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Official Review by Bill Kintner, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
This ballpark is currently called "Home of the Florence Freedom." It used to be Champion Windows Field, until the naming rights agreement ran out and they haven't yet found a company to pony-up the green backs to be awarded naming rights. No matter what it is called, fans will find a really laid-back customer-friendly minor league baseball experience in a field that looks bigger than the 4,500 official capacity.
It is a 100 percent FieldTurf field. The dirt areas or what is the dirt areas on a grass field are simply turf painted brown. It is makes it so games can be played unless it is raining heavily during the game.
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".
Nothing fancy here and I mean nothing, but generally the prices are pretty good, with a few things priced a little high compared to the rest of the menu.
They also offer Brooks' Meats BBQ, United Dairy Farmers Ice Cream cups, and a huge soft pretzel that looked delish. There is also a value menu that offered food for $1.50 - $2.50 including mini funnel cakes, Cincinnati-style cheese Coneys and corn dogs.
They serve Miller Beer products and it runs $4.50 for a domestic. You can have an import for $5.50. A 20-ounce Pepsi is $3.00.
Hot dogs: $2.00, A good size, bursting with spicy flavor dog and a warm, soft bun. Rating: A
Large popcorn: $4.00, The popcorn is not warm, but is salty, with a good corn taste. Rating: A-
Nachos w/cheese: $3.50, Below average chips that were whole, not broken and decent cheese with some spices and it was hot. Rating: C
All general seating is below the main concourse, and there are some private boxes and group seating areas that are on a second level above the concourse. The concourse is nice and wide, plus it is a gathering place for people during the game. Fans can see the field from just about anywhere in the park, other than in the rest rooms.
The seats are plastic chair-backs with cup holders. The seating sections are color -coded according to old Riverfront Stadium. Red seats at Riverfront were the highest, followed by the yellow seats, then green and the blue seats were field level. Here the blue are right behind home plate, the green are a little further down by the dugouts, followed by the yellow and finally the reds seat which are the furthest from home plate.
There is a picnic area called the Party Patio, with picnic tables down the right field line and there are grass berms in the right and left field corners. And of course, the kiddies get a modest play area with equipment to climb on, jump on and slide down.
The Florence Freedom seem to really take the "Freedom theme" seriously. During the first inning, the libertarian-themed song, "Uprising" by Muse, blared over the speaker system while a large number of people hung out at the full bar located on the first base concourse and a lot of them smoked up a storm. Smoking is allowed around the bar area. According to the PA announcer, "If you are smoking anywhere else, you better be on fire."
Liberty and Bell, the eagle mascots, worked the park and got up on the dugouts from time to time. Speaking of dugouts, The Rally Team, once or twice a game, hops up on both dugouts and leads the fans with some dance moves. If you guessed they are young college co-eds, you are correct. The fans seemed to enjoy it almost as much as I did.
Back to the "Freedom theme," the game stopped for a minute between the sixth and seventh inning while a fan sung "God Bless America" as everyone stopped what they were doing and stood.
There are gas stations, a hotel, car dealer, all close by the stadium. This is a suburban area, so fans will want to drive to any post-game fun. There is Shakey's Pub and Grub, just a few blocks away. They have good pub food at reasonable prices.
Go right instead of left on Route 42 and you will find WilKat Tavern, a bar that serves burgers, steaks and BBQ, with most burgers and sandwiches under $7.
The Florence Mall is about a half mile away and you can pretty much find any kind of casual dining food you can imagine in the area around mall.
On the night of my visit there were 2,831 fans in the park. Because of the big open concourses a lot of fans stand there and watch the action with their friends, so there appears to be more empty seats than there normally would be.
Pretty typical minor league fans, they love the between inning promotions, good baseball and a good value.
The ballpark is located just off of I-75 near the intersection of I-75 and Route 42. It is clearly visible when approaching on I-75 from the south. There is plenty of free parking and it is a very short walk to the ballpark.
In the ballpark there are restrooms on both sides of the field and one for fans in the boxes and group areas on the second level.
Tickets on weekdays run from $7 on the berm, $10 for reserved and $12 for VIP seats which include in-seat service. A fan will be able to buy a ticket and eat for under $20. That is a good bargain for three hours of entertainment.
I will award a star for being a good value, and one for allowing fans to smoke. One for not having a bad seat in the house and another because the players play the game the right way, compared to the sometimes lackadaisical play of some major leaguers.
Compared to the nearby Cincinnati Reds, or any other MLB team, the Florence Freedom offer a low-hassle, high-value experience for the entire family. This is a place to take junior to show him how the game should be played and dad will not wind up in the poor house.
**Photo courtesy of the Florence Freedom
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7718 US Highway 42
Florence, KY 41042
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