Green Bay, Wis.
Although 54-year-old Lambeau Field is the longest continuously occupied stadium in the National Football League, the home of the Green Bay Packers has kept up with the times.
An extensive renovation in 2003 not only increased the stadium’s seating capacity and added more creature comforts for fans, such as wider concession concourses and more restrooms, but also added a five-story, glass-wall atrium with a two-story gift shop, an interactive game area and a full-dining restaurant in addition to an expanded Packers Hall of Fame, which was moved from across the street.
Behind-the-scenes, 55-minute tours of Lambeau Field begin in the atrium and include most areas of the stadium, including the exclusive Club Level and the Legends Club, and access to the field.
“You walk through the players tunnel right onto Lambeau Field,” said Krissy Zegers, Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and stadium tours director. “We have crowd noise, and you get to feel just like the players running through on game day.”
The tours are offered seven days a week and include an outdoor plaza where there are 14-foot-tall bronze statues of legendary Packer coaches Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau, for whom the field is named.
The Packer Hall of Fame has extensive interactive displays about the team’s rich history, along with its four Super Bowl trophies, which are named for Lombardi.
Huntington Ball Park
The three-year-old Huntington Park, home of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, has drawn accolades from sports publications for its design, its amenities and its homage to the past.
“It’s a very cozy park; everybody is very close to the field,” said Joe Santry, director of communications and public relations for the Clippers, a farm team of the Cleveland Indians. “There are a number of restaurants and bars in the ballpark and great art work throughout the park.
“We didn’t want anybody forgotten, so somewhere in the park there are photos of almost every player who has played here since 1866, along with memorabilia. It is displayed throughout the park, in the concourses and restaurants.”
The park, located in Columbus’ Arena District, has retained a charming tradition from the past with large windows in the outfield fence that allow passersby to watch a game for free, patterned after the old-time Knot Hole Gangs.
Santry said there is a mini-Green Monster, similar to the famous wall in Boston’s Fenway Park, in right field, only 318 feet from home. “You can walk out onto the wall and look at the right fielder,” he said.
Another feature patterned after a historic major league park is the open-air rooftop bleachers atop a three-story building in left field, similar to the bleachers on the rooftops of buildings across from Wrigley Field.
The second floor of the building has a 110-foot-long bar with six open patios overlooking the field. The walls and even the bar top are filled with memorabilia of former Columbus players.
Prairie Meadows Racetrack
Although Prairie Meadows, 10 miles north of Des Moines, has thoroughbred and quarter horse racing for much of the year and a year-round casino with 1,500 slots and 33 table games, one of the more interesting aspects to the track is its backstretch tour.
Starting in the paddock, where horses are saddled for races, the tour takes visitors to the jockeys’ quarters, where guides explain the various equipment, such as saddles, whips, goggles, helmets and boots.
“We let you feel them and how little they weigh,” said one of the guides.
The tour then goes to the barn area, where there are 1,300 stalls in 25 barns. Visitors can see horses being walked or groomed, talk to trainers, and visit the kitchen and the secretary’s area, where entries are made.
“We explain about the on-site vets and other services,” said the guide. “This is like a whole city unto itself.”
Prairie Meadows is adding a 168-room hotel attached by a covered walkway to the racetrack and casino. It is expected to open in the spring.