which gave birth to the Volcanoes in 1997.
Arriving at the ballpark
Although Volcanoes Stadium is visible from I-5, it is not as easy to reach as it appears. Fans turn onto Stadium Drive and then navigate through Keizer Station shopping center before arriving at the ballpark. Parking costs $5 per vehicle. Cherriots, which is the Salem area’s public transit system, is another option for fans. Routes #11 and #19 are the two lines that serve Keizer Station, but neither drops fans directly at the ballpark. Additionally, buses only operate on weekdays and service stops at 9 p.m.
Entering the ballpark
Volcanoes Stadium has one ticket window, but two entrances. The closest entrance to the ticket office is to the right of home plate. Fans can easily spot the entrance when walking up to buy tickets. Alternatively fans can enter to the left of home plate, which is closer to the in-stadium entrance to the team store.
Exploring the ballpark
Fans who enter the stadium using the entrance on the right will immediately see a 2008 Dodge Charger Daytona decked out as the ultimate San Francisco Giants’ fan car.
The vehicle belongs to a game-day employee. As the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes have been a Giants affiliate since coming to town, it was only logical that his support of the Volcanoes extend to their MLB parent and manifest itself in this spectacular automobile.
Another unique sight at the ballpark is the team’s time capsule, which commemorates the total solar eclipse that passed over the stadium in 2017.
With a fairly small concourse the kids’ play zone is set back behind the third base line. Although a bit removed from the game action, it allows the Volcanoes to have a large area solely for children.
The most deceptive element of the ballpark is the sign visible from the highway. As drivers pass the stadium it appears to be fairly easy to access once exiting the interstate. Unfortunately for fans who may attempt to make a spontaneous visit to the ballpark they would be disappointed to find that it takes more than a few minutes to reach the ballpark after leaving the highway.
Volcanoes Stadium seats approximately 4,200 people with suite boxes above the press box immediately behind home plate. So any seat in the grandstand provides fans with an excellent view of the action.
Eating at the ballpark
Volcanoes Stadium is relatively small, so it does not take long to walk the entire concourse and check out food options. However, the club distributes a handy stadium menu pamphlet that lists each concession stand and the available items. Despite having this in hand, I chose to walk around the park to take in the sights and smells of each stand. The best part of the food experience at the ballpark is the emphasis on local food.
A trio of stands greet fans entering to the right of home plate: Café Yumm!, El Patrón Mexican Grill, and Keto Korner. Cafe Yumm! is a regional fast, casual restaurant chain that is known for rice bowls and bentos. Keto Korner may be the only concession stand at an American ballpark specializing in low-carb cuisine. El Patrón is a locally-owned Mexican restaurant that serves burritos, tacos, and ballpark staple nachos.
The other dining option along the first base line is Southpaw’s Pizza. Southpaw’s is an Albany-based pizzeria that serves personal-size pizzas at the park. The Bulldog is a meat lover’s dream come true. It has salami, pepperoni, sausage, and black olives.
Along the third base lines fans will find typical ballpark fare like chicken tenders, burgers, and hot dogs. The most notable stands are BBQ Nation and Urban German Grill’s Wienerwurst Hut.
Urban German Grill sells cured meats in Portland and offers a traditional German bratwurst and Bavarian bierwurst. BBQ Nation spans the spectrum of barbecue by offering pulled pork and brisket in addition to the Ultimate Bacon Mac, which comes in small or large depending upon your appetite.
Drinking at the ballpark
Finding a beverage at a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes baseball game is incredibly easy. There is a canopy tent setup by the first base bleachers that serves beer.
Along the third base line is the ballpark’s ultimate beverage destination.
The Lava Lodge offers fans a typical bar atmosphere with seating inside and outside the facility. The interior features an AstroTurf carpet, but pours craft beer in addition to wine and cocktails. It’s a interesting blend between kitschy and comforting.
Although the bar setups are very welcoming the craft beer options are disappointing. With over 250 breweries in the state, I expected to find more than two locally-produced craft beer choices (2 Towns Ciderhouse and Deschutes Brewery).
Watching the ballgame
It’s cliche to say there isn’t a bad seat in the house, but that really is true regarding a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes game. I watched most of the game from my seats near home plate, but explored a bit to capture some game action. Notably I captured the Colorado Rockies’ 2019 first-round draft pick, Michael Toglia.
One huge benefit of watching short-season games is the abundance of recent draft picks on the rosters. So I also captured the Giants’ 2019 first-round selection, Hunter Bishop. Additionally, I got a shot of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes starting pitcher, Conner Nurse, who made his debut with the team.
Another perk of attending short-season baseball games is the ability to more easily find the team’s mascot. So when my wife Katie & I saw Crater we quickly and easily made a beeline to get out picture with him.
The most unique aspect of watching the game was “Roof Man.” He appeared late in the game to raucous applause as he lobbed giveaway items from atop the suite boxes. He also fired off a few rounds from a T-shirt gun.
Recapping the fan experience
There are only a handful of Minor League teams whose field has a backdrop of an interstate. Although it may be a minor visual detraction for the fan experience, there are multiple positives that outweigh the view. The service at the concession stands was quick and friendly. The food was delicious. Without a doubt, the food being local was super attractive. Some fans may want to eat typical ballpark fare, but it’s nice to have the option for something different, especially from a local eating establishment.
The in-game entertainment was fun, too. Practicing oohs and aahs before the Friday Fireworks show was fun. It prepared fans for a great finish to a great night at a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes ballgame.
Final: Boise 3, Salem-Keizer 4