Professional baseball has deep roots in Charleston, West Virginia, going back to 1910 when the D-League Charleston Statesmen hung up their cleats in town. After decades of shuffling affiliations and leagues, the current minor league squad was formed in 1987 as a co-op feeder team for six MLB patrons. Another nearly two decades of musical-chair affiliations ensued, ending with the team taking on their current moniker in 2005 and moving into the new 4,500-seat Appalachian Power Park. In 2009, they changed their major league affiliation one last time to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and currently remain their Class A South Atlantic League entry.
Appalachian Power Park gets in a lot of work, as the venue not only hosts the MiLB Power, but also the collegiate Charleston Golden Eagles and Marshall Thundering Herd, as well as providing a venue to a number of other sporting events and concert dates.
Outside of some disappointing eats, Appalachian Power Park is a solid ballpark in a decent area, with excellent access and affordability.
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One area where Appalachian Power Park currently lags is the consumables. With the loss of the former "Power Alley Grill" in right field (which is now the "Paterno's at the Park" restaurant and not accessible from inside the park during the game), the food is high-school lunchroom quality for the most part, and if not for the Tiki Bar by home plate, the beer selection would be similarly abysmal. But at least most of the prices are quite cheap.
The two main concessions are the All-American Grills (by first and third base on the promenade), as well as a Chuck's Natural Grill chicken concession and detached stand. At the main concessions, your basics are all covered, with cheap eats of hot dogs ($3), hamburgers ($4.50), pizza slices ($4), and corn dogs ($4). The quality isn't great, but you can't beat those prices. The third base concessions have some additional options, including the West Virginia favorite pepperoni rolls ($4), and $7 pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, as well as a $8 "Sternwheeler" sandwich (featuring fries, pulled pork, sausage, and slaw), chicken tenders and fries, and loaded nachos (with your choice of meat). The Chuck's concessions have everything for $6: steak or chicken quesadillas, Italian sausage, brats, and Philly cheese or chicken steaks. Additionally, the Sweet Spot in left offers up cheap treats for the kids.
The main concessions offer only the Bud family, Yuengling, and Michelob at 20 oz for $5.50 or a 16 oz can for $5. Eight-ounce ritas are $4. This would be a depressing selection if not for the Tiki Bar by home plate that serves up a raft of local microbrew favorites, including Cougar Bait, Big Timber, Country Boy, WV Wheat, Electric Peel, and Red Clay, for $5.50 for a 16 oz specialty draft. Pepsi products are the non-alcoholic beverage selection ($3.50 for 20 oz drinks and $5 for 32 oz souvenir cups), plus $2 for Fruit Shoot juices for the kids.
I usually say "go local," and that's still definitely true for the beer. Grab a cheap local brew at the Tiki Bar. But for the food, avoid the over-priced specialty food items and either stick to the fresh-grilled Chuck's selections ($6), or just gorge yourself on $3 hot dogs.
Appalachian Power Park harkens back to downtown neighborhood parks, covering a modest city block in the state capital of Charleston. It is a nice, intimate facility that has quirks that you'll find unique, unsightly, or just weird.
The park follows a standard minor league layout, with some twists. A main promenade walkway runs around the entire park, with the one-level seating bowl running below it. Instead of rising above the home plate area, the press box and luxury suite sit right on top of that seating area in squat bunkers, with a small stairway between them. On the first base side, the Suddenlink Legends Club, Fairplain Yacht Club Party Plank, and party suites run on top of the concession stands. The outfield is anchored by two beer-named group areas, the Budweiser Party Deck (in right) and the Bud Light Picnic Deck (in left), and the Contemporary Galleries Patio Party tables wrap around the edge of the promenade above the seating areas.
General admission bleacher seats are located in the outfield, and an additional row of bleachers sit behind right field. Two small rows of seats even sit under the main scoreboard, while it serves up info to the fans in right-center.
One unique victim of the close confines are the bullpens down the first and third baselines. They are located in the scant foul space in those areas, with the catchers having their backs to home plate when they are warming up pitchers. They are so dangerously close to the infield that a non-active fielder has to be stationed in front of pitchers warming up during an inning to prevent the battery from getting hit by foul balls.
The outfield backdrop for fans is also on the unique side. Most of the view is taken up by factory buildings (either in their original state or converted into condos), but the interstate onramp sneaks in appearances between the factories, and the mostly wooded hill beyond left field has a prominent graveyard at the top, with the crypts getting a choice view down on the field. Also, the home plate entrance, usually the marquee entrance at most parks, had its extensive entrance gates reduced to one gate for admissions and the rest being oddly fenced off for a giant smoking area.
Between-inning entertainment is the regular minor league fare of contests, quizzes, and races. Theme nights such as Redneck Night can provide a connecting arc for these activities, and there are frequent concert and fireworks nights. Mascot Chuck makes sporadic appearances throughout the night, as well as schmoozing with young fans.
All box seats are a uniform $8, so take your pick. If you want to avoid the netting, make sure you get seats beyond the dugouts, as the foul nets now run the length of the dugouts. The intimate dimensions of the park make the $6 general admissions seats an even cheaper option. The bleacher areas in the outfield have great views, or sit under the scoreboard for a different experience.
While the park itself is in an area just starting urban rejuvenation, Charleston as a whole has a decent selection of things to do and places to eat to suit most tastes.
The state capital and college town has a wide selection of chain places, but also a good array of local eateries. Attached to the park is Paterno's (Italian), while down the main drag Washington Street near the State Capitol building are the artsy Bluegrass Kitchen (comfort food) and the Tricky Fish (Southern-style seafood). In the other direction towards the Civic Center are Pies & Pints (pizza, bar food, and craft beer), Soho's (Italian), Ichiban (Asian seafood and steaks), Tidewater Grill (local seafood favorite), and the Chop House (steakhouse).
Charleston has a good deal of things to occupy your time. The civic-minded will find the State Capitol building, the West Virginia State Museum, Capitol Street, and the West Virginia Veterans Memorial. Kids will like the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, the Children's Museum, and the Avampato Discovery Museum. And the culturally inclined will appreciate the Cultural Center, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and the Light Opera Guild. The Civic Center also hosts concerts and other events.
There are two hotels right by the park: the Best Western Charleston Plaza and the Charleston Capitol Hotel. Slightly further by the river is the Four Points Sheraton, and to the northwest by the Civic Center are the Embassy Suites by Hilton, Courtyard Charleston, Holiday Inn Express, and Hampton Inn.
Despite the nice digs and some really dedicated fans, the Power haven't lit up South Atlantic League attendance charts. They regularly finish in the bottom quarter of the league for attendance, and the average game fills about 60% of the park.
The Rowdy Alley, a bunch of hard-drinking hecklers--a carry over from their old ballpark--get their own special picnic bench area on the third base side of home plate, conveniently located by the Tiki Bar. They spend the game cheering the home team, (cleanly) razzing the opposition, keeping a K count for the home pitchers, and making frequent beer runs to the Tiki Bar. This sort of "organized" rooting section is especially rare in this day and age and is a nice tradition to see continued.
Interest in the game is clearly led by the cheerleading Rowdy Alley crew, but the rest of the fans are noisy at the appropriate times, although most are families for a night out or there for the special pre and postgame festivities.
Appalachian Power Park is in downtown Charleston, literally right off of I-64/77 and state route 60, with the interstate onramp running along one side of the park.
The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority (KRT) bus system services downtown and the park. Route 14 ($1.50/$2.50 for single trip/day pass) will get you to the park from Town Center, while Route 19 will stop within two blocks of the park. If you have too much to drink at the park, the Intoxi-Taxi program at the Fan Assistance Center will get you a cab and $5 voucher to get you home safe. An Amtrak Station (CHW) is just across the South Side Bridge from the park, and a Greyhound Station is northwest of the park, near the Civic Center. Regional Yeager Airport is just northeast of downtown, but the nearest major airport is Cincinnati, three hours to the northwest.
Parking is found at the strip mall across the street from the park. Overflow is directed to the hospital parking facility as necessary. If you get there early enough, you can avoid the $3 by parking in the strip mall before the gates are set up.
Fans seems to swarm the right field entrance closest to the strip mall parking lot, but the line moves swiftly when the park opens. If you want to avoid any sort of delay, head out to the home plate and left field entrances, which have little or no lines.
A wide promenade circles the entire park above the seating bowl and the crowd moves around easily. Pregame events are in the even more spacious left field area, allowing free movement even with a concert or other promotion going on.
The low minors are all about cheap entertainment for families watching stars-to-be, and whatever else you say about Appalachian Power Park, it definitely hits that target square in the bullseye.
Ticketing is straightforward and cheap. All box seats go for $8. All General Admissions seats go for $6. Full-season ticket and mini-plans can reduce the cost per ticket further, starting at Power Packs (for 12 open games) and Top 10 packs (for 10 special event nights) for $80, a 25-Game Pack for $200, and $560 for a Full Season Ticket Plan. The later two plans include perks such as early admission, meet and greets, and other special events and giveaways just for plan holders.
Groups starting at 10 or more can book one of the party areas in the park, including the Suddenlink Legends Club (on the first base side), Budweiser Party Deck (in right), the Bud Light Picnic Deck (in left), Adecco Den Suite (behind home), Fairplain Yacht Club Party Plank (also by first base), and the Contemporary Galleries Patio Party (on the promenade).
All food items are $8 and under, and if you ignore the mediocre specialty items, that price plummets to a Little League level $4.50 and under. Beers top out at $5.50. Parking is $3, and the program is a free give away at the door.
Appalachian Power Park has a decent amount of extras for a relatively new ballpark. Right inside the home plate entrance is the Michael C. Paterno Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame and championship pennants, as well as the Road to the Show, celebrating all the Power Players that have made it to the majors.
On the first base side is a plaque dedicated to former South Atlantic League President John Henry Moss, and in center is the retired 42 for Jackie Robinson.
In the Warehouse Building at the Park in right is WV Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, as well an exhibit on African American businesses in Charleston. The Rowdy Alley even gets their own plaque, appropriately enough, on the Tiki Bar that serves drinks for its environs.
The team store (Power Outlet) is tucked just inside the right field entrance, and the H&H Fun Zone for the kids is in right-center field behind the scoreboard and batter's eye ($5 for all-day access).
Although the food won't blow anyone away, Appalachian Power Park is a cheap, easy, and fun night out for families in a quirky ballpark.
The West Virginia Power (Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates) play at Appalachian Power Park, which opened in 2005 and holds 4,500 fans. I would consider it the best of the minor league stadiums I have visited. A clean park that looks like it was just built yesterday with a courteous staff who quickly and warmly answered any of my questions.
Clean, unique and a great representation of a downtown small park. The food at the grill is probably your best option... most concession food was either pedestrian, or not as good as hoped.
Having a professional team at any level is a privilege for its city. The West Virginia Power still have a great stadium for perfect summer days and nights at the ballpark. Just a couple of years after hosting the South Atlantic League All-Star game, Appalachian Power Park is still trying to improve and remain one of the best ballparks in all of the minor leagues. While the park is great, there is still one glaring weakness.
West Virginia’s highest level of professional sports lies in the state capital of Charleston, where the city is home to a franchise in the single-A South Atlantic League. While football is king in the Mountaineer State, professional baseball has been played for the better part of a century in Charleston. Various teams with differing nicknames and leagues came through town, and for six decades, Watt Powell Park was the home stadium across the river in Kanawha City. The current Sally League franchise started in 1987, and they were known first as the Charleston Wheelers before becoming the Alley Cats.
Venerable Watt Powell was literally crumbling and didn’t exactly have or retain much charm like older parks in the early 1900s. A new park was needed, and the franchise was saved when plans for a downtown ballpark became reality. In 2005, Appalachian Power Park opened, and the team made a terrific re-brand to the West Virginia Power, with a nickname that displayed the vast contribution of energy sources made by the state. Over a decade later, the team continues to take the field in their sharp black and yellow uniforms, in a great little park that features a superfan worth a seat behind home plate.
As a native of the Charleston area, I grew up in the Charleston area. My first baseball game ever was at old Watt Powell Park. When I heard the end was near for Watt Powell, I was a bit saddened, but APP was a very fitting replacement. The new park is on the edge of Charleston's "East End" and "Downtown". There truly isn't a bad seat in the house with only maybe 12 rows of seats down the baselines. For a different view, the old Watt Powell seats in the outfield are great to sit at and enjoy the game. Honestly, the best seats might be near home plate looking between the gap of the office building and building across the street at the dome of the capitol building, which is arguably the best looking capitol in the nation. Access is easy either through the East End via Greenbrier St or Leon Sullivan Way off of I-64/77. All in all, APP is a very good single A park
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