Clemson University is known for its athletic excellence. This giant school in quasi-rural southwestern South Carolina competes in one of the most prestigious athletic conferences around, the Atlantic Coast Conference. The school's century-plus of play on the diamond has yielded countless numbers of professionals, over ten appearances in the College World Series, nearly 40 NCAA tournament berths and a winning all-time record against their most hated rival, the South Carolina Gamecocks. This is not just a team who is happy to have been to Omaha; they, like many of their contemporaries, have come to expect to make the annual pilgrimage to Nebraska.
The home of the Tigers, Doug Kingsmore Stadium, has been the domain of the home nine for greater than 40 years. This slightly greater than 6,000-seat facility gives the Tigers a tremendous home-field advantage -- they've won nearly 80 percent of their games played there since first opening the gates -- and seamlessly blends into a top-flight grouping of facilities on the 17,000-plus acre campus. This stadium doesn't show its age, but it does show its tradition. From your first step into the ballpark to the final words to the alma mater, it is clear that you are part of something special when witnessing Clemson baseball.
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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".
It is virtually impossible to go hungry at a Clemson game. There are two primary fixed locations, with one on the concourse behind the plate and the other on the concourse behind the outfield grandstand. Many of the ballpark favorites are available at these fixed locations, with chicken fingers ($7), bacon cheese fries ($5) and brats ($5) joining the reliable hamburger ($5), hot dog ($3.50 for regular, $4.50 jumbo) and corn dog ($3.50) on the hot side of the menu. Coca-Cola products flow from the fountains, with sodas ($4 for the regular souvenir size and $6 for the "jumbo" souvenir size), bottled water ($4) and coffee ($4) available to wash down your dining choice.
If the "main dishes" aren't enough to satisfy, peanuts ($5 for regular and $6 for South Carolina standby boiled), nachos ($5), pretzels ($4), popcorn ($3), candy ($3) and chips ($2) are solid snack choices. The pretzels come with salt or without, and it may be good to get yours salted to keep your mind off of how dry it is.
The fixed locations also have three "Tiger Grill" options, including a Tiger Dog ($6), which is a quarter-pound hot dog smothered in chili, fried onions and ranch; barbecue nachos ($6), with fried tortilla chips, barbecue, cheddar cheese sauce and pickled jalapeno peppers; and the $7 Omaha Burger, a half-pound burger with cheddar cheese and fried onions. The Omaha Burger seemed to be a popular choice on the night I attended, for what that's worth.
If cart-based dining is more your style, there are several carts scattered about the concourse. Dippin' Dots serves ice cream to cool down the warm South Carolina evenings, with a regular size priced at $5 and a small Clemson batting helmet-sized serving at $8. A popcorn cart is nearby, with a souvenir "Solid Orange" Clemson bucket filled with the salty snack for $12. A movie theater-sized popcorn tub is $6, with a small bag priced at $5. Subway also offers a sandwich cart, with six-inch subs available for the incredibly pricey total of $7. Cookies are $1 at these carts, while chips are $2. It should also be noted that these carts are often closed for weekday games, limiting your choices to the primary stands.
Fans can get almost anything they choose to eat at a Clemson game. Whether they can stomach the prices enough to do so is another story -- more on this later.
Clemson is in a gorgeous, mostly rural setting. Doug Kingsmore Stadium rests along Perimeter Road on the outskirts of the campus, and this is reflected inside the ballpark. The park is surrounded by the Jervey Athletic Center, the indoor Clemson football facility and lots of trees. There are few distractions to take one's mind away from the action on the field, which makes attending a Tiger game all the more entertaining.
For a reasonably large ballpark, there is very much an open, airy feel in Doug Kingsmore Stadium. This feeling is aided by the ample sidewalk room around the virtual entirety of the park -- save for a small disconnected portion beyond the outfield wall -- with low railings down the baselines allowing for plenty of standing room and bullpen views. There are a number of picnic tables adjacent to the visiting bullpen on the third base side, which is an interesting feature. There are very few areas in which the game action cannot be seen, including the concession areas and restrooms.
The great sightlines continue throughout the seating bowl, with virtually no obstructed seats anywhere in the stadium. The netting behind the plate is also thankfully kept to a minimum, allowing for a greater sense of freedom while watching the game. All of the seats are fixed chairs, with a surprising amount of leg room in each row. If you are a tall fan, this should keep your feeling of being compacted into your seat to a minimum. There is a lot of foul territory behind the plate and down the lines, though, and this coupled with the concourse separating the upper and lower seating areas can lead to a feeling of being a bit further away from the action than necessary.
If you are sitting on the visiting side (behind the third base dugout), bring a strong pair of sunglasses. The sun sets behind the trees on the home (first base) side, and this makes for a tough "sun field" in left field and in the visiting seats. When the sun goes down midway through the game, this leads to a beautiful sunset and comfortable evening in this corner of the Palmetto State.
There is an expansive scoreboard in left-center, just to the right of the left field grandstand. The board features an analog clock with a tiger paw atop the large structure. Surrounded by ads and a board commemorating the Tigers' ten-plus College World Series appearances is a combination video and standard scoreboard. The video features statistical information on the current batter, including a tally of what the batter has done thus far in the game. The active pitcher's pitch count is also displayed, along with a breakdown of balls and strikes thrown. The pitch speed is also displayed on the board, which is not as common in college baseball as one might hope. The normal linescore information displays on the lower portion of the board, with the current ball/strike/out count among this information.
There is another aspect to the atmosphere at Clemson that you will not find anywhere else. We will feature this further in the Extras section.
In case it is not readily obvious from our visits to Memorial Stadium and Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson is very much the standard southern college town. Though the Clemson campus is monstrous, the athletic "district" is quite close to the walkable nightlife and dining areas in the town.
The Esso Club is a Clemson standard, and is located within a short distance of the ballpark. Mellow Mushroom is also a choice for those who would like a pizza and a craft beverage after watching the Tigers play. If you take a walk or drive around the campus and surrounding area, however, there are any number of options for dining, grabbing a beverage or just enjoying the scenery. History buffs will also get great joy from seeing Howard's Rock and the campus once roamed by John Heisman, among many star athletes, legislators and other famous graduates.
The towns of Pendleton and Anderson are nearby, with the Georgia state line located about 20 minutes southwest of campus. Greenville is about 35-45 minutes to the northeast.
Clemson has a tremendous following anywhere they go. When traveling around the Palmetto State, one usually sees either orange or garnet on car stickers, flags, t-shirts and any other type of memorabilia. These fans make their way to Doug Kingsmore Stadium, as the facility's points out. Spending twenty-plus consecutive seasons in the top 20 and over ten in a row in the top ten in attendance certainly earns Clemson the accolades it deserves. Those who show up wear their orange and support their Tigers.
That said, the night I attended was likely an unfair judgment of the Clemson fan experience as a whole. There were empty seats all over the ballpark (despite a "tickets sold" attendance announced of greater than half capacity), and many of the fans headed for the exits after the seventh inning with the Tigers down just one run. The game was a late addition to the schedule and a brief rain shower came through, cooling off the night air a bit. Still, it would have been good to see more fans hang around until the final pitch and sing the alma mater after the game.
Parking and traffic on Clemson's campus can sometimes be a nightmare. This is certainly not the case at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. There are two large parking areas, with one behind the outfield wall and the other behind home plate. Both areas are free and offer great ingress and egress. It may be better to park behind the outfield fence, as the parking behind the plate is still within foul ball territory.
The concourses are extremely wide, allowing for plenty of room to maneuver throughout the ballpark. Restrooms can be found behind the plate and outfield grandstand, and they are large and well kept. The facilities are extremely clean, as well. The walk to the restrooms will be short, no matter your seat or standing position in the park.
Greenville is 35-45 minutes from the park. Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) is located in Greer, just north of downtown Greenville. This is likely the most logical destination for fans who want to travel to a Clemson game by air. Interstate 85 travels through nearby Anderson, with US Highway 76 and South Carolina Highways 28 and 93 running near the campus itself.
This is where the Clemson baseball experience becomes a bit problematic. There are three different pricing tiers for Clemson baseball, with South Carolina ($20 for reserved, $15 for general admission), premium ACC and regional games ($15 for reserved, $10 for general admission) and $10 for reserved ($5 for youth and groups) for all other games. This turns attending a Tiger game into a situation where you can select your own adventure. The South Carolina tickets are also initially limited to IPTAY (Clemson's booster club) members. If you want to see a more high-profile opponent at Doug Kingsmore, chances are you will pay considerably more to do so. If you want to pay less money, you can see one of Clemson's 'lesser' opponents, probably on a weeknight.
If you go the completely cheap route and go to a weekday game, buy a hamburger (a decent enough hamburger, to be sure, but not worth what the ballpark charges for it) and the smallest souvenir soda, you will find yourself out $19 per person. Go to an ACC game and sit in a reserved seat, and you're easily breaking the $20 barrier per person to go see a game. Sure, Clemson has a beautiful facility and puts a great product on the field, but spending between $75 and $100 for a family of four to see a college baseball game is a lot of money.
When you walk in the gate at Doug Kingsmore, you will be greeted by a friendly event staffer who offers a free roster sheet for both teams. They offer a smiling face and the answers to any questions you may have about the stadium.
There is also a Guest Services booth just to the right of the outfield entry area. The booth features yet another friendly staffer, and allows fans to sign up for promotions and receive free Clemson schedules, among other items. This is yet another welcome touch to make fans feel at home at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
The school offers a "novelties" stand on the concourse behind the plate, near the concession areas. Fans can purchase jerseys, t-shirts, caps and other Clemson paraphernalia. Prices are a bit steep, but we have already established that one should expect a bit more expensive purchase when buying these items. The offerings are considerably more impressive than most other collegiate facilities, though, so this absolutely merits a mention.
The Tiger Rag plays over the PA system before each game, and the in-stadium announcer references the weather both in Clemson and Omaha. These are neat added atmospheric touches.
Clemson has a tremendous amount of history in its baseball program, and there is no question about that history as you walk around Doug Kingsmore Stadium. There are banners honoring great players and teams hanging from the seating bowl facade behind the plate, as well as banners honoring Clemson's conference championships, College World Series appearances and more. There are also banners on the outfield fence honoring great players in Clemson history, including future big leaguers Khalil Greene and Kris Benson. Further, there is a plaque honoring Doug Kingsmore behind the plate, and one honoring Thomas F. Chapman (for whom the grandstand is named) near the grandstand entrance.
Finally, no mention of Doug Kingsmore Stadium can be made without bringing up the Cajun Cafe and Cheap Seats beyond the outfield wall. The Cheap Seats, a bus painted in Clemson colors located beyond the right field fence, features rooftop seating with bleachers, a sofa and more among its many features. The bus is now a permanent addition to the Clemson baseball landscape, and the die-hards in the Cheap Seats can be heard from anywhere in the ballpark on most occasions. The Cajun Cafe, meanwhile, is a special area with its own Facebook page. Though it costs a bit more to hang out in the Cajun Cafe, the food, fellowship and unique atmosphere are certainly worth the cost. These elements -- and many others -- truly give Clemson baseball its big time feel.
Clemson baseball is highly-regarded in almost all circles for the fan experience, and the Tigers certainly work hard to earn that standing. You'll pay a little extra to see a game here, but you can choose the amount you will spend and the quality of opponent you will see. To be sure, though, a night out at a Clemson game will leave you happy for days and years to come.
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