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Official Review by Jordan Baer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Built in 2002, Charles H. Braun Stadium is a brand new and shiny baseball only ballpark that serves as the home to the University of Evansville men’s baseball team. To the immediate south of the facility lies a smaller replica version of the ballpark known as James & Dorothy Cooper Stadium which serves as the home to the University of Evansville women’s softball team. Both facilities are located in the northwest corner on the University of Evansville campus and are within walking distance of all UE facilities.
With an estimated capacity of 1,200 fans, Charles H. Braun Stadium pays tribute to baseball’s classic ballparks with a handful of obstructed view seats while providing Purples Aces fans with a clean and modern canopy to view top-notch Missouri Valley Conference action. The ballpark also has a grandstand press box named for Marv Bates and his wife Edie who were both supporters of UE athletics. Tragically, Marv lost his life on December 13th, 1977 while traveling with the UE Men’s Basketball Team as a radio broadcaster aboard a plane that crashed shortly after leaving Evansville’s airport.
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's really only one word to describe the concession stand outside Braun Stadium-Terrible. Although you could make an argument that having the concession stand at nearby Arad McCutchan Stadium is a bad enough idea from the beginning, I personally didn't have a problem with the location. In fact, I went to the top of McCutchan Stadium for a few minutes to get some great aerial views of Braun Stadium while I was waiting for a couple of people ahead of me to get their items from the concession stand.
What really soured me on the Braun Stadium concession stand were both the selection and the availability of the limited selection. The selection of available products at the concession stand was very limited and plain, but nonetheless I picked out one hot dog, one cheeseburger, and one pack of skittles. Being that the game was on senior day and it was only the 4th inning, I really didn't expect a mass shortage of items, but sure enough, all three of the items were either sold out or not available.
Seeing that hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and skittles were all off the board, I decided to get a Mountain Dew and a Hershey candy bar. Southern Indiana is known for its limestone production. After eating my Hershey bar, I'm beginning to wonder if some of that limestone rock didn't make its way into my candy bar. Surely, UE can do a better job with their concession stand!
Although I wouldn't describe a UE baseball game as iconic or must see, I will say that I did enjoy my time at the ballpark. I had no problem finding a seat under the canopy part of the grandstand where I could stretch out, place my Mountain Dew in a perfectly sized cup holder, and enjoy a PA system that wasn't too loud or too quiet like many other collegiate ballparks.
One thing I wish could be changed is the fact that basically every seat in the ballpark is behind an enormous net no matter which side of the facility it was on. Usually I don't like sitting directly behind the backstop due to the somewhat obstructed view from the mandatory nets. I know that UE would never be able to take down the net behind home plate but it would be nice if the seats farther down the first and third base lines weren't behind the net. This is something I hope UE considers when the time comes to expand the canopy section of their grandstand into these sections.
Overall, I enjoyed the ease I had finding a seat, walking around the complex, and being surrounded by a modern facility with a great PA system, a clean atmosphere, and a MVC caliber baseball team.
One of the best things about the neighborhood around Braun Stadium is the viewpoints. When you look beyond left field, you can see and watch the hustle and bustle of cars going down the Lloyd Expressway.
Having the historic old National Guard Armory as well as Arad McCutchan Stadium and Cooper Stadium around the ballpark made me feel like I was in a great neighborhood for sports of all kinds. Hopefully, UE stays committed to keeping the old National Guard Armory standing as it was the first home to UE's tradition rich basketball program. I also liked the fact that the ballpark was surrounded by student housing and UE's campus in general.
As the area progresses, I would like to see UE inject a little more life around the area. Yes, student housing around the sports complex area is great, but the area desperately needs entertainment, retail, and a little more green space around the ballpark for pregame gatherings.
The fans had their moments. I literally saw some of them jumping up and down like it was the World Series when UE scored the tying run late in the game. On average, UE draws crowds roughly in the 100-300 range. The fact that over 200 people attended the game I went to, which was cold and rainy, shows how dedicated they are to UE's baseball program.
With that being said, there is one thing I would like to challenge the UE fans to improve. I would like to see more UE fans wear the purple, orange, and white colors of the Aces. As I looked around, I saw very little UE fan gear. It took me by surprise given that the fans were excited to be at the ballpark cheering on the Aces.
If you're a local, getting to this game is easy as pie. If you're an out-of-town Aces fan, getting to the ballpark may be a little confusing. Yes, you can see the ballpark right off the Lloyd Expressway, but once you take the Weinbach or US 41 exits, it becomes somewhat of a maze to get to the game. Here's my advice: No matter what direction you're coming from, get off the main roads and onto Lincoln Avenue. From there, the ballpark on Rotherwood is just a few blocks away. It's much easier to find than it actually looks.
One thing I do like about the access is the availability of free neighborhood parking as well as free parking in the old National Guard Armory's parking lot. Although these spaces may dry up on days when the Aces are playing a quality opponent or a neighborhood event is taking place, you shouldn't have a problem finding adequate parking within a few blocks.
I thought $7 for a general admission ticket to the game was a little high. I certainly wouldn't be willing to pay that for several Aces games, but as a casual Aces fan it may not be so bad for the opportunity to see the team every once in a while. I certainly enjoyed my time at the ballpark, and I definitely would go back. I would also love to see UE work to improve the ballpark as well by surrounding it with a ballpark village.
One of the things that Braun Stadium needs is more life around it. Although the ballpark is on campus, it is still isolated from all forms of entertainment, retail, and other activities. It is also completely isolated from campus housing (although this is getting better with Walnut Commons) and campus life. If UE wants to spark some energy into an ordinary Braun Stadium, they would certainly have to consider surrounding their ballpark with campus life and activities.
Lastly, I didn't see too many activities taking place at the ballpark other than the game itself. Yes, someone like me who is a fan of the game has no problem with that, but most fans aren't like that. Most fans crave entertainment when they go to the ballpark. One of the most important yet simple improvements UE could make to Braun Stadium and the way they handle Aces baseball games is to surround the game with events and activities for fans of all ages.
I give one point for UE naming the press box after Marv Bates and his wife Edie. Losing Marv in the 1977 Aces Men's Basketball Team's plane crash was certainly devastating. Even after the unspeakable tragedy, Edie continues to be active with UE sports as well as Evansville sports in general. Naming the press box after them was definitely a classy move by UE.
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