Chronological Tour: Stop 366

Baseball Hops Out to Hillsboro

Home plate (the only) entrance to Hillsboro Ballpark, Aug-2013.

The structure along the third-base side is Hillsboro Stadium, a football field which shares its concession stands with the new park.

The park is part of a larger city recreation complex.

Quick Facts: Rating: 3 baseballs

The city of Portland nearly became home to Major League Baseball in the early 2000s. It was in the running to receive the Montréal Expos franchise that was ultimately awarded to the District of Columbia. Just a few years later, though, the Rose City lost its Triple-A team when Jeld-Wen Field was converted to full-time use for the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer and no replacement baseball stadium was built.

Soon thereafter, outlying areas started bargaining for the opportunity to build a home for a Northwest League team, soon revealed to be the Yakima Bears. At first, it appeared that Vancouver, Wash., had the inside track, but voters in Clark County rejected the stadium proposal. Then Hillsboro, Ore., stepped in. The Washington County seat, 14 miles west of Portland, already had the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex that included Hillsboro Stadium, a facility used mainly for high school football. They arranged to use a piece of land adjoining the football field for a new professional baseball park, which would share concession stands with the football stadium. The rest of the proposal quickly came together, and the team opened the 2013 season as the Hillsboro Hops, in honor of the region’s production of the plant vital to the process of brewing beer. The team logo features the hop plant, and the mascot is named Barley, for another beer ingredient.

The park received a naming sponsor in 2014. The sons of Ron Tonkin, a prominent auto dealer in the Portland area, paid the naming rights fee for the park after Tonkin died in January of that year. The naming honors the memory of the well-known personality in addition to keeping the name in front of the local motoring public.

Getting to the Game

The ballpark is visible from Sunset Highway, which is the US 26 freeway as it passes through Hillsboro. (In a twist unique to Oregon, highways bear touring route numbers but are officially known by their names.) The nearest access is from the exit for Cornelius Pass Road; the drive into the recreation complex is about a mile from the exit.

There is light rail from Portland to Hillsboro, and a bus connection brings visitors fairly close to the park, but there does not appear to be a scheduled stop at the nearest intersection (NW 229 St & Evergreen Parkway). Additionally, that bus line does not run on weekends.

Watching the Game

Thanks to the use of the football grandstand and concession stands for part of the stadium structure, the orientation from home plate to center field is slightly west of south. This is unusual (most fields face northeast), and it makes the third-base bleachers truly bleachers for the first several innings of a night game, as fans are staring into the setting sun. As a result, the club gets $3 more for first-base seats. There is also a berm in left field; it is possible to walk around the entire field, and there are even a few vantage points outside the park. (Interestingly, the baseball stadium displaced a softball field that faced just north of west, meaning the batter was staring into the sun!)

The center two sections behind the plate are premium seats, commanding extra dough beyond the price of the first-base seats (and all the seats are relatively expensive for minor league ball, though, interestingly, not for the Northwest League). Those patrons also have use of an indoor lounge area with full bar service, with windows open to the field as well as to the concourse. That feature makes it possible for fans walking past the lounge to actually see the game.

I had two personal gripes with the park. One is that it uses artificial turf. As good as the new varieties of turf are, I firmly believe that baseball should be played on grass and dirt. The other is that there is no whiteboard for the lineups, although the customer service desk on the concourse offers the rosters for both teams and will give you a copy of the lineups if you ask for it. (The latter gripe was fixed by my 2017 visit.)

Enjoying the Game

The stadium seating is only about 13 rows high, and it extends pretty far down each foul line. The seats way down the lines are no less expensive than the rest of the seats in their sections, and it is very difficult to enjoy the game down there.

Perhaps my biggest problem with the park is that there is only one way in and one way out. When a game sells out and most everyone stays until the end because it was a good game (as mine was in 2013), over four thousand people are making their way to home plate, creating traffic jams on the concourse and causing a fire and safety hazard. An usher told me that the State of Oregon would not allow other gates to be opened at the end of the game, citing alcoholic beverage control concerns, but I would think the safety of the patrons might override the possibility that someone sneaks out the right-field gate with a beer in hand.

Game # Date League Level Result
1282 Sat 24-Aug-2013 Northwest A Boise 2, HILLSBORO 1
1570 Fri 4-Aug-2017 Northwest A Vancouver 4, HILLSBORO 2
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This page updated 4-Aug-2017