Best known for the "Pennsylvania Dutch" Amish communities that call the county home, Lancaster, Pennsylvania has a surprisingly long association with baseball, going back to pro teams documented since at least 1906. But in 1961, the Lancaster Red Roses folded, and Lancaster was baseball-less until the formation of the independent Atlantic League Barnstormers in 2005.
Their home, the 6,000-seat Clipper Magazine Stadium, delivers affordable baseball fun for local families and tourists visiting the area.
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".
Most of the concessions are located under the cover of the luxury boxes between first and third. The two main stands cover the ballpark basics of hot dogs, burgers, and chicken, while extending into offerings such as sausages, turkey burgers, and various Turkey Hill ice cream products. The top choice of the consumables are the Weis BBQ sandwiches at the Carvery in left, which come in cost-saving $8 combos with a side and drinks.
A modest selection of suds is available at nearly every concession stand offering domestic beers in large and small ($7/$4.50). Choices generally run to Bud (in all its iterations), Coors, and Sam Adams.
Although it is in a renovated train yard, you'd never tell that in the park, which faces out to a blue-sky background. You can keep up with the action on the main scoreboard in left-center, or the auxiliary video scoreboard in the outfield wall in right. All seating extends down from a promenade that circles the stadium. Field and dugout boxes are roughly between first and third bases, and group seating extends into the outfields. Right field houses the special group picnic area (with all-you-eat buffets), while out in left and center there are general admission lawn seats.
Fans get in an hour before game time (fifteen minutes earlier for season ticket and box seat holders) and can try for autographs on the third base home dugout before and after the games, as well as autograph tables set up before the game. The main entrance behind home plate is the only one that opens before game time, but be alert for multiple lines that form between the season ticket holders line on the left and luxury box line on the right. The lines generally zip through once the gates are open with minimal fuss.
For afternoon games, look for field box seats between first and third which will get some shade from the luxury boxes that run above them. All the seats are close and seem to have an excellent view of the field, so there's nothing to worry about there.
Mascot Cylo (silo, barnstormers, get it?), a nondescript orange monster, and human I.M. Fun run the on-field entertainment. The activities are mostly minor-league standards with a bit of local flair (Turkey Hill Iced Tea races, for example), though a number are ripped right from The Price Is Right (price guessing and the like), and a few are very unique (a multiple beach-ball toss that ends with a prize give-away). The team touts its ties to the communities in many ways, and local groups are very involved with the team and the park.
Lancaster's main association is with the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish communities that are found within the confines of Lancaster County. And while they are undeniably the main tourist attraction in the area, Lancaster city itself is a strange mix of college town and quaint artistic curiosity.
The Amish keep to themselves and are mostly in the surrounding farmland, though several tours originate from just outside of town, such as the Amish Farm and House. In that theme of things, the Dutch Wonderland amusement park (mostly aimed at the kids) is just outside of downtown. Families looking for additional activities can check out the natural-history-oriented North Museum (just down the street on the F&M campus) or hidden gem Village Greens Mini Golf, a 23-hole course just up the road from Lancaster. With its multiple institutions of higher learning, Lancaster also has a vibrant arts community nestled in historic architecture that permeates most of the town. The Fulton Opera House is the oldest continuously running theater in the country, and more contemporary acts play at regional fixture The Chameleon Club.
With two colleges nearby, it is not surprising that there are plenty of places to get a drink, and many are bar and grills. Iron Hill Brewery, Fenz, and the Brickyard are within walking distance from the field. A little further afield are Molly's Pub and the Lancaster Brewing Company. Plenty of low-brow eats are on the offering for the hungry college crowd, but more high-end fare is offered by the famous Stockyard Inn, The Press Room, Carr's, and the Penn Square Grill.
As you'd expect from a college town and tourist destination, hotels are plentiful. Your chains are covered by the Lancaster Marriot, Travelodge, Days Inn, and Best Western, but there are a number of boutique establishments that may be more your speed, such as the Lancaster Arts Hotel (right across from the stadium) or Cork Factory Hotel.
Families rule the day in the minors, and that is especially true in independent league parks. The crowd was dominated by families (and college kids) looking for a night's entertainment, but it is not to say there aren't any baseball fans in the park. Most of the players are known on a first-name basis by the crowd. Either way, the meaningless late-season game I attended (on a holiday weekend, no less) was easily 3/4th filled. For whatever reason they were there, the fans were into the game. One local fan tradition worth mentioning was one person calling out a player's first name and the rest of the crowd responding with his last.
Lancaster is a little off the beaten path, a short distance south from the PA turnpike (I-76) and east of I-83. State roads 30, 222, and 283 will get you from the interstates to Lancaster. It is a little under an hour to state capital Harrisburg, about an hour and a half to Baltimore, and the same distance to Philadelphia. Once you get to the park, there are several free parking lots around the park, though it can be a bit confusing for new visitors to know if a lot is for game parking without asking. Look for attendants nearby. And if you're looking for a quick exit on fireworks nights, don't park in the lots just beyond center field. They will be closed off until the display is over.
For those seeking public transit, Red Rose Bus route 1 ($1.70) will get you from much of the surrounding area to the campus of Franklin & Marshall College, just across from the park. The Lancaster Amtrak station is located just north of the park, and the regional Lancaster airport is to the north of town.
The main entrance to the stadium gets you in by home plate and onto the main promenade, which extends around the entire park (although the outfield walkway is often behind the large picnic area in right). Seating is below the promenade and generally there are no congestion problems.
The Barnstormers stand out when it comes to bang for the buck. Dugout box seats are $13, while field boxes slightly further up are $12. General admission seats for the outfield lawn seating is $7 for adults and $6 for kids. A "5 for 50" package will get you 5 field box seats and $10 in Barnstormer Bucks (the stadium currency) for $50 (a nearly 25% discount). Groups of 20 or more (at $13 a head) get you a field box seat and a meal voucher for a hot dog, drink, chips, and an ice cream sandwich. Season tickets offer a nearly 50% discount on ticket face value, plus other benefits.
Where the park really shines is their meal deals. Most main food items are $7 and under, but the majority of the vendors also offer meal deals that include an entree, a side, and a drink. These run from $5.75 (Cylo's kids meal) to $9.75 (the burger meal with fries). These can really help to keep costs down for families, or local college students.
Clipper Magazine Stadium has a lot of nice extras thrown in. The program is a free, pamphlet-sized giveaway at the entrance to the park. Out in left field across center field is the extensive Weis Kids Play Area, capped with a full-sized carousel in left-center. At the end of the kids' area is Home Run Harbor, a bumper boat pool in dead center. If nothing else, few parks can boast a bumper boat pool. In a nice dash of color, the walkways around the park are decorated with parody album covers that replace the original artists and locations with the Barnstormers and Lancaster, such as "Lancaster Calling" and the "Lancaster Boys" "Check Your Red."
The team store is located next to the main entrance by home plate and, especially for an independent league park, offers a wide selection of merchandise for sale, either with cash or Barnstormer Bucks. Tips of the hat are given to Lancaster's baseball heritage with a sign outside the stadium and a monument holding the Lancaster baseball hall of fame. In a nice nod to the greater baseball community, there is a sign outside the stadium advertising all the ball clubs within an hour or so of Lancaster. A large mural by the main entrance celebrates Lancaster luminaries, especially those that helped bring baseball back to Lancaster.
For families looking for some baseball that won't break the bank while in Amish Country, they will find what they're looking for at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The Lancaster Barnstormers play in the Atlantic League. They play in Clipper Magazine Stadium, which is located in Lancaster, PA. Details of attending a game are sparse on the team's website that hasn't been updated since before the 2010 season, so read along and see how my visit went.
This is a beautiful park in a crappy neighborhood of even crappier town. I think the biggest problem here that they there are better options for baseball fans in every direction. If you live south of town, Aberdeen is better. If you live west of Lancaster, go to Harrisburg. If you live east of town, you've got a great ballpark and cheesesteaks in Philly. North of the city? Head to Reading. The other big problem is ticket prices. They seemed way out of line for an independent league. The food was OK and parking was close.
There are some positives in the area. If you haven't been to Amish country, it will be an interesting trip. Visit Intercourse and enjoy seeing the horse-and-buggies. The Iron Hill Brewpub near Franklin & Marshall University are worth a visit if you like great beers. So is a trip north to Adamstown if you like antiques. These things boost the Extras rating up to 3 stars.
Went to a game here over the summer of 2011 while vacationing in the Amish Country. It was a last minute idea to fill a void on a half day trip. Got to park, early, before gates opened,went to see if any tickets were available. They only had sitting room only in the outfield grass area.
Not having a blanket or chairs with me I decided to go to a store near by to purchase a blanket or something. Not likely! There were no stores in walking distance and even if there was I would not feel comfortable walking through that neighborhood alone. I went back to the box office to buy those tickets after asking my wife and daughter if they minded sitting on the ground without a chair or blanket. I was in luck when I went back. The guy in rot of me was selling back his tickets. I bought them without hesitation. Great seats, third base side. Boy there is absolutely no shade in this ballpark at all. This was a late game also. Should have taken the outfielld grass area that was shaded by billboards. The have a playground area for the kids, small rides. Food was the average for ballparks. They did have a before game concert which you were able to actually go out onto the outfield and sit and dance.
If you like cows you'l like their mascot, Cylo. They had fireworks after the game which was awesome. Overall, it is a well maintained ballpark, staff was friendly and fans were behaved. Good time had by all.
I went to my first Barnstormers game on 9/15/12 vs. MD Blue Crabs. I've more or less ignored baseball for the last 15 years, but am on a hot streak of renewed interest this season. That being said, I've been to a bunch of games all over the place at various levels this season, but before that, not for a long time.
Food & Beverage: Seemed great. I'm a vegetarian, so I usually can't engage in much ballpark fair (the good stuff, anyways)...but I'm always on the look-out for things I can make my brother eat. He would be have been satisfied with the selections. The lines got a little long at times...but weren't the worst I've seen (MD Blue Crabs last season, yikes). A Diet Cola and Auntie Annie's pretzel did the trick for me, but carnivores would have plenty to eat.
Pros: The stadium is nice, clean, modern. It's a nice ballpark at which to see a game. The staff were great, and helpful. The ushers were made a good effort to control the riff-raff (see my 'fans' comments below).
Cons: I'm not an old man, but I'm going to sound like one...the interior sound system is WAY too loud, and incredibly obnoxious. Lots of super annoying sound bites that took me right out of the game (ex - Frosty, etc). Also, you don't have to blast something after every...single...pitch. It's okay to let it breathe a little... This definitely took me out of the game. I came to watch a baseball game, not listen to a morning zoo radio program.
Neighborhood/Access: It's in a city. It's not the best place, not the worst. Parking was free, but also a little confusing. As long as you plan ahead and get there a little early the first time you go, you'll be fine. I was a little late, so I had to park pretty far away, but it wasn't the end of the world, there were spaces available, and I did not feel unsafe walking between my car and the stadium.
Fans: Quantity, check. Quality, just awful. I'm generalizing...but I've never seen so much riff-raff at a game before. Teenage girls STANDING around in the seats chatting (ushers were pretty quick to break this kind of thing up), people turned around in their seats shouting at each other (probably due to the sound system) and not even watching the game, people shouting into cell phones from their seats, entirely too many kids too young to enjoy a baseball game, etc. I'm not sure why these folks came out, but it certainly wasn't to watch a baseball game. Bummer.
Return on Investment: Tickets were pretty cheap. Parking was free. I would say good return on investment.
Extras: Where was the mascot hiding for the first 4 innings of the game? I had to imagine my own...Barny the Amish Barn. Then Cylo almost ran me over on a scooter :). I did not receive any sort of program to get to know the team.
Conclusion: Other than the sound choices, it seems like the people running the stadium are doing a decent job of facilitating an enjoyable atmosphere. That being said, the 'fans' really crushed that enjoyment and made watching baseball incredibly difficult.
Even though I didn't have a great time, I would definitely give the Barnstormers another shot next season. Perhaps not going on a Saturday would weed out some of the non-core fans.
I first visited Clipper Magazine Stadium in its inaugural year (2005) and came away quite impressed. Upon a recent visit in 2012, however, I was not quite so impressed. It is still a nice enough ballpark, but it has some design flaws that can't really be corrected - like the concourses that are too tight the location of the press box on the concourse level. The concessions are quite good, but there seems to be an overall lack of stands. With large crowds, I would expect the lines to be very long. Clipper Magazine Stadium is still one of the better ballparks in the Atlantic League, but compared to some of the newer ballparks which have been built, it just doesn't stack up. For my full review, check out my website, www.ballparkreviews.com.
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