When planning our family outings post-baby, sporting events ranked pretty low on the list for me and my husband. The idea of sitting through nine or more innings of baseball with nowhere to take our girl to play or nurse sounded like a nightmare. But, much to my relief, there are actually many family-friendly sports stadiums in the country and they feature not only nursing stations, but play areas and other dedicated spaces for new families.
The iconic image of a father and child enjoying a hotdog at the ballpark was one that my Yankees-loving husband was eager to replicate when he became a father himself. But once reality hit us with the lack of accommodations in most public places for babies and young parents, as well as the toddler tantrum-filled life that we were bound to lead for a few years, we altered that plan a bit. Fortunately, quite a few sports stadiums take the needs and wants of parents into consideration and make attending games with your littles a reality or even, dare I say it, a pleasure.
New research compiled by Gametime — a mobile marketplace for last-minute tickets to live events — revealed the most family-friendly sports stadiums in the United States. From playgrounds to batting cages, nursing stations and stroller check-in, my husband may be able to make those ballpark memories after all.
Gametime's research found that "42 percent of the big four sports venues (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL) don’t have any dedicated space for mothers to breastfeed." But that means that more than half of them do, and being the glass-half-full type of gal that I am, I choose to focus on the upside. And like myself, you're probably wondering which stadiums do have mom-friendly areas.
The San Diego Padres' Petco Park, Washington Nationals' Nationals Park, and Cincinnati Reds' Great American Ball Park all feature nursing lounges with "a suite of comforts for new moms," according to Gametime. And beyond those three, other stadiums with three or more dedicated spaces for new moms are Milwaukee Bucks’ Fiserv Forum, Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium, San Francisco 49er’s Levi's Stadium, Houston Astro’s Minute Maid Park, Carolina Panther’s Bank of America Stadium, and Cleveland Brown’s FirstEnergy Stadium.
Along with the nursing lounge, the Fiserv Forum boasts a "family fun play arena" that offers interactive games and activities for children of all ages during stadium events, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. Similarly, the Great American Ball Park offers kids admission into the Fan Zone and Bob Evans Reds Heads Kids Clubhouse where they can play wiffle ball, play on playgrounds, and run the bases to their hearts' content, as local news station Fox 19 reported.
Gametime ranked the stadiums based on the "quality and number of spaces just for families and nursing moms," a press release for the research stated. But even with all the nursing and changing areas available, taking your child out to the ballgame can be quite a tall order. Taking a few steps to ensure a smoother experience will make the day a more enjoyable one for everyone involved.
Arriving to the park early to ensure that you have an aisle seat is key, according to Today's Parent. Because frequent trips to the bathroom, snack stand, or walks around the park during meltdowns are made much easier without the need to repeat, "excuse me, pardon me," a hundred times a half. Also be prepared to leave early if the day just isn't going your way; there's no need to torture yourself if you reach your limit on "family fun."
Along with these recommendations, sticking a pair of noise canceling headphones in your bag for the baby is always a smart move, Traveling Toddler recommends, because sports fans can get rowdy. Strollers and baby-carriers to give your hands a break are important items as well. And it doesn't hurt to check if you're free to bring your own snacks into the park; you'd be surprised how many places are cool with it. As any parent can tell you, snacks are everything — regardless of the occasion.
For those planning to bring a stroller, it most likely will not be allowed in the bleachers themselves. However, many stadiums offer stroller check-in or parking so that you can take it out to walk around the lower levels when needed. PetCo Park, for example, allows parents to check their strollers on the way in; as does Minute Maid Park, and most all of the stadiums scoring high on the Gametime list.
With a little bit of planning and strategic venue scoping, your family can be well on its way to watching season after season of live sports. As more sports stadiums are taking the needs of families into consideration, my husband is shopping for junior sized jerseys as we speak.