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Official Review by Chris Patton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The facility formerly known as Monier Field underwent a renovation in 2002 and reopened as Coaches Stadium at Monier Field. The Eastern Illinois Panthers baseball team has played on this site since it began competing in NCAA Division I in 1982. The stadium features 14 brick pillars, each honoring a previous Panthers head coach.
The seating area is made up of 500 blue chair back seats in five sections behind the backstop. There is also room for fans to stretch out down the first and third baselines.
Eastern Illinois baseball is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Panthers have participated in different levels of the sport throughout the years: NAIA, NCAA College Division and NCAA Division II. EIU has made two trips to the NCAA Division I Tournament, first in 1999 and most recently in 2008.
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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".
There is one concession stand on the back side of the seating structure. The limited offerings available are hot dogs ($2.75), a 32 oz. cup of popcorn ($2) and assorted candy ($1.25). Pepsi products, Gatorade and water (all $2) come in 20 oz. bottles. Alcohol is prohibited in the stadium.
One of the highlights of a game at Coaches Stadium is the amount of work put in by the Sports Information and Marketing students. Contests begin the second you walk through the gates. The baseball bingo cards contain a $5 off coupon to Buffalo Wild Wings in nearby Mattoon, so even if you are not the winner, you still have a prize. Staffers walk up to attendees asking them to pick who will score the first EIU run, with the winner taking home a gift certificate to a local pub. Between inning activities may include things like a pie eating contest and an inflatable horse race.
As with most Midwestern college baseball stadiums, atmosphere depends on the weather. If the weather is nice, expect to see a large turnout from the student body. If it's cold and wet, family and close friends will make up the bulk of the crowd.
The playing surface is dirt and grass, with the only artificial turf being a ring right behind home plate with "PANTHERS" spelled out. The dimensions are 340 feet down the lines, 360 to the power alleys and 380 to straightaway center. Behind the left field wall is your garden variety scoreboard, with no video board.
Fans entering the park are offered two full pages worth of game notes, similar to what you would see in the press box. While the sheets do not include a scorecard, they do include rosters and statistics for both teams, along with Ohio Valley Conference standings and an EIU schedule.
Coaches Stadium, along with the rest of Eastern Illinois' athletic facilities, is located on the west side of campus between 4th Street and Grant Avenue. The diamond is just a couple blocks away from Charleston's main road, Lincoln Avenue.
If the weather is nice, you will see folks drinking at Marty's, just across 4th Street from Lantz Arena. Marty's might be more of the college scene than you want if you're not an Eastern alum looking to relive your glory days.
Dirty's Bar and Grill is right off of Lincoln Avenue and features an extensive food and drink menu. Dirty's promotes their six homemade sauces (Buffalo, Apple Q, Kansas City Style Q, Yum Yum, Sweet Chili and Honey Mustard) and their 20 specialty martinis. An order of ten chicken wings (tossed in one of the homemade sauces) is $8 and the specialty martinis start at $6.
If you are in a hurry and need something fast and reliable, why not get a sandwich in the town where the Jimmy John's sandwich chain started in 1983? The Charleston store is no longer in the original building, but the sign identifies the location as "Store #00001."
If I'm in Charleston, though, I'd consider heading a few miles out of the way to nearby Mattoon, Illinois and visit Burger King. The Mattoon Burger King is not related to the chain and has been in operation since 1957. The family-owned restaurant features a variety of sandwiches and ice cream treats, but is best known for their burgers. A double cheeseburger, small fries and extra large drink costs less than $7 and is delicious.
The majority of the crowd is clearly family and close friends of the players and coaches. There are also a good number of students who walk over from nearby on-campus housing to enjoy the game. While the crowd isn't huge, they are vocally behind their team.
Most game attendees park in the lot between Lantz Arena and Coaches Stadium and player families also tailgate in this lot. Pay special attention to signage in the lot if you attend a game during the week. The spots are far enough back from the stadium so you should not have to worry about your car getting hit by a foul ball.
Another option for parking is the O'Brien Field lot. EIU's football stadium is also close enough to park and walk to Coaches Stadium without having to worry about dents to your vehicle. You should be able to utilize this lot during both weekday and weekend games.
The stadium has a few port-a-potties down the third base line, next to the visitor's dugout. O'Brien Field will also be open on baseball game days and features indoor plumbing.
Parking and admission are free and the most expensive thing at the concession stand will run you $2.75. You won't be able to find much better value in Division I sports, especially if you attend a game on a sunny weekend day after a cold, Midwestern winter.
On the left field wall, there are banners honoring two players who have had their numbers retired and another banner honoring a fallen Panther, whose name might be familiar to football fans. Former All-Star pitcher Marty Pattin had his #19 retired in 2009, while long-time, big league infielder Kevin Seitzer had his #2 retired in 2012. Former NFL offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who succumbed to cancer in 2011, played centerfield (and wide receiver) for the Panthers in the early 1970's and is remembered via a banner on the fence.
Before you enter the stadium, you will notice 14 brick pillars, with each honoring a previous Eastern Illinois head coach. The pillars list the coaches' names and their years of service.
The outer wall also features plaques honoring the Eastern Illinois squads that reached the NCAA Division II College World Series, first in 1978 and again in 1981. The plaques list the teams' overall records and the scores of their College World Series games, along with the names of the players and coaching staffs.
The history and tradition of the Eastern Illinois baseball program is alive and well at Coaches Stadium. The facility is comfortable and the game presentation rivals that found at many minor league stadiums.
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