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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Far from the rigid lifestyle of the main Texas A&M campus is the more “hang-loose” campus of the Texas A & M University – Corpus Christi (TAMUCC). While affiliated with the Texas A&M University, you are much more likely to encounter shorts and flip-flops than the military uniforms on campus. Also, instead of yell leaders and Reveille as the mascot, the Islanders feature the Team Blue fan crazies and Izzy the Islander as their mascot. TAMUCC does not even have a football team, but they are very good in beach volleyball. Baseball is still a relatively new sport at the school, as its first season was in 2000. The campus of TAMUCC is quite contemporary, as it has only been at its island site since 1973.
This is not to suggest that TAMUCC is any less demanding than its mother campus, as its academic programs are quite demanding. Its engineering and marine sciences programs are amongst the top-rated in the country. Other strong academic programs include environmental sciences, business, nursing and education. More than 11,000 students attend classes at TAMUCC.
TAMUCC athletic teams are known as the Islanders, a nod to the campus totally being located on Ward Island, and only reachable by causeway. They compete in the Southland Conference, which includes Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Lamar University, Stephen Austin State, the University of Incarnate Word, Sam Houston State and Northwestern State. Non-Texas members are the University of Central Arkansas, SE Louisiana, the University of New Orleans, McNeese State and Nicholls State. Each season, due to Corpus Christi’s moderate climate, TAMUCC plays host to the season opening Kleberg Classic baseball tournament featuring schools from around the country at the Corpus Christi Hooks’ Whataburger Field on the waterfront. For the remainder of the season, the Islanders call the on-campus Chapman Field their home. Chapman Field offers bleacher seating for 750, plus berm seating behind the outfield fences, bringing its capacity to more than 1000 fans. The stadium was originally built in 2002. Over the next five years, the school is constructing a new sports area on campus known as the Momentum Complex, and baseball will relocate to the new facility at that time.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Since the entire island is, in fact, the campus, there are no restaurants or convenience stores available without crossing the causeway. However, Chapman Field's Mix Grill has a wide selection of food offerings at relatively inexpensive prices. They serve a wide range of nachos, including the regular ($3), the chili cheese version ($4) and a beef brisket option ($6). Other food choices include Frito Pies ($4), pulled pork sandwiches ($7), a brisket sandwich ($7) and hot dogs ($2). The drink selection includes canned Pepsi products ($2), Gatorade ($3) and bottled water ($1). Candy and chips go for $2. Surprisingly, for an island campus on the water, there are no fish products available for purchase.
The atmospheres at an Islander game is quite laid-back, as everyone is in shorts and flip-flops. The press box, dugouts, and entire color scheme at Chapman Field is teal/dark blue, in a nod to the waters surrounding it. You will see many alternate graphics depicting waves, and if things on the field are slow, you can actually expect the crowd to break out in the wave. The permanent seating wraps around from one dugout to the other, with aluminum bench seating throughout. The profile of the stands is very low, as they only go about eight rows deep. The good thing is that this means all seats are close to the field. There are three extra items you will want to bring with you to an Islander game: sunscreen, a stadium cushion and bug spray.
Some of the best seats in the house actually are not seats. There is a berm area that runs the entire length of the outfield wall. Many people set up their coolers, beach towels and sit in the back of their trucks to enjoy the game. There is actually a nice gazebo out in dead center on the berm to provide shade from the Texas sun.
The neighborhood surrounding Chapman Field is quite easy to define, as it is Ward Island. Its borders are comprised of Oso Bay to the south and Corpus Christi Bay to the north. TAMUCC's campus takes up the whole island, so you must go off-island and across the causeway for restaurants, lodging and entertainment. The island is about 15 minutes south of downtown Corpus Christi and the entertainment district.
The closest hotels are the Bayshore Inn and Comfort Suites-TAMUCC. For a more of a Gulf of Mexico/beach view, head out to Padre Island, the Texas home of Spring Break for thousands of college students. There are dozens of accommodations on Padre Island at all different price levels.
Being a South Texas resort area, Corpus Christi has a wide range of wining and dining options. Some of the more popular local establishments are the Brewster Street Icehouse, the Railroad Seafood Station, and the Water Street Seafood Company and Oyster Bar.
The fan base for Islander games is pretty easy to define... TAMUCC students and the families of the players involved in the game. Due to the isolated nature of the campus, you do not see many locals trek out to the campus from the greater Corpus Christi area. Those who do show up are quite loud and loyal to the team. Student housing is immediately adjacent to the athletic fields, so no transportation is required to get to a game. Most students at TAMUCC use bikes to navigate the campus, as they do not require permits, and the island features some great nature trails.
TAMCC is located in the Coastal Bend section of Southeastern Texas. While there is a small commuter airport in Corpus Christi, it is much cheaper to fly through San Antonio (a two-hour drive) or Houston, a three-and-a-half-hour drive via I-37, to the campus. Once on the campus, there is excellent signage to direct you to the baseball complex. Parking is available in the Turtle Cove parking lot just over the right field fence for weekend games, but visitors should park in the Bayside Parking Garage during the week, when parking is tighter and permits are required. Once in Corpus Christi, the trip out Ocean Drive is very enjoyable, as you have water views and some very nice waterfront mansions on the left.
Ticket prices run from $5 for adults to $4 for children/seniors/military personnel. TAMUCC students are able to attend the games at no charge. Parking in the Turtle Cove parking area is free, and is immediately adjacent to the field. The major cost consideration is going to be lodging. During spring break, thousands of college students descend on South Padre Island, and the lodging rates go sky-high. You will find much more reasonable rates at hotels in downtown Corpus Christi (no beachfront) or a few miles inland. It can make hundreds of dollars difference.
In addition to having the beach and the Gulf at your doorstep after classes, TAMUCC is also less than 20 miles from the spring break hotspots of South Padre Island and Mustang Island. While Ward Island is all campus, the city of Corpus Christi offers a wide variety of sports, cultural and entertainment events year-round. Among the sites you'll want to check out are Whataburger Field, home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Texas State Aquarium, the Selena Museum and the USS Lexington, which is permanently moored on the Bayfront.
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1814 Ennis Joslin Rd
Corpus Christi, TX 78412