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Official Review by Josh Verlin, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Reading Indians began play in Reading's Municipal-Memorial Stadium back in 1951. That same stadium, known now as FirstEnergy Stadium, is now home to the Reading Phillies, who've occupied it since 1967. While the stadium enters its seventh decade of existence - the oldest in the Eastern League by 37 YEARS - it feels like it's in much better shape than stadiums half its age. The connection to the immensely popular parent club is obvious, but the Reading Phillies do a good job keeping a minor-league atmosphere even with major-league fans. A visit up to Municipal-Memorial stadium, just an hour's drive north from Philadelphia, is a must for any Phillies (or visiting) fan.
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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".
I'll be honest, I wasn't blown away by the food selection at the ballpark. There was a cotton candy stand and a Rita's stand out in right field, near a Yuengling Grill that served its namesake beer for $5.50. There was a hot dog for $1.25 and the usual ballpark eats, but nothing that really wowed me. Points for it being cheap and the lines being incredibly short all over the ballpark - but that might just be because the fans know the food isn't really worth getting excited about.
I arrived at the stadium 90 minutes early on a blisteringly hot, 110-degree day in Reading and the park was already buzzing. A band of mascots (literally, see the pictures above) played rock and roll in the concourse, families were sitting around eating at tables down both the left field and right field concourses, and the parking lots were already filling up. With all the top players that have come through the Phillies' system, the R-Phils Hall of Fame is fairly impressive in itself - Schmidt, Sandberg, even Roger Maris (from the Indians days). There's clearly a lot of history in Reading.
There wasn't really much to do around the stadium - sitting on the north edge of town, it's a few minutes' drive from the ballpark to get into the main part of Reading. However, there was one highlight close to the ballpark - Mike's Sandwich Shop, located at the corner of Centre Avenue and Bern Street. Mike's was your typical pre-game sandwich place: hoagies, grinders, burgers + fries, and cheesesteaks (their specialty) for as little as $2.25 for a burger and $4.50 for a hoagie.
Phillies (Reading and Philadelphia) red was everywhere in the stadium, and it was clear the hometown crowd knew their team. Numerous people were filling out their scorecards at the lineup card out in the concourse, debating who would be called up to the majors next. The game I attended saw Reading jump out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, and a two-out rally really energized the crowd. I would imagine if it hadn't been so hot out, the energy would have been palpable.
60-year-old bathrooms are never much to write home about, but these could solidly be described as "not bad." Most of the points here have to come from the parking situation. All the parking around the stadium was free, and there was plenty of it. Granted, I got there fairly early but there were still plenty of open lots all around the ballpark. Even those not owned by the R-Phils are available for free parking, which is extremely convenient. There was barely even a line to get into the lots, so it was just an easy experience all the way around.
Tickets are at most $11, so no matter what seats you get you're getting a great value for your money. AA baseball is no laughing matter - usually just one step from the pros, the Eastern League is a hotbed of young talent. Go pre-game and check out the show out in right field, especially if you have kids. Walking around outside the stadium is rewarding in itself, with both a nice veterans memorial as well as the names of former Reading players carved in bricks outside the main entrance. High-quality baseball at a low price is always a good deal.
This park had everything you could ever want in a minor-league experience. There were a few fans waiting by the player's entrance, and a few of the minor leaguers obliged before heading into the locker rooms. There was a giant inflatable slide out in right field along with a few other sports-related games for families, right next to the aforementioned mascot band. The concourse walls were filled with R-Phils memorabilia, from team photos taken back to the team's beginnings as well as uniforms, bats, and autographed photos. Even the team's store was sponsored by Mitchell & Ness, a notable Philadelphia jersey retailer. In addition, the scoreboard was a fairly new video board and featured a pitch speed display out in center field.
I'd been told for years that I needed to get up and see the Reading Phillies in person, and now I'll forward that message on to all of you. When you think minor league baseball, you think of a fun, family-friendly atmosphere that knows baseball but doesn't take themselves too seriously - and in that respect, FirstEnergy Stadium hits a grand slam. The park mixes old-fashioned charm with new accommodations seamlessly, and I highly recommend taking the trip up to Reading.
Member Review by FuriousShepherd on Jan 23, 2012
Great place to watch a game. The crowds are huge, knowledgeable and loud - maybe too loud at times. The food is getting better, especially in the RF food court. Best local beers (Yuengling & Stoudt's) of any stadium I've been to. Get there early or you'll be walking several blocks from your car to the stadium.
Member Review by DBusch on Jan 27, 2012
Visit for yourself and find out why they call Reading, PA "Baseballtown USA".
1755 Centre Ave
Reading, PA 19601
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