Erica Flory had never been to Constellation Field before Aug. 3.
Now she’s not sure how she went without it.
“I didn’t expect it to be this much fun for (my kids), but they love it so much,” she said.
Flory, a Katy resident who was in Sugar Land meeting up with friends for the Skeeters’ home game against the Lancaster Barnstormers, thought the experience would be similar to the dozens of other baseball games she had attended. In other words, she expected having to corral her three kids while simultaneously trying to watch the game and have a good time with friends.
Little did she know she was in for the Constellation Field experience – which features much more than the action on the field. A playground, swimming pool, basketball court and patio bar are among the amenities at the home of the Skeeters, an independent minor league organization that has used them to help create a fan-friendly environment and social gathering spot for residents of Fort Bend County and beyond.
Those features remain constant regardless of how the Skeeters perform on the field. They are the defending Atlantic League champions and already are guaranteed a playoff berth this year, but when Flory attended, they lost 8-1 in a game marred by a bench-clearing brawl.
“Not everybody is into baseball, and we understand that,” said Skeeters assistant general manager Kyle Dawson, who also serves as the team’s vice president for community engagement. “We want to make sure we have the full entertainment value for anyone who comes to the ballpark.”
Just beyond the center-field wall, the Children’s Memorial Hermann Play Land provides entertainment options for children of all ages. The playground area includes a variety of jungle gym equipment and slides, a state-of-the-art Sport Court of Texas basketball court and a splash pad.
“It’s challenging enough for my 8-year-old, it’s a good experience for my 5-year-old, and I love that they have the basketball court for my 14-year-old,” Flory said before the game as she watched her kids run, swing and jump around the grounds.
Meanwhile, Constellation Field’s Bud Light Ice House features a view of the playing field, open patio seating and an outdoor grill. It’s also where two postgame concerts were performed earlier this season.
The H-E-B plaza behind the left-field wall boasts an expansive shaded area, a pool pavilion and easy access to the playground. Down the right-field line, children also have access to inflatables and a baseball simulator.
“It’s just so ideal for little kids. You’ve got the water park, the play area, you’ve got kid food galore, then you can throw in a little bit of baseball,” Sugar Land resident Judy Hafner said as her 15-month-old granddaughter Jackson splashed gleefully through the water.
Operating as an integral cog of the franchise since its inaugural season in 2012, Dawson said the organization’s community engagement brain trust is constantly formulating new ideas – such as replacing a carousel with the Sport Court two years ago – or sometimes going on a whim with in-game ideas such as Kovu the Bat Dog or the Rally Sloth, both of which were introduced this season. The Skeeters rank third in the league with an average nearly 4,500 fans per contest at Constellation Field, a 7,500-seat stadium. Given some of the alternative entertainment options in Sugar Land and Fort Bend County, such as Main Event or Urban Air Trampoline Park, it’s a constant arms race to attract more visitors.
“That’s what minor league baseball is all about – having fun, doing the quirky stuff, and fans are loving it. It’s all about listening to your fans,” Dawson said. “It just brings more options to the family, because we’re competing against a lot of different things out there in the market. What we’re bringing is baseball on a more affordable level, and there are a lot more things for the family to do.”
Hafner, who lives about 2 miles from Constellation Field, said she and her daughter first brought her daughter’s kids to the park two years ago. And though the carousel they loved is now gone, the experience remains the same.
Hafner said it surpasses the atmosphere of any other professional sporting event.
“This is such an affordable experience for big families whose children are not going to sit still in their seats. They can just run around and be kids, and you can still see baseball,” she said. “There’s no comparison between the experiences. If you want to have a family event or outing, this is it.”
Flory echoed the sentiment as her youngest daughter Sarah ran through the water park and around the playground.
“The kids aren’t bored, and they have something to do,” she said. “Typically at a sporting event, the kids will sit and watch it for a few innings, but they get bored by the end of it. I think they’re going to enjoy this so much more.”
Jackson’s favorite pastime, Hafner said, is the splash pad, where she spent much of her time before the Aug. 3 game.
“She loves the water, and she loves to think she’s big,” Hafner said. “She sees the older girls and just follows them around. She’s gotten big enough that she can hold her own out here.”
So whether you enjoy baseball, lounging in the pool, knocking back an ice-cold drink or just a fun night out, Constellation Field brings it all to the table.
“You get to bring a lot of new, special memories to people,” Dawson said. “That’s the best part of this job.”