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Official Review by Jim Colyer, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Baseball is our “National Pastime”. The implications in that title are many. As our America’s game it should be played at a high level, be accessible to everyone and, above all, be enjoyable. The Seattle University venue at Bannerwood Park just outside Seattle provides all of these features and then some. The SU Redhawks play Division I collegiate baseball in the Western Athletic Conference made up of teams from CSU-Bakersfield, Grand Canyon, Chicago State, UT-Rio Grande Valley, Utah Valley, Missouri-Kansas City and New Mexico State. When you sprinkle in visits from Pac12 opponents University of Washington and Washington State University you have a very competitive schedule. Bannerwood is nicely situated in a cozy Bellevue neighborhood with a comfortable, quiet feel to it. It’s easy to get there and easy to get home. Finally, the venue is clean, fun and very relaxing. Fans will enjoy the game and may elect to stay after for a picnic.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Seattle University offers good Division I college baseball. However, think of the concessions at Bannerwood Park on the high school level. While the hot dog is generous and quite tasty the selection of hot food is quite limited. Dogs, chip and Coca-Cola products are available on a cash only basis. The friendly, accommodating Seattle U students recommend The Special (hot dog, drink & chips) for $8.00.
For fans who desire a more substantial meal, eat before you get to the park.
One word to describe Bannerwood Park? Immaculate. The seating is modern and well maintained. Seattleites' reputation for being friendly is reinforced by the "No Seeds, Please" signs placed throughout the venue. In typical Northwest fashion recycling bins are readily accessible.
The synthetic turf was newly installed in 2014 and is in perfect condition.
Aluminum bleacher seats line the first and third base lines. While they put the fan close to the action the seats are low and the sight lines are not the best. For a more expansive view the 120 "red seats" behind home plate are a better option. They provide seatbacks and an unobstructed view down the 325 foot left and right field lines as well as a clear view of the 402 foot left and right gaps and 395 feet down straight away center field.
Bannerwood is tucked neatly into trendy, tony Bellevue, Washington (just a short boat ride south of Bill Gates' home). The surrounding deciduous trees give an "if we build it, they will come" feeling. The neighborhood is composed of tastefully built townhouses and condominiums. Walking trails surround the park and a small park outside the third base wall is perfect for Frisbee tossers and dog walkers. A very family friendly environment.
The area is surrounded by a good selection of restaurants. The Bellevue Square area, a few miles north offers diverse options for every budget & taste.
Bellevue offers all the traditional hotel chain options within a couple miles of Bannerwood, along I-90 or I-405. Many are within walking distance.
"Northwest Nice" best describes the knowledgeable, well-mannered Redhawk fans. They know their baseball here and fully engage in the game intelligently and courteously. Trips to the restrooms or concession stands happen between innings, not between strikes. Even questionable calls are only mildly criticized and the umpire's ethnicity is never called into question. During a rival games against the University of Washington good plays made by Husky players are rewarded with polite golf tournament applause.
Easy in and easy out. Bannerwood Park is a short jaunt off of either Interstate 90 or 405. Even during rush hour the commute is very manageable. Parking is plentiful and free. There is one point of entrance to the park, but lines are short and the staff moves fans through the turnstiles efficiently. The tidy, tight little park is easy to navigate. Wheelchair and handicap seating and parking are available. Restrooms are clean, well maintained, well stocked and odor free.
Programs and parking are no cost. Adult admission is reasonable with discounts for seniors and students. While food selection is marginal prices are affordable.
Sitting in the upper level of the "red seats," fans immediately in front of the open air press box can take advantage of listening to Jake Eastwood; The Voice of the Redhawks. He is an objective announcer who calls the streaming broadcast and does an excellent job of calling the game. It's obvious Jake does his homework. He comes to the game with solid background on the players, the teams and the league.
Fans are rewarded for inning ending strike outs with half price popcorn.
Baseball in the Pacific Northwest can be a tentative proposition. Weather is unpredictable and travel can be a challenge. That said, the fan experience at Bannerwood Park is consistent and there is something to be said for predictability. Fans will enjoy the relaxing simplicity of Bannerwood while watching high quality NCAA D1 baseball. It's a very pleasant way to spend a summer's evening in a familiar "home town" ball park.
Remember to bring an umbrella because while many things can be guaranteed at Bannerwood, weather isn't one of them....this is Seattle, after all.
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