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Official Review by Joshua Guiher, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Consol Energy Park, home of the Washington Wild Things was opened in 2002. It is quite the modern ballpark, having more of an amusement park feel to it. It is a nicely built park that should last for decades to come.
The field is built right along the highway, above the mall. It is also next to the offices for Pony League baseball and softball and some Pony League fields.
The team itself has been playing in Washington, PA for 10 years. They are an independent team, playing in the Frontier League.
The field is FieldTurf and really seemed a problem for the players. Pitchers were erratic and constantly kicking at the mound to try and get the feel they wanted while batters couldn't dig in like normal.
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".
For main course items, the park just has some standard selections, with the concessions being located under the main grandstands behind home plate. Items offered included pizza ($4.25), sausage sandwich ($5), roasted chicken sandwich ($4.50), cheese steak ($6.50), chicken fingers ($4.25, combo $6), cheeseburger ($4.25, combo $6), hot dog ($2), 1/4 wild dog ($3, $5 combo), kids hot dog combo (hot dog, chips, drink $5), fries ($3), bats and balls ($6), chicken BLT salad ($6).
The other main food cart was on the first base line and was inventively called The Grill on First. They offered the same hot dogs, sausage sandwich and cheese steak as the main concession (although it was called a steak and cheese there), but they also had items unique to that stand like a grilled chicken sandwich ($4.50), 1/2 lb bacon burger ($6.50, $7.25 with pretzel bun upgrade), chicken shakers (flavors hot, BBQ and Teriyaki, small $4.75, medium $5.50, large $6.75), twister fries (fresh chips on a stick $3, plus you could add cheese sauce for $0.50) and peanuts ($3). The twister fries came in many flavors, traditional salted, garlic salt, butter and herb, ranch, chipotle, seasoning salt and BBQ salt.
The rest of the food in the park really seemed geared toward snacks. At the main concession area they offered chips ($1.75), cracker jacks ($3), candy ($2), cotton candy ($3), pretzel ($3) and nachos ($4).
The real snack areas however were located on opposite sides of home plate. Down the right field line was the Dessert Den, offering many of the same snacks as the main concession area, plus soft serve ($3), floats ($3.50), sundaes ($4) and a host of deep fried items including fried Oreos ($4), funnel cake ($5, $6.50 with strawberries & ice cream), candy apple ($3.50) and a wild thing cookie ($2).
However, the crown jewel stand was down the third base line and was called the Ice Cream Igloo. They had the same soft serve, sundaes and floats as the Dessert Den, but also a huge list of other items. They were, Brrrrrr-nana split sundae ($5.50), cinnamon crisp sundae ($5.50), a 10 scoop sundae ($10), chocolate covered banana, a dirt dessert ($3), hot chocolate dipped Oreo pop ($1.50), frozen candy bars ($2), and a make your own slushy area, with 10 flavors of slushies' where you were encouraged to mix the flavors any way you wanted in your cup (small $3, medium $3.75, large $4.50).
The team also had some specialty stand-alone stands around the park including a "mini-melts" stand (knock off dippin' dots), a pretzel cart, a few beer carts and a nacho stand. Out in left field, there was a private party pavilion that had a bar with beer and Jack Daniels coolers ($6).
For those sitting in the box seats, there were also a few waitresses that came around and took food orders. The prices were the same as the concession stand and you just tipped the girl when she delivered your food. A nice concept, but since those seats were sold out, they could have taken a few people from the actual concession stands and had them help with delivering the food and taking orders. It was much faster to get up and go to the stand yourself.
The line at the main concession area had six registers, and an employee who told you which register to proceed to when it was your turn. It kept things moving really well. I thought the cheeseburger was going to be a bargain at $4.25 but once I got it, I realized it was a bit small and average tasting at best.
All of the music and promotions were pre-written, often taped messages that just told you to watch the scoreboard. Some were so bad you couldn't do anything but laugh. I couldn't believe that they could take a nice park and kill the atmosphere so quickly with the PA announcements. You could hear everything the players were saying it was so quiet except for close calls for the first few innings. Once the team started coming back in the late innings, the fans were much more engaged.
The between inning entertainment was a bit odd as well. One of the games using fans as contestants was the toilet seat toss. I'm all for inventive marketing to grab the attention of fans, but this game just didn't seem to do it.
One last thing I didn't like was the playing of ads on the scoreboard during innings instead of putting up player profiles and stats. Let's face it, minor league players come and go so often that it is hard to keep up if you don't come to every game, so that would have been helpful.
The immediate area where the park is located is a nice, recently built area. There are plenty of options to eat, drink and shop. I don't think that you could ask for more things to do in an area to make a nice family trip to the area.
I would suggest the Union Grill for a local bite to eat. They offer a great array of food and are rated as one of the best restaurants in Pennsylvania. If you are looking for a place that focuses on drinks and has good food try Al an' Reuben's. They have a nice selection of beers plus a great menu including steak, veal parmigiana and open face sandwiches among a huge menu.
The reserved and box seating areas were sold out the night I was there, but as you can see in some of the pictures the park wasn't that close to a sellout. I enjoyed the couple that I sat next to, but some of the other families just let their kids run around unattended all game. The ushers didn't do anything about it, so until the family in front of us finally left it was hard to watch the game.
The fans were very quiet during the first few innings. It seemed like it took half a game for everyone to settle in, adjust to the heat and really start enjoying the game. Thankfully, the game got real good at the end, with runs being scored almost every half inning from the 5th inning on. I just would have liked to see the fans care just as much when their pitcher was getting 1-2-3 innings, not just when scoring on close plays at the plate.
The park is one of the easiest of to get to until the last couple hundred feet when the road becomes a single lane access road up from the mall. There is plenty of paved parking ($3) or if you wanted to walk up the hill from the mall, you could go real cheap and park for free. Since the stadium is so new, the concourses were real wide and signage was top notch. Bathrooms were huge and clean.
One thing I did notice when leaving the parking lot is that there are two ways in/out of the lot. It would have made a lot more sense if all traffic was forced to leave out the back side of the lot so that you didn't have to try and drive through the throngs of people leaving the stadium. It was a very poorly thought out traffic pattern when the roads to the facility are already there.
Tickets were priced well at just $5 to get in, but the whole experience was not the same atmosphere that you get at the average minor league park. I would be more likely to come with a kid and play in the kids' area, eat deep fried Oreos, and then think about watching an inning or two of the game. As I mentioned earlier, it was more of an amusement park feel, including the fact that you could win prizes at some of the kids' area games. The potential is there, and it will be interesting to see if the team ever changes the direction of the experience.
The Ice Cream Igloo was a cool area for parents to let their kids have a neat snack and even make their own slushy. I also have never seen a park with so much staff, from the ushers to the ticket takers to the concession stand workers. The fireworks display the night I was there was real nice and seemed to be really enjoyed by the fans. The souvenir stand was inside and had a huge selection of items.
One last real neat thing was at the end of the 5th inning, the team sold a small container of milk and two chocolate chip cookies for $1 to kids. It was something that occupied their attention for a bit since they started lining up almost an inning before hand.
The park, the town and the team have so much promise. With just a few tweaks to the presentation I think the team would draw a few hundred more fans per game. If you are in the Pittsburgh area and want to watch a team almost as good as the Pirates for less money, then check out the Wild Things. If you want a great baseball atmosphere and a real grass field, try a different park.
Member Review by FuriousShepherd on Jan 24, 2012
Been here twice. Both times, the crowd was small but seemed to be interesting in the game. Everything this team is doing seems to be correct and I suspect that they will build up the size of their crowds over time. No complaints at all. Of course, they have to compete with the Pirates who offer low ticket prices and a guarantee that games will never be sold out. That could limit the size of their crowds a bit but it's not the fault of the WildThings. Not exactly sure what their mascot is supposed to be.
13 1/2 E Wheeling St
Washington, PA 15301
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