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Official Review by Jim Folsom, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The NASL has come to Jacksonville with the brand-new Armada playing at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Time will tell how good the Armada will be, as the community learns the game. But the ballpark is beautiful, the weather very nice and there is plenty to eat and drink.
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".
There is plenty to choose from at Armada games. There are plenty of stands along the vast concourse area, where you can get just about whatever you want. There is your basic stadium fare such as burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and popcorn. There is also pizza, which offers huge slices. One slice of the pepperoni and a large Coke, and I was full. It was $9.00, which is not bad to go from empty to full. Plus, there are plenty of tables where you can eat and still see the field.
If you just want a unique place to get your drink on, the Armada game is for you. They have full liquor stands, beer stands, a party area, and upstairs they have the Sundowner Lounge, where you can drink whatever you want and watch the game on TV or whatever other game might be on.
The club has a stand where they sell different flavors of kettle corn with sweet and unsweet tea.
The weather in Florida during the Armada's season cannot be beat. It is the best weather of the year here. The game we attended was in mid-week, so the the crowd was a bit small. Weekend games are pretty full, and the Armada lead the NASL in attendance. There is a very laid-back atmosphere as many of the fans are there to eat, drink and enjoy the weather. Not many seem to be into the game. If something good happens, they might cheer a bit, but if something bad happens, nobody seems to be upset about it.
There is nothing really near the stadium, except for Everbank Stadium, where the Jaguars play, and the Veterans Coliseum, where the Sharks play, on either side. The Landing is a short drive away, though, where you can hang out, eat, and shop. It is right on the St. John's River, so the view is very nice at some of the restaurants.
There is one group of fans who sit in the right field bleachers, which is right behind one of the goals, who call themselves "The 904," which is, of course, Jacksonville's area code. They dress up like pirates, beat drums, wave flags, chant, and are into the game. Other than this group, the fans are there to drink and hang out.
It is very easy to get there and get out, as the Jacksonville Sports Complex is very close to I-95 and Main Street. They could use a sign on 95 letting fans know which exit to take to get to the stadium, but since you can see Everbank Field from the interstate, it is not a huge deal.
The tickets are reasonable to Armada games. You can get in for as little as $14.00 to sit out on the berm. Since the place is not crowded, if you buy the cheap tickets, you could probably find somewhere to sit and watch the game, if sitting on the grass is not comfortable enough for you. The ushers do check tickets in the expensive areas, but there are plenty of general admission seats. Food prices are very reasonable, too.
The pregame fireworks, the kids play area, the friendly employees and the guys walking around in kilts playing bagpipes are pretty cool. The ushers are very friendly and helpful, and they have tables set up where they give away little items. I like the picnic areas with the tables where people can hang out.
Although I was here for a review, I could see myself taking the kids to a game in the future. The parking garage right next to the stadium is only $10.00. With tickets and food, you could take a family of three or four with $100.00 and not spend it all. If the fans get more into soccer, this could be a lot of fun.
I talked to someone who was rooting for the other team. He was cheering when the visitors scored, so I asked him if he came all the way down from Canada for this game. It turned out he owned the team. Where else can you go and talk to a team owner? That was pretty cool.
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