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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Conaty Park is located on the Bryant University campus in Smithfield, RI. It is located on the land formerly used by the New England Patriots for their training camp from 1976-2002. The field is named for Bryant alumnus Bill Conaty, class of 1967 and benefactor of the university’s baseball and softball programs.
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There are no food or beverage options at Conaty Park. Fans are welcome to bring their own items into the ballpark to enjoy during the game.
With its rural setting, you might figure that Conaty Park would be a quiet, laid back place to take in a ball game on a spring afternoon. If you guessed that, you would be absolutely correct. The crowd at a Bryant baseball game is very quiet and laid back, enjoying a leisurely afternoon at the ballpark (there are no lights for night baseball here). It's a nice place for a baseball purist to take in a game. Unfortunately, there isn't much energy put out by the small crowd here. It's not often that a baseball crowd is outshined by their neighbors at a women's softball game, as was the case on the day I attended.
Smithfield is a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, located about a twenty minute drive away from the state capital. Although it is a very nice place to live, it's not a place you would choose as a vacation destination. The Bryant campus is picturesque, but there is not a whole lot in the immediate vicinity for visiting fans to see or do.
Dining options near Bryant University are few. Parente's restaurant is a favorite of students, as much for its location near campus as for its reasonably priced comfort food. Fans seeking to pick up sandwiches for the game should check out J's Deli on the way to campus. Those looking for more dining options should take the 20 minute drive to Providence, which is consistently rated as one of the better mid-sized cities in the country for culinary delights.
The same can be said for lodging options in Smithfield. There are a few decent options near the Bryant campus, but visitors to the university would be better served to check out Providence or Boston for places to stay or things to do. For those looking to stay in the immediate neighborhood, Twin Rivers Casino is in nearby Lincoln.
The crowd at Conaty Park is another example of a "friends and family" type of gathering, as the attendance at Bulldog baseball games averages between 100-200 people per game. Despite the on-campus location of Conaty Park and the presence of several athletic events going on simultaneously in the immediate area, there is little presence by the student body.
Bryant University is located in suburban Smithfield, Rhode Island, 13 miles from Providence. Most visitors to Bryant will travel there by car, as the campus is located on Route 7, and is easily accessible from Interstate 295. T.F. Green Airport is 20 miles away, with Boston's Logan Airport an hour away. Train service is provided by Amtrak, which has its downtown Providence station 15 minutes away. Rhode Island Public Transportation (RIPTA) has a bus station on the Bryant campus, connecting the campus with downtown Providence.
Free parking is plentiful in the large lot adjacent to Bulldog Stadium, the university's football venue. Fans coming to Conaty Park will pass through the twin bulldog statues guarding the football stadium and walk a few hundred yards past the stadium to the ball field. Fans with unsteady gait or nice shoes be warned, there are no paved paths between the parking lot and the baseball park. You can follow a dirt path to Conaty Park, or you can traverse across the soccer field to take in some baseball. Either way, you may encounter mud, puddles, or uneven ground.
Despite the fact that Conaty Park contains a nice new grandstand building, there are no permanent facilities present here. Fans needing to use the rest rooms are relegated to using a single port-a-john located a ways away from the grandstand.
Attending a game at Conaty Park will cost you $8 for a reserved seat and $5 for general admission. Bryant is one of the few schools in the area that charges admission to their baseball games. Strangely enough, if you arrive after the second or third inning, there is no one there to take your money, so admission is free at this time. It was very upsetting to several fans present to have paid for tickets, only to see the attendant no longer around a mere 10 or 15 minutes later. On the plus side, there is no charge for parking in the large lot adjacent to the athletic fields.
Conaty Park features an attractive brick grandstand building that houses the press box and serves as the foundation for the seating bowl. The center seating sections feature individual bucket seats, while the general admission seating consists of metal bleachers with seat backs. This permanent facility is one that is not enjoyed by many schools in the area.
Conaty Park really should be a better place to watch a baseball game. All the pieces are here for a great experience, but important things are missing that affect one's overall enjoyment. The grandstand building is new, yet missing in this new grandstand are food options and bathrooms. The area around the ballpark has paved sidewalks and a terraced berm area for seating down the right field line, yet to get to the ballpark one has to walk several hundred yards across a soccer field or down a dirt path. There are several Division I contests going on within walking distance of each other, but you have to pay to enter each venue, so the opportunity to create a festival-like atmosphere is lost. Factor in the fickle New England weather at this time of year, and Conaty Park is a ballpark to be recommended to only the most dedicated ballpark chasers. If Bryant can connect the fine pieces already in place here, Conaty Park can become a facility to rival any other in the northeast.
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