|Sahlen Field (nee Pilot Field) is best known as the ballpark which started the movement of parks back to the downtown areas. Even before there was Camden Yards, Buffalo was setting the trend. Originally built so it could be expanded to support a Major League team, Sahlen Field was a state of the art facility when it opened in 1988 and drew rave reviews as well as lots of fans (over a million per season for several years). While Buffalo is no longer seen as a viable MLB market, the Bisons continue to draw well in their downtown ballpark.
- The atmosphere is relaxing and the crowd is lively and into the game. Because of the sheer size of the park (capacity is about 20,000), it is not possible to have a typical minor league experience. Clearly most fans are here to watch the game. Another good thing - the ushers don't bother you at all.
- The scoreboard in center field is quite impressive, perhaps the biggest in all of the minor leagues.
- Sightlines are good from almost all the seats. There are no railings or other obstructions. Some of the outfield seats are a bit far from the action, but unless there is a huge crowd, you should be able to get a ticket in the infield. There are also plenty of seats located under cover, so if you want to avoid the sun or rain, it is possible to.
- The team has a Hall of Fame located along the first level concourse. It has a rotating exhibits - when I visited in 2013, it was dedicated to the move The Natural, much of which was filmed in Buffalo at the Bisons previous ballpark, War Memorial Stadium.
- There are two concourses - one at the main level and one at the top of the seating bowl. This alleviates some of the congestion since the concourses are not that spacious and must be crowded on nights when there are large crowds.
- The WCC (Wing, Cheese, Celery) race is contested in the 6th inning. This seems to be the one contest which all the fans look forward to. As with many of these races, there is always a perennial loser - in this case it is Celery.
- A bar-like seating area is located behind the right field fence. Though this wasn't originally part of the ballpark (there had been bleachers in the outfield), this is one of the renovations that has been done to try to bring Coca-Cola Field up to modern standards.
- This ballpark, more than any other, was responsible for the boom of minor league parks which were built in the 1990's. Because it was ahead of its time, there are some commonly seen features that are missing. There is no wraparound concourse and I'm not sure one could even fit because of how close the road is behind the left field fence. Also, the concourses are not in view of the playing field, so it is not a good place to wander around. Unfortunately there is not even a center concourse (split in the seating bowl).
- The park is just too big! Because of the large capacity, there is just no sense of intimacy. I would imagine at some point they would remove some seats in an attempt to make it feel more like a typical minor league park.
- The downtown setting means that parking is not cheap. Unless you can park on the street, it will cost you $7 - $10 to park. The parking garage behind the right field fence is where most fans park.
- The seats are fading and there are places where paint is peeling. New seats and a fresh coat of paint would make this place feel new again.
Sahlen Field has actually held up quite well over the years despite it being the first in a huge wave of new minor league ballparks. Yes, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles found at newer parks, but it is still a clean, comfortable place to take in a game. It is actually nice to visit a ballpark which doesn't feel like every other new park in the country. Now if they could just do some renovations that would seem overdue, this place could once again be recognized as one of the top minor league parks.
- The main concourse has numerous concession stands offering a good variety of food and beer options. Prices tend to be a bit on the high side, but this is expected for a city that considers itself "major league".
- Charlie the Butcher's stand, located behind home plate on the main concourse, has some of the most unique food options including the famous Beef on Weck. They also have a fried bologna sandwich and buttered spuds, both of which are quite tasty.
- As can be expected, Buffalo wings can be found here. Also, in honor of their new affiliation with the Blue Jays, the Bisons have now started offering poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds).