City Park – Riverpigs of Tupper Lake
The little park that could
Independent professional baseball in Upstate New York has a winding history. The single-season efforts of the East Coast Baseball League and the North Country Baseball League were followed by the more successful Empire League in 2016, which since then has fielded between four and six teams each year.
Surviving intact from a 2020 Covid season played exclusively at Consol Energy Park in relatively remote western Pennsylvania, the Empire League has reformed every year since in slightly different configurations.
The small town of Tupper Lake wanted in on the action. In 2019, they did a quick renovation of the existing Lakeside City Park softball field into a retro-bandbox ballpark, only to see its planned first season erased during the pandemic. But the new Tupper Lake Riverpigs (named after the area’s past loggers) finally opened their new home in 2021.
Although a recent construction, the park feels like a little gem of yesteryear, with small-town baseball backed by regional outdoor entertainment. If this appeals to you, pay a visit as soon as possible. If not, there might be a better baseball stop for you.
Food and drink 2
The Empire League is a low budget affair. All food and drink on offer comes from the family-run Tyler’s Food Truck across from the park, representing some of the best food service in the league.
The name of the game here is “cheap and plentiful” (and cash only). Everything in the basket is $5 and under, and generous portions. Your main entrees are large slices of pizza ($3/$3.50), large cheeseburgers ($5), or hot dogs ($3).
Snacks include nachos ($4), popcorn ($3.50), ice cream ($3.50) and good old popsicles ($0.50). Water is $2 and sodas $2.50. There is no alcohol allowed in the park, so you can’t even bring your own drink.
You might as well get into the flavor of small town baseball and grab a soda, hot dog, and ice cream, which will cost you less than a soda at a big league venue.
The municipal park seems to be a place out of time. There was a time when seemingly every American city had a semi-professional stadium like this, and the experience you get here is largely unique to that time. But that highly depends on how attractive it is to you. If you want modern conveniences and comforts, or even the regular minor league/indie dog and pony show, this isn’t for you.
The park itself is a wooden music box behind home plate. The main seating area is basically a long, tiered wooden deck that locals usually sit on with the help of camping chairs. The area is covered and protected from the field by chain link fencing and chicken wire.
A small, uncovered wooden bleacher runs down the third base side behind the visitor dugout, and a small metal bleacher sits behind the dugout at the first base home. A small wooden announcer’s booth sits just down the right field line, with a small scoreboard to the side that provides the most basic stats.
The Empire League is a budget operation, and even the normal level of underage entertainment is not offered. No mascots, no giveaways, no weird contests. Besides the background music, the only distractions are a big drum with the team logo that is beaten whenever something good happens for the home team.
Although there is not much official entertainment, the view of the Raquette pond is simply magnificent. Watching the summer sun slowly set during a night game is worth the price of admission alone.
Sitting in the covered grandstand is probably the recommendation for just two bucks more. If you have a camping chair bring one or an inflatable cushion as they will definitely improve your seating experience.
In an outdoor-oriented tourist area, Little Tupper Lake is sometimes overlooked by its more well-known neighbors, but it has everything you’d expect from an upstate New York resort.
As a welcoming, blue-collar vacation town, there is an impressive selection of local restaurants just down the street from the park. Homestyle Amado, slightly upscale Well Dressed Food, cosmopolitan restaurant Reandeau’s Swiss Kitchen, and local Italian joint Little Italy are within walking distance of the park, and the Health Hub further down Park Street offers vegetarian and other healthy options .
Unsurprisingly, outdoor attractions abound in the heart of the Adirondacks. Just east of town, the Wild Center is the top local attraction, with elaborate rope bridges and walks both educational and entertaining.
The Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory sits north of the city, allowing visitors to see what they miss in the city sky. And there are plenty of local shops to help you with whatever boating, fishing, biking, or hiking you want to do on the lake or in one of the nearby natural areas.
A regional vacation spot, Tupper Lake has a number of places to rest. The Lakeside Sunset Park Motel and the Tupper Lake Motel are both within easy walking distance of the park. Shaheen’s Adirondack Inn and Park Motel and Cabins are further down Park Street, while the Faust Motel is further north towards Main Street and Northwood Cabins is just outside of town.
After waiting for their franchise’s first home game for a pandemic year, Tupper Lake has an active fan base. The crowd that shows up is very interested in the game, even at this level of play. happy fans cheer in the beautiful lakeside view.
Even at this level of independent ball, Tupper Lake seems to have quite a large local following, which is successful in these surroundings. Crowds start out small, but grow as the game progresses, until not only is the grandstand mostly full, but the bleachers in the wings have fans in the seats, and local kids can even rush to the toilet in the center for a view of the game.
You will likely be driving to the park unless you are staying at one of the nearby hotels. So the good news is that parking is free and it’s easy to get in and out.
Deep in the Adirondacks, it’s perhaps no surprise that the only means of transportation is limited local bus service ($3/one way) that benefits major city stops (including the park) and other surrounding areas. Getting to Tupper Lake by public transit is also problematic.
Coming from the south, the train will take you to Burlington or Albany, where buses will take you to nearby Saranac Lake (or fly to Saranac Lake Regional Airport), but you’ll have to travel the last half-mile. hour to Tupper Lake. Driving is clearly your best and only bet.
Parking at the municipal park is plentiful and free, so good news there. On game day there is an entrance from the first base side which is more than enough for the crowd.
What there is of the park is served by the main walkway at the base of the bleachers and the grandstand. The toilets are located in a building in the central field.
At this level of indie baseball – similar to the lowest minors – the goal is to provide inexpensive, family-oriented entertainment. Without the bells and whistles the Affiliate Miner puts out, what remains is the ball game on the pitch and the company of your fellow patrons.
Suggested ticket price is $8/$6 for covered grandstand or uncovered bleachers. Children are free and military members get a discount. It’s slightly higher than the $5 adult ticket price elsewhere in the league, but it’s the nicest park.
Food is cheap, parking is free and there is no program. It’s an incredibly inexpensive evening, even if you pay top dollar for tickets.
There are no extras or anything to speak of at the ballpark, other than the park itself that surrounds it. The fantastic lake view during and after the game is all you get.
If you want a slice of Americana that you thought was gone for good, a visit to City Park is for you. But for those looking for more modern conveniences and entertainment, there are better places to visit.
Did you enjoy this content? Help support our work by become a supporter of Stadium Journey on Patreon. Support levels start at just $2/month.