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Official Review by Brian O'Sullivan, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
After a number of decades of affiliated baseball, the turn of the 21st century saw the departure of the last professional team from Utica, New York, with the Utica Blue Sox moving to Aberdeen, Maryland to become the Aberdeen Ironbirds in the New York-Penn League. A few short years later, however, the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League has placed a team in Utica. While the team may be alluding to the past by once again adopting the Blue Sox designation, the fans have not returned to Donovan Stadium to support baseball in Utica.
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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".
Donovan Stadium offers standard ballpark fare at relatively reasonable prices, while also serving a better than expected selection of alcoholic beverages.
There is one concession stand located directly behind the main concourse at Donovan Stadium. The food options include typical selections such as hamburgers ($3) and popcorn ($2). Some of the more unique options include a souvenir ice cream helmet ($4.50) and a slush that comes in a reusable cup ($5).
Donovan Stadium offers a few Coca-Cola products both in bottles ($2) and from the fountain ($2.50). The alcoholic beverages are served in a separate stand that is located down the first baseline. Adult beverage choices include Coors Light ($4) and a local Utica Club ($4).
One of the more popular and unique concession offerings is the wine slush ($5), which comes in either red or white.
Though Donovan Stadium may have been an appropriate venue for a professional baseball team, it is far too large for a summer collegiate team. The stadium has three main seating areas. Located on the first and third base sides are identical metal, bleacher-style seating sections, with no backs, cupholders, or other amenities. These sections bear a strong resemblance to high school bleacher seating. The most popular seating area is located directly behind home plate. A majority of these seats are bleachers with backs and a covering above. The first five rows are stadium-style seats, which are designated as VIP seats, though there do not seem to be any ushers checking to see who enters this section. Finally, there are a few rows of blue plastic seats located directly next to the field that seem to be a popular choice among some fans. There is a basic scoreboard located in right field, with an additional board that displays text. One unique aspect of Donovan Stadium is that the press box is open to the air, so if you sit in the back of the section behind home plate, you will be able to hear the play-by-play call of the game.
The on-field entertainment at Donovan Stadium is lacking, with only a few promotions taking place throughout the game. The PA announcer frequently reads off advertisements from local sponsors in between innings that become both repetitive and annoying. One of the more entertaining promotions, however, was a saxophonist performing God Bless America on the field.
The best place to sit at Donovan Stadium is in the section behind home plate. Since all the seats are general admission, it is relatively easy to find a spot that avoids the support beams to the overhang above the section. While there is not a bad seat in Donovan Stadium, the other two seating sections are exposed to the weather and do not have the same level of comfort.
Located only a short drive from downtown Utica, Donovan Stadium is easily accessible by car whether you are staying downtown or passing through on the New York State Thruway. Donovan Stadium is surrounded by a number of restaurants and just steps away from the campus of Utica College.
While there are a number of chain restaurants in close proximity to Donovan Stadium, the best options for food are located closer to downtown Utica. A local favorite is Zeina's Cafe, which provides delicious, low-cost Lebanese-style Mediterranean food. Additionally, the Nail Creek Pub & Brewery provides an affordable destination to grab a bite to eat before or after first pitch at Donovan Stadium.
Utica has two hidden gems that are worth making time for during a trip to the city. The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute offers free admission to a great collection of artwork that is truly breathtaking. On the more adventurous side, the Utica Zoo allows visitors to see different animals from all over the world while in New York.
There are plenty of options for hotels in the greater Utica area. The best choice for easy access to Donovan Stadium is the Holiday Inn Utica because it is only a few miles away and offers an affordable rate. There are other, mostly more expensive, options located downtown that are closer to other attractions in the Utica area.
The fans in Utica have not bought into the idea of summer collegiate baseball fully, which makes it hard for the Blue Sox to develop a loyal fan base.
Utica typically draws a few hundred fans to its games, which makes a stadium that seats 4,000 seem humongous. Although the Blue Sox may draw better than some of the other teams in the PGCBL, they also have one of the biggest stadiums and come nowhere close to filling it to capacity.
With so many empty seats, any crowd noise that is generated is quickly dampened. Fan engagement throughout the game is fairly low, since the crowd is mostly made up of families and parents of players. The overall noise level at a Blue Sox game is exactly what would be expected of a crowd of a few hundred.
Donovan Stadium is only a few miles from both the center of Utica and the main passageway through the state of New York, making it an accessible destination for both those in the city as well as those who are passing through on the New York State Thruway.
Utica has a bus system that runs from downtown over to the area by Donovan Stadium. The best option for taking public transportation would be the #30 bus that leaves passengers off only a few steps away from the stadium.
There is a large parking lot located directly next to Donovan Stadium on the first base side that provides an ample amount of parking. Since parking is free, most people who attend Blue Sox games drive to Donovan Stadium.
There is only one entrance to Donovan Stadium, with the ticket booth located just inside of the entrance. There is little to no wait to purchase tickets before entering the stadium, especially since all seats are general admission.
The main concourse is located directly behind the seating area and provides a limited view of the playing field. There is ample space behind the seating sections that make it easy to move around. Handicap accessibility is fairly good overall, especially since there is a wheelchair ramp that goes up to the seating section behind home plate. The restrooms are kept in fairly poor condition and seem to be a number of decades old.
With both ticket and concessions prices being fairly low, it is easy to enjoy a night out at Donovan Stadium without spending an exorbitant amount of money.
All seats at Donovan Stadium are general admission, which means there is only one price level for tickets. Adults are $4, but children ($3) and seniors ($2) receive a slight discount on this price. Most concessions items are $5 or under and merchandise is reasonably priced as well. With such low prices, it is hard to beat the return on investment at Donovan Stadium.
For $25, a family of four can receive four tickets, four sodas, four hot dogs, and four popcorns, which provides a savings of approximately $15.
Donovan Stadium does not provide much beyond the game on the field and the concessions to go along with it. One nice touch, however, is the ticket the team gives out to the fans. It provides a good keepsake for a trip out to the stadium.
While it is not worth a trip to Utica just to watch a Blue Sox game, if the opportunity arises, taking in a game at Donovan Stadium is a pleasing experience overall.
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607 Varick St.
Utica, NY 13501
1777 Burrstone Rd.
Utica, NY 13413