The longtime baseball fan favorite “ducks on the pond!” – a phrase used when a team has players in scoring position – took on a new meaning not long ago at Joe Martin Field.
The result is that senior citizens, many of whom have learned to love the accessible park, seldom have to make their way to the field only to endure a rainout.
“We had a couple of years where rain was so heavy that there really were ducks on the pond (on the old grassy field),” says Greg Hatch of the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department.
The city’s response was to install all-weather FieldTurf on the erstwhile grassy areas. This is the fourth season of artifical surface use by the Bellingham Bells, along with high school varsities and Class AAA American Legion teams.
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The stadium, near Lakeway Drive and bordering Orleans Street, offers slightly more than 1,500 seats, including about 500 under cover in the grandstand, which seniors love in order to avoid June rain and wind along with Bellingham’s generally short run of summer sun. The Bells open their home season June 4 against the Walla Walla Sweets.
The large, grassy sidelines behind the left-field fence allow for an attendance more than twice as large as the number of fans in the seats.
The grandstand follows the Americans with Disabilities Act by providing accessibility up a short ramp leading to the front for fans in wheelchairs and motorized vehicles. Likewise, restrooms near the ramps offer easy access for fans of all capacities.
Fans who have challenges with stairs can sit in the first row or two, or use the sideline seating. Local fans have a reputation of moving up a row or two for seniors who need to use the bottom rows.
Medical emergencies can be handled by team trainers and by calling 911, and there is almost always a doctor in the crowd. An automated external defibrillator is stored on-site. Fans who use oxygen bring their own.
The baseball stadium was built in 1964 and originally named Civic Field. It was renamed in 1980 for Joe Martin, whom Hatch notes was “Mr. Baseball in Bellingham” during his long tenure as manager of the Bells.
A large, free parking lot serves both Joe Martin Field and nearby Civic Stadium, allowing fans to park only minutes away from seating. Senior discounts are offered, helping to make Bells games among the cheapest entertainment in town.
Concession stands offer a range of food and drink, including beer.