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Official Review by Drew Cieszynski, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Many programs claim to play baseball in paradise, but only one can make the claim in a literal sense. With Paradise, NV being home for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels, this is one ballpark that fans from all over the country will gladly travel to.
The Rebels home field is known as Earl E. Wilson Stadium, named for Hazel and Earl Wilson. The Wilson’s estate donated $6.5 million to the University, $1.2 of which was used for construction of the baseball stadium.
Beyond just location, the facility is easily one of the most reputable in college baseball. Able to accommodate 3,000 fans, this venue has experienced a rather consistent stream of improvements every few years.
The program started the “Hustlin’ Rebel” tradition in 1973, playing at Rebel Field. Later, in 1980, it was renamed Roger Barnson Field for the University’s previous Athletic Director. In 1993, construction of the current stadium began on the site of the previous stadium. When it was dedicated in January of 1994 as Earl E. Wilson Stadium, it was decided that the Roger Barnson namesake would remain on the field.
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".
If fans have any stomach room left after the all-you-can-eat buffets on the strip, they will find a single concession stand behind home plate. Fans should note however, the concession stand is cash only.
The food options are limited to pretzels ($3), popcorn ($2), nachos ($3), Rebel Dog ($4), caterpillars or gummie bears candy ($3), twizzlers ($6 - not a typo), sunflower seeds ($2), or a sliders and chips combo ($6).
The beverage options include bottled water ($3), Powerade ($3), and bottled Coke or Sprite soda ($3). Being one of the few schools to offer alcohol options on campus, fans can get Bud, Coors, or Miller beers for $6, coffee or hot chocolate with Bailey's Irish Cream for $5, and lastly wine for $6.
Attending a Rebels game while in Las Vegas is a great change of pace from the strip or even downtown. The stadium is indeed a beautiful one and while you can see the towering hotels in the distance, there are not a lot of diversions detracting from the game at hand.
The public address announcer is easily one of the best in the Southwest United States and really gives the venue a major-league feel.
If you've never visited the campus of UNLV, you would be surprised by its proximity to the strip. Before or after the game, fans have access to some of the best entertainment and food options in the world. Lodging is never an issue as there are likely more hotels rooms within a 10 minute radius than at any other venue in the world.
Of course, not every fan wants to deal with the intensity of the strip, so there are many more low-key options in the immediate area. Roy's Hawaiian, Buca di Beppo for Italian, the Hoffbrau House, Capriotti's Subs, Red Lobster, Origin India Restaurant, Johnny Rockets, and Kaizen Fushion Roll & Sushi are all just minutes away.
The turnout of the fan base was a bit surprising considering the success of the program, but the school was on spring break during the game, so many students may have been away.
There appeared to be many locals at the game who would have little or no interest in the nearby entertainment, and simply were there to cheer on the home team, as they do every game.
Earl E Wilson certainly draws more opposing fans than any other venue due to the nearby entertainment options and marketing of the city. This can definitely create some interesting atmospheres with the bantering among fans.
The access is possibly the best feature of this stadium. During the game, many airplanes will fly overhead as the venue is just minutes from the airport. If fans are driving rather than flying, the campus is just moments off of the 15 freeway. Lastly, if fans are staying on the strip, it is even feasible to walk to the venue.
Parking is available just outside the main gate, but spots do appear to be limited. There does not seem to be an attendant on hand, so my parking was free on gameday, although I would caution that vehicles do require the hourly permit during school hours.
Once inside the stadium, you'll notice a rather spacious concourse and easy-to-find restrooms. There are two restrooms per gender, all located behind the main grandstand. In the men's room, fans are greeted by a sea of red paint and have six stations for use.
The seating area has mostly fold-down seats, rather spacious, but lacking cup holders. There are some bleacher seats a bit higher, but with a capacity of 3,000, they are seldom used.
With many items in Las Vegas at exorbitant prices, this is easily one of the best entertainment values. Fans get to witness one of the best stadiums in college baseball, one of the more successful programs in the sport, and often gorgeous weather for reasonable prices.
A regular ticket is a mere $8, with seniors at $6, kids admitted for free, and a "Student Buddy" for just $4.
Even more impressive is that creative promotions are often offered to save fans even more. Some of the promotions that I took note of included "wear green on St. Patrick's day" or bring your NCAA conference tournament stub" for half price tickets.
While many of the extras are not immediately apparent upon walking through the gates, Earl E. Wilson does have many extra touches that enhance the experience.
First are the many benches both outside and inside of the stadium. Not just everyday benches, some are made of granite and other materials to memorialize those that have contributed to the program. Benches for Charles & Selma Knauss are found outside of the stadium, while inside both James A Kelly and Blair L. Woofter are honored.
Unfortunately, not everyone is rather engaged in a baseball contest. Whether consciously or not, during design of the stadium a large grass area was placed along the third base side. During the game, many children were taking advantage of this area for their own imaginative sports.
Upon entering the stadium, the plaza that greets fans has a large flowerbed that spells "UNLV" as well as a plaque honoring Earl E. Wilson. The prominent red facade of the stadium reinforces the school colors and once fans get to the top of the plaza steps, they'll find the starting lineup for the Rebels displayed prominently.
The retired numbers from the programs are found on the large 12 foot outfield wall. The players immortalized in Rebel baseball include Ryan Ludwick (18), Matt Williams (15), and coach Fred Dallimore (13).
The UNLV bullpen is both elevated to see the playing field and shaded from the hot sun. The opposing bullpen is simply an aluminum bench. Nothing more needs to be said with the exception of "home field advantage."
Lastly, the "335 Club" needs to be mentioned. Named for their position beyond the 335 foot marker of the outfield wall, this section is reserved for the most passionate Rebel fans. These fans seem to start tailgating hours before the game, are always spotted in red, and have an exclusive view of the playing field.
Baseball fans cannot deny Earl E. Wilson Stadium as one of the best in the sport. There is probably no venue that can complete in the slightest on the "Neighborhood" category with significant points in the Access, ROI, and Extras categories.
A few of the changes I would love to see at the ballpark include cup holders on the seats, additional concession options and the acceptance of credit cards, and an awning of some sort that could shield fans from the hot desert sun. All in all however, a visit to see the Hustlin' Rebels is time well spent!
Follow Drew's travels through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
Member Review by DustyTxn on May 12, 2016
Barely any fan support. There were more from the opposing team. Stadium itself is very nice. Concession choices very limited.
620 East Flamingo Road
Paradise, NV 89119
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