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Home-run ballpark; 25 seasons later, the Bisons' home remains a jewel in downtown Buffalo

Pass the Cracker Jak. Thursday marked the opening day of Bisons baseball and the 25th season of Triple-A games at its gem of a ballpark, currently known as Coca-Cola Field. The first home game is Wednesday.

The Bisons organization has gone out of its way to celebrate this hallmark year. It's dug up old pictures and video footage, even produced a five-part coin series that will be distributed to fans one Saturday a month through August.

There's certainly a lot worth celebrating and remembering. Many fond family memories are rooted within the walls of this little baseball palace.

Unlike the sad and utilitarian-looking War Memorial Stadium, where the Bisons used to play, the downtown ballpark that opened in April 1988 represented a major achievement in retro-style stadium design that was ultimately adopted by cities across the country.

More importantly, the birth of what was then called "Pilot Field" is responsible for elevating and reinvigorating America's favorite pastime in Buffalo. Between its beauty and larger seating capacity, the stadium drew record crowds in its inaugural year.

Twenty-five years (and several forgettable names) later, those of us who are baseball fans still view the ballpark with open admiration. It's fitting that Coca-Cola Field has the honor of hosting the Triple-A All-Star game this year.

Of course, baseball is not the only entertainment to be found at the Home of the Herd. The outdoor stadium has served as host to innumerable summertime events -- everything from concerts to the annual chicken wing festival.

And despite its timeless exterior design, the stadium has undergone considerable modernization. Over the years, the Bisons have installed a new party deck and suites, and last year, a new field, lights and giant high-definition scoreboard.

The upgrades, a testament to the team's ownership, have kept the Bisons ballpark a downtown jewel. We can only hope that, this 25th season, the Bisons team lives up to the legacy of its home field and finishes with a winning record. We would be even more delighted if the Bisons brought an end to one of its longest playoff droughts in history.

In that regard, we welcome Wally Backman as the new manager of the Herd this season. The pressure's on, buddy.