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Official Review by Bryce Stevenson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Founded in 1954, the Air Force Academy prepares more than 4,400 cadets a year for active duty as an officer in the Air Force. After 4 years of traditional classroom instruction, flight and survival training, lessons in military etiquette and tradition, and physical training, cadets are commissioned as second lieutenants and with a Bachelor's of Science from one of the top universities in the nation.
One, of many, cadet requirements are mandatory participation in athletics, whether at the intramural or varsity level. While many facets of contemporary NCAA athletics are unsavory, the Academy uses athletics to boost physical fitness while also developing character and leadership skills, all important attributes for military officers.
The Academy has 17 men’s and 10 women’s teams competing in NCAA Division 1, with the major sports belonging to the Mountain West Conference. The baseball team was founded in 1957, and while the Falcons themselves don't have a lot of draftable talent, the Mountain West as a whole does, and this usually results in competitive games.
The Falcons play at Falcon Field, a small field with a listed capacity of 1,000. The only official seating is a set of bleachers behind each dugout, but the grass ridges behind the bleachers offer a nice view with a chance to move around. The field is nestled between a football practice field, a rugby field, and various other athletic fields. Nearby is the Cadet Fieldhouse, which houses the Falcon basketball and ice hockey teams.
The field itself is quite a throwback to the past compared to any modern major league stadium, but a good time can be had by any baseball fan.
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".
There is a small food trailer behind home plate serving hot dogs, brats, polish sausage, candy and soda. Here are the prices, as of the 2015 season:
Hot Dog - $3
Brats - $5
Polish Sausage - $6
Chips - $1.50
Candy - $2.50
Soda (20 oz) - $3.50
Water (20 oz) - $3.50
Gatorade (20 oz) - $3.50
The hot dog and its sausage cousins are grilled ahead of time and kept warm in a water bath. The hot dog I had was a good size and quite tasty. The narrow selection combined with high drink prices only give this category one star.
The capacity is low - listed at 1,000, with turnouts much lower than that. The field has great views of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and the fans in attendance are attentive and very into the game. Seating is very close to the field, a welcome change if you don't want to fork over a lot of cash at your local MLB park. The press box plays music between innings and walkup music for each Air Force hitter, something you wouldn't expect walking up to the venue. The overall atmosphere is elevated by the setting in general - while the field opens up away from the foothills, there are breathtaking views looking back from home plate.
The field (with the exception of the dirt mound) is FieldTurf, an unfortunate but pragmatic choice when accounting for the spring snowstorms that frequently occur along the Front Range. There isn't a bad seat in the house - each bleacher runs from home plate to first/third base and are right on top of the action. The small grassy ridges behind the bleachers provide an area to sit with camping chairs or a picnic blanket. The bullpens are down each foul line, and fans can peer through the fence and be 10 feet away from pitchers warming up. There are no advertisements along the outfield wall, or anywhere close to Falcon Field. This is an unexpected benefit, and a welcome reprieve from the deluge of advertisements seen at virtually every stadium.
One of my favorite things - there's a banner past the left center field fence from the Commandant of Cadets (equivalent Dean of Students or Chancellor at a typical university). The banner promises a free weekend to any cadet who hits a home run off of the banner. Hopefully the NCAA does not rule a free weekend an impermissible benefit.
The college baseball season happens in late winter/early spring, a turbulent time in Colorado weather. Conditions during the game will be a crapshoot - you could enjoy a gorgeous 70 degree game in late February, or have a game canceled by an early May snowstorm. Consult your weather forecast of choice the day of your trip to the Academy.
The Air Force Academy is about 10 minutes north of Colorado Springs and 45 minutes south of Denver. This makes the Academy relatively remote, and the enormous footprint of the Academy grounds mean there are no bars or restaurants in close proximity. If you are willing to travel a few miles on Interstate 25, there are restaurants and bars around the Briargate Road exit, as well as fast food and a brewery in Monument. The lack of immediate proximity to food and beverage is made up by the Academy itself and the numerous points of interest within the grounds.
Continuing along the visitor road route past the field will bring you to the Barry Goldwater Visitor Center. Inside, you will find a gift shop, maps of the Academy, a theater showing a short film about cadet life, exhibits detailing the history of the Academy and the men and women who have passed through. Take a map - it will help guide you around the Academy, both to Falcon Field and various points of interest. Outside the Visitor Center is a short (about a third of a mile - takes about 10 minutes at a very leisurely pace) and beautiful trail that will lead you to the Cadet Chapel, the most recognizable landmark at the Academy.
Completed in 1962, the Cadet Chapel soars more than 150 feet above the ground. The facility houses separate chapels for Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Buddhist services, all of which can occur simultaneously without interrupting the other services. There is also an All-Faiths room, which accommodates Muslims and cadets of other faiths. The chapel is very impressive and a must see for any trip to the Academy.
There are a few aircraft replicas positioned along the roads through the Academy. I'd recommend stopping and taking pictures of at least the full size B-52 that is situated near the North Gate.
While small in number, the fans that attend Air Force baseball games are very friendly and passionate about the game. Many friends and family of the players and cadets in the game are present. At the game I attended, the Air Force athletic director was mingling with fans behind home plate and having conversations about the future of the athletic department. The Air Force managers working the radar gun behind home plate are glad to talk baseball and give a decent scouting report on the other team.
This section is difficult - here at Stadium Journey, stadium access is typically graded based on the proximity of public transportation and price of parking. Based on this criteria, access is poor, but it's not because of poor urban planning, or a greedy team owner building a publicly financed stadium in a remote suburb. The Air Force Academy is an active military installation and is subject to specific security-related restrictions that just don't exist at other stadiums.
At the time of my visit, all US military bases were under Force Protection Condition Bravo, an elevated level of security due to a credible terrorist threat. During past Air Force football and basketball games I've attended, guards waved cars through the security checkpoints. This visit was a little different. Because of the heightened security, the Academy was closed to individuals who did not possess an active Department of Defense ID. An exception was made for fans who were attending the baseball game. I was required to show a valid photo ID, and my car was searched before I was allowed to enter.
The bottom line: due to external circumstances, access may be restricted, even on a game day. I'd advise checking the AFA website before scheduling a trip to ensure that the Academy is open. Even if security is relaxed to "normal" levels, I'd budget at least 30 minutes to get from Interstate 25 to your destination on the Academy grounds to account for possible security delays. I'd also recommend entering the Academy at the North Gate - it has more lanes for visitors.
Once through the gate, it is an easy drive up towards the field. Some cars park along the roads that run parallel to the foul lines behind the bleachers - this is not recommended, as a few well-hit foul balls threaten windshields and headlights throughout the game. I parked in a small lot south of home plate and had no worries about possible baseball damage to my car.
Due to location and the military nature of the base, there is no public transit to the Academy. The North Gate is located less than a half mile from Interstate 25 and is clearly marked on highway signage, so the entrance is not difficult to locate.
There is no charge for entrance to the Academy, entrance to the baseball game, or to any of the visitor activity areas. Enjoying a baseball game, enjoying the stunning architecture of the Cadet Chapel, and walking through the AFA museum, all set among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains for free is a return on investment that can't be beat.
If you enjoy mascots roaming the aisles, thousands doing the wave, and T-shirt cannons, this may not be the venue for you. If you enjoy baseball at its purest, the Academy is a great place to watch a baseball game while enjoying the scenery and exploring the place where future officers in the Air Force are trained.
Member Review by megminard on May 14, 2012
The Air Force Falcons baseball team plays in the MWC - Mountain West Conference - Div 1 in the NCAA. They play at Falcon Field, part of a sports complex at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.
The stadium seats 1,000 and consists of metal benches without backs along the first base and third base lines; the seating ends at the bases. There is no seating behind home plate as that houses a concrete structure holding officials like the PA and scorekeeper. Most seating is behind a black chain linked fence. The third base side has about 20ft of seating not behind the fence so if you’re one who finds nets and fences inhibit your viewing of a ballgame, sit there; which is what this author did.
2346 Academy Dr # 102
Colorado Springs, CO 80840
U.S. Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, CO 80840
15275 Struthers Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80921