Moving to Texas ten years ago, I had no idea minor league baseball would become such a big part of my life. Sure, I was a Tigers fan and made my pilgrimages to Comerica Park, but I don’t think I appreciated the MiLB the way I do now that I’m a Texan. A lot of that has to do with Dr Pepper Ballpark (DPB), my home away from home.
To share some of what a gem Frisco, Texas has, I talked with Zach Bigley (ZB), RoughRiders Manager of Media Development/Broadcaster and Scott Burchett (SB), Chief Operating Officer. Here was our conversation:
When did Frisco start the process of bringing MiLB to its city?
ZB: On December 3, 2001, Southwest Sports Group and Mandalay Sports Entertainment reached an agreement of joint ownership of a Double-A, Texas League franchise in Frisco.
How long did construction take on Dr Pepper Ballpark? Did anything unusual happen during construction?
SB: The ballpark first broke ground on February 6, 2002 and was finished by Opening Day on April 3, 2003. On Opening Night, our first game was delayed because, at the time we had a live horse mascot. It got spooked by the pregame fireworks and ran across the field. Because the sod was just laid a few days earlier, they had to fix the hoof divots throughout the outfield before first pitch.
Speaking of the physical ballpark itself, what do you feel makes DPB so unique?
ZB: Dr Pepper Ballpark features something that no other ballpark has: The Lazy River. The RoughRiders originally announced the building of The Lazy River in February of 2016, becoming the first attraction of its kind in a professional sporting venue. Longer than an Olympic-sized pool at 174 feet in length, The Lazy River contains more than 68,000 gallons of water, which is eight-times larger than the pool in right-center field at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. With our hot summers here in north Texas, being able to watch a game from the water is just about as unique as it gets.
SB: The ballpark was built to feel like a “park within a park” atmosphere. There are over 250 trees on ballpark grounds and great attention was paid to making you feel like you were in a city park when you enter Dr Pepper Ballpark.
It’s a Saturday morning and you are at the ballpark all by yourself. Where do you go? In other words, what part of the park feels like “home” to you?
ZB: The best thing to do is just to hangout and be by yourself in the empty ballpark before the game. While the cliché answer is that there is not a bad seat in the park, it certainly is the case at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Some of my favorite spots are not actually physical seats. The best views are actually from the berm in the outfield, from The Lazy River or even from the concourse.
What is a unique dining option park goers should consider other than the concession stands? Also, if I could only eat or drink one thing, what are some suggestions?
SB: There are plenty of wonderful dining options at Dr Pepper Ballpark. If fans want to break away from the baseball traditions of hot dogs and hamburgers of the concessions stands, two of my favorites are the Sausage Shack or the Street Tacos. The Tacos are fresh made to order right in front you. When you’re out at the park, be sure to try the RoughRiders Red Ale, a personal favorite of mine brewed by Franconia in McKinney.
What is your favorite memory of DPB?
SB: While I have many, Dude Perfect Night was incredible in 2018. It was awesome to see our largest crowd in franchise history (12,067) and the whole night was a testament about what makes Minor League Baseball such a special outing for the whole family.
It’s someone’s first visit to the park. What shouldn’t they miss?
ZB: Besides the obvious Lazy River in right field, fans visiting Dr Pepper Ballpark for the first time should be sure to make the walk around the whole 360-degree concourse. From behind home plate to the berm in the outfield, every angle provides a fun perspective on the game and the beautiful park. The sun also sets parallel to the third-base line, so for a sunset, being in right field is your best bet.
Let’s talk Brooks! Why was the decision made to have a ballpark dog? How did you find Brooks? Is Brooks at DPB even when there isn’t a game or only game times?
SB: In 2015, Brooks joined the team after some time with Guide Dogs for the Blind. He already had the name Brooks when we got him, but it works perfectly because of the baseball connection of the brilliant defensive Brooks Robinson. Our “Chief Morale Officer” is at the ballpark every day in the office and he comes out and sees the fans during games as well. The players love him and, believe it or not, Brooks will sometimes let himself down to the clubhouse. He’ll jump into the elevator when it opens up and then ride down to say hi to the team.
Thinking of the numerous employees at the ballpark who work hard to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone- who is someone (other than yourself or each other) who really embodies the spirit of DPB? Why?
SB: There are plenty of staff members that embody what it means to work for this wonderful organization. From game day staff members to full-time employees, everyone plays their part in making every fan’s experience unique and amazing for every game. If I had to single out one person that makes a huge impact on the fan experience, it typically more behind the scenes, and I would pick our Director of Maintenance Alfonso Bailon. He actually was on the crew that originally built the ballpark and we hired him on full time staff after the ballpark was constructed. He knows this beautiful ballpark inside and out and we couldn’t do what we do without his expertise.
Thanks to Zach and Scott for their time.
From the Lazy River to the “Chief Morale Officer” Brooks, you can’t go wrong with an afternoon or evening spent at Dr Pepper Ballpark. If you have yet to go out and check all that it has to offer, what’s stopping you? I know you, too, will have a fantastic time at the gem of Frisco!