Sahlen Field

From BR Bullpen

Home of Buffalo Bisons, 1988 to present and Toronto Blue Jays (2020 and 2021)

(also known as Pilot Field, North AmeriCare Park, Dunn Tire Park, Coca-Cola Field)


BUILT: 1988

CAPACITY: Seats 16,097 (reduced in a 2017 renovation); all-time record baseball crowd: 21,050, June 1, 1990 (Team website); in its current configuration: 16,409 (Box score)

FIRST GAME: April 14, 1988

HIGH SEASON ATTENDANCE: 1,240,951 (1991)


The outside of the ballpark
The interior of the ballpark
Aerial view of the field, known as Dunn Tire park at the time.

Sahlen Field is the home of the Buffalo Bisons, the Toronto Blue Jays' International League farm team. It also hosts the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.

Restrictions on crossing the Canada-United States border resulted in Sahlen serving as the home ballpark for most of the Jays' shortened 2020 season as well as the 2021 season from June 1st through July 21st. While the 2020 games were played without spectators, tickets to the first eight-game homestand of 2021 sold out in less than six hours.

The 2020 choice of Buffalo was announced only hours prior to the Jays' first game of the season, on July 24th, and the team added that it would first make improvements to the ballpark's locker rooms and lighting system to bring these closer to major league standards. It was ready to host its first MLB game on August 11th, with the Blue Jays hosting the Miami Marlins. The Blue Jays played very well in their temporary digs, which was key to their securing a spot in the postseason. In 2021, with the border still closed, they started the year at their spring training complex, TD Ballpark, in Dunedin, FL, but moved back to Buffalo later during the summer. In order to prepare the facilities for their use once again, the Bisons moved temporarily as well, to the Trenton, NJ stadium - then Arm & Hammer Park, now renamed Trenton Thunder Ballpark - that had just lost its Double-A team. The Bisons stated that in spite of the inconvenience of moving out temporarily to make way for the parent club, they would benefit from the numerous improvements made to the park to accommodate the parent Blue Jays, including better lighting, and renovated dugouts and clubhouses.

In early July, as vaccination numbers soared in Canada and provinces were easing restrictions in gatherings, the Jays sought permission to return home starting July 30th. A positive decision was announced on July 16th. The Bisons, speaking previously about what would happen if the Jays were to return home during the season, said that it would take them about two weeks to transfer back to Sahlen Field from Trenton. After the Toronto announcement, the Bisons said they would return to Sahlen for their next homestand starting August 10th. "Re-opening Day" not only came off as scheduled, the Bisons bombed the Rochester Red Wings, 11-0.

Opened in 1988, the ballpark's name has changed relatively often. Fifth name sponsor Sahlen Packing added 2019-2028 naming rights to its 2012 hot-dog contract at the start of the 2019 season. It was Coca-Cola Field from 2008 to 2018, following Dunn Tire Field, North AmeriCare Park, and originally Pilot Field. A brief stint without a naming rights contract, after Pilot defaulted, went as Downtown Ballpark. Even after renovations that reduced its seating, the Bisons say it can hold 16,000 - more than any other park in minor league baseball. In its current configuration, its record one-game crowd is 16,409. Its original design allowed for expandability, in case Buffalo ever got a Major League team. Buffalo is the only city identified to be part of the would-be Continental League that did not go on to land a Major League franchise.

Architect HOK Sport (now Populous) soon went iconic with Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Generally regarded as the debut of HOK's "downtown retro" design, Pilot Field was actually HOK's third professional baseball park. Five years after the 1983 Louisville Redbirds' first-in-the-minors 1 million attendance, the Bisons started a streak of six straight seasons above that benchmark. Their 1,240,951 total in 1991 remains the minor-league single-season record.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jon Campbell: "How a Buffalo hot dog company lucked into naming rights on big-league stadium", USA Today, August 11, 2020. [1]
  • Keegan Matheson: "Blue Jays to play home games in Buffalo", mlb.com, July 24, 2020. [2]
  • Keegan Matheson: "Sahlen Field transformed for home opener", mlb.com, August 10, 2020. [3]



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