New Stadium: Melaleuca Field
Old stadium razed, rebuilt, and renamed Melaleuca Field in recognition of an essential contribution by a locally-based health and wellness company, Melaleuca, Inc.
Idaho Falls Chukars
2004-present: Idaho Falls Chukars, Kansas City Royals
Idaho Falls Padres
2000-2003: Idaho Falls Padres, San Diego Padres
Idaho Falls Braves
1986-94: Idaho Falls Braves, Atlanta Braves. 1995-99: Owned by the San Diego, Padres.
Idaho Falls Nuggets
Idaho Falls A’s
1982-84: Idaho Falls A's, Oakland Athletics
Renamed: McDermott Field
The Highland Park field is renamed McDermott Field in honor of a local longtime supporter of the team, E.F. McDermott
New Stadium Opens
A new concrete stadium is ready for opening day. It replaces the wooden Highland Park grandstand, destroyed by fire after last season
Grandstand burns down
The grandstand at Highland Park burns to the ground. Supporters rally to construct a new facility
Idaho Falls Angels
1964 Idaho Falls Angels, Los Angeles Angels. 1965-81 owned by the California Angels
Idaho Falls Yankees
1962-63 Idaho Falls Yankees, NY Yankees
League Play Suspended
1943-45 League play is suspended by war. But for these years, Idaho Falls has hosted a professional team since 1940 and is the longest continuous member of the Pioneer League.
Idaho Falls Russets
1940-41 owned by the NY Yankees, 1948 owned by the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1949-51 owned by the New York Giants, 1954-58 owned by the Detroit Tigers, 1959 owned by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and 1960-61 owned by the Chicago White Sox.
Covered grandstands built
A newly constructed, covered grandstand is ready for the 1940 baseball season at Highland Park and the return of professional baseball to Idaho Falls.
Idaho Falls Spuds
1926-1928 Idaho Falls Spuds, Utah-Idaho League
First grandstand bleachers seating built at Highland Park.
First Baseball Diamond
A baseball diamond is scratched into the remnants of a beet field at Highland Park.
Matt Taylor build bridge
Matt Taylor builds a bridge across the Snake River and a town grows up around it, later to be known as Idaho Falls.
*Dates are approximate. Click the circles to learn more.
aseball has been a part of Idaho Falls
almost as long as the city has existed. Within a few years of 1865, when Matt Taylor built his toll bridge across the Snake River to launch the beginnings of the town, settlers were playing ball on the riverbank.
The city’s first park was created about a mile to the northeast of Taylor’s bridge, and by 1919 baseball was literally “dug in” to the fabric of Idaho Falls. Enthusiasts of the game scratched a baseball diamond in the soil of an old beet field adjacent to the park–and the game was on.
1926 saw the first local professional baseball team on record, with the Idaho Falls Spuds winning the Utah-Idaho League championship for ’26 and ’27. They cellared in ’28, though, when the prohibitive costs of travel in the mountainous region rendered the team and the league financially impractical.
For the next dozen years, there were plenty of baseball games played at the field, but there was no professional action in town. All of that changed in 1940, though, when local supporters raised funds to erect covered grandstands at what had become known as “Highland Park” to attract a 1939 Pioneer League startup team, the Lewiston Indians. Moving to Idaho Falls for the 1940 season, the team became the Russets–an affiliate of the New York Yankees. But for 1943-1945, when Pioneer League play was suspended in support of the war effort, Idaho Falls has fielded a professional baseball team every year since.
It was the first city park, the first site for a dance pavilion in town, and the first permanent structure built especially for professional baseball in Idaho Falls. Highland Park became a central gathering place for families wanting to have some fun, and it won a special place in the hearts of local citizens. When fire destroyed the old wooden structure in 1975, baseball supporters moved quickly to replace it with a “modern concrete facility.” The new structure was ready for opening day in 1976. During the Highland Park era, team affiliation made the rounds of professional teams. The New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, and California Angels all placed teams in Idaho Falls at various times. And the baseball-loving citizens of the area claimed players like Woody Main, Smoky Singleton, Billy Martin, Frank Gabler, Cuno Barragan, and Donn Clendenon as their own.
On July 7, 1977, the stadium was renamed in honor of “Mr. Baseball,” E.F. McDermott, publisher of the Idaho Falls newspaper and a diehard supporter of professional baseball in the community. The team continued their affiliation with the California Angels until 1982 season, when they changed uniforms to become the Idaho Falls A’s (Oakland). The Atlanta Braves claimed McDermott Field from 1986-1999, and the San Diego Padres called it home from 2000-2003. Then the Kansas City Royals came to town and the team became known as the Chukars, an affiliation that stands. Many of the McDermott Field players went on to make a name for themselves in the Big Leagues. Idaho Falls cheered players like Jose Canseco, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler. And through the excitement of championship years and the despair of in-the-cellar years, the residents of the Idaho Falls area continued to support their team. Attendance figures stayed strong and baseball played on.
The team’s owner, Dave Elmore, came to town for the opening game of the 2005 season – and he was appalled by what he saw. Almost 30 years of use had taken its toll on the facility, convincing Elmore it was time for an upgrade. He met with the mayor and civic leaders to chart a path for financing the project. For their part, the city launched a fundraising campaign, and given the supportive atmosphere for baseball in Idaho Falls, their effort seemed a sure success. A sharp rise in anticipated construction costs, however, caught them short. With a due date quickly approaching and the budget still half a million dollars short, the committee turned to a local businessman and CEO of Melaleuca, Inc.,Frank VanderSloot. Seeing minor league baseball as “an affordable family activity we are fortunate to have in this town,” VanderSloot then donated $600,000 to the effort – and Idaho Falls stepped up to a brand new facility. Once again, the construction was completed in the off-season so the team would not have to miss a single game. Melaleuca Field
was dedicated on June 22, 2007.
All told, Idaho Falls has fielded a team consecutively since 1940 (but for the suspension of league play during WWII), giving it the longest continual record of any team in the Pioneer League. Seating has gone from wooden benches to a modern stadium seating more than 3,751 fans, and announcers, like beloved local personalities Jim Garchow and Mel Richardson, have broadcast the games live to the enthusiastic crowds. Today’s visitors to the ballpark can enjoy the game from a luxury suite, a box seat or a hot tub down the right field line. You can even follow the action and join in the conversation on Twitter.
Only one thing remains the same: Idaho Falls loves baseball. Some things never change.