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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Niagara University is a small Catholic school located in Lewiston, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. The University has a student body of 4,200, with half the students living on campus and the other half attending on a commuter basis. It was founded as a seminary in 1856, and officially became Niagara University in 1883. Niagara is primarily a liberal arts school, but also has a College of Business and a College of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Niagara’s Hospitality major is among the top six programs of its kind in the country, and has nearly a 100% placement rate for its graduates due to its proximity to Niagara Falls.
The Niagara athletics program competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, with teams including St. Peter’s, Siena, Marist, Monmouth, Manhattan, Canisius and Quinnipiac. The sports teams go by the name of the Purple Eagles, and are very successful in basketball, hockey and soccer. Niagara University has two prominent baseball alums; Joe McCarthy, a seven-time winner of the World Series as a manager and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Sal Maglie, a three-time All-Star as a Major League pitcher.
The Purple Eagle baseball team currently calls the on-campus Bobo Field its home. For many years, the team played at Maglie Stadium, a community ballpark operated by the city of Niagara Falls. Due to tough financial times, the city chose to divest its ownership of the facility, as it was losing money and sold it to a private investor. The University and the investor could not come to terms on a contract, leading the team back to the campus. Unfortunately Bobo Field is a subpar facility in many ways. It offers none of the amenities even a basic baseball park on any college campus should offer. There are no lights at the field, no bathroom facilities (not even a port-a-potty), no parking access and very little in the way of seating. It is not a pleasant place to watch a baseball game, especially a doubleheader.
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There is no concession stand at Bobo Field, not even a water fountain. It is easy to pick up the local fans, as they tote in food and drink, as well as camp chairs for seating. Visiting fans must go more than two miles to the nearest convenience store for food or beverages. The only permanent seats are on the home side of the field, and consist of four rows of rusty bleachers.
The Niagara baseball team does put a good show on the field, but the conditions at Bobo Stadium do tend to dampen the enthusiasm quite a bit. The locals come prepared and show up in large numbers, despite the often cold and windy climate adjacent to the Niagara River. If you are a visitor and come unprepared, it can be a miserable viewing experience.
Niagara University is a self contained campus, with not many services right around it. It is located immediately beside the Niagara River Gorge, two miles north of the Falls. Technically, it is a part of the village of Lewiston. Some of the eateries located in the village include Carmelo's Italian Restaurant, the Griffon Pub and the Village Bake Shop. The nearest accommodations to the University are in Niagara Falls, which, being an international tourist destination, has hundreds of accommodations at all price ranges available. Niagara Falls is approximately two miles south of the campus. The Hard Rock Café /Niagara Falls is very popular with the students.
Niagara's baseball fans do deserve a purple (school colors) star for their loyalty in cheering on the Purple Eagles. A majority of the fans are friends and family of the Niagara team members. In addition to cheering the team's successes, they come prepared to deal with the shortcomings of the baseball facility, with coolers, blankets, food and drink and the knowledge of where the nearest bathrooms are, which is graciously shared with the opposing team and their fans. Many of the fans voiced a desire that an alternative site be found as soon as possible.
Niagara's campus is located about 30 minutes north of downtown Buffalo, about midway between I-190 and the Robert Moses State Parkway. It can also be accessed via Highway 405 coming out of Canada, which becomes I-190 once it crosses the American border. Access becomes a problem once you reach the Niagara campus. Parking is free, but it is located nearly a half-mile from Bobo Field. The only paved surface to access the field is a hike/bike path that runs near the park; otherwise, you have to cross a large undeveloped field, which can be muddy after a rain. Also, it is wise to make a pit stop back on the main campus before heading out to the park, as no restroom facilities of any kind are available at the field.
There is no charge for anything at Bobo Field, and well...you get what you pay for. There are just too many other activities related to Niagara Falls that are going to provide you with more enjoyment (and indoor plumbing!)
Obviously, the main extra to Niagara University is its close proximity to Niagara Falls. The campus is just north of the American and Horseshoe Halls along the Niagara River Gorge. On the other side of the gorge in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada are the beautiful Niagara Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory. Those wishing to make a long weekend out of their trip may choose to visit Toronto, which is about a 90-mile drive from Niagara via the QEW. History buffs may be interested in visiting nearby Fort Niagara or the Erie Canal Historical Park in Lockport. Shoppers have access to the 200-store Premium Outlet Mall located one exit south on I-190.
I really hope for the sake of the fans and players at Niagara University that some alternate facilities are identified in the near future. If not, I hope Niagara University will allocate funds to dramatically upgrade the existing field. The other athletic facilities on campus (tennis courts, ice rink, an artificial turf lacrosse/soccer field, sports arena) are in good shape and suggest that the University can do better for its baseball program.
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333 Prospect St
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
425 Center St
Lewiston, NY 14092
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