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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
City Island in Harrisburg is an extremely unique place. What makes it unique, a true one of a kind place, is that two sports complexes are located on this island park out in the middle of the mighty Susquehanna River.
The City Islanders play in the United Soccer League (USL), the third tier of the American Soccer Pyramid. This league, especially after recent agreements with Major League Soccer (MLS), has stabilized the soccer system in North America. The City Islanders have been around since 2003.
The City Islanders have at least a two year agreement to play in FNB Field, home of the Harrisburg Senators baseball team. The team is also playing a few games a year in Clipper Magazine Stadium in nearby Lancaster, PA.
The other athletic field on City Island is the former home of the City Islanders, the Skyline Sports Complex. That stadium was not ideal, although the team always made the best of the situation. The organization is interactive and gets the crowd into the game.
The team does hope to have a new stadium of their own to replace Skyline Sports Complex on City Island.
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".
The concourse has many basic stands with the usual baseball names like "Dugout Dogs," "Batters Box," "Foul Ball Grill," and "Sen-a-Taters." All of the stands offer decent food options that are normally seen at baseball games. Hot dogs are pretty cheap at $2.50 with a jumbo for $3.50. Popcorn at $2.25, $4 for cotton candy and Nachos for $4 are also great values. Not all stands will be open for City Islanders games.
Some temporary food vendors will likely also be open around the concourse and boardwalk area.
Arooga's Wing, in the center field boardwalk sells six original or boneless wings for $6, with your choice of three sauces. This local establishment is tasty and does offer a food option that is not always seen at ballparks.
A food stand near the entrance, called the Spot, has some good daily specials such as a Reuben Dog or the "Hot Mess" dog covered in ground beef BBQ. Just bring cash as this stand does not accept credit cards.
Soccer in a baseball stadium seems like it could be problematic. But the relatively unique design of FNB Field makes it easier for spectators. FNB has much of its concourses and stands raised quite a bit above the field, because of the threat of flooding with it being on an island. That means that the views of the overall field surface is quite good.
The entrance plaza is in what is the outfield area of the stadium. That makes for a good central place to watch the soccer pitch.
Not everything is perfect as the main baseball grandstand is far from the action. Luckily only a part of that grandstand is used for the soccer games. Some of the stands along the first base side are also pretty far removed from the soccer action.
The "Socceritaville Deck" sits below the scoreboard. This holdover from the old stadium is a party place for certain season ticketholders to watch and enjoy the event in a more festive atmosphere.
If you are there for night games beware the mayflies that swarm, much as they do at the baseball games. Bright colors will attract them more, so dress appropriately in darker colors.
The location on an island would seem to be a bad location for a sports stadium. But City Island is lucky to have all of the many diversions. There is even a small snack bar located on the island.
The pedestrian bridge to downtown Harrisburg is called the Walnut Street Bridge and allows one to quickly get over to an area where there are numerous restaurants and bar choices. 2nd Street is the best place to go. Anthony's Micro Pub & Pizza at 225 N 2nd Street is a small bar with a large craft beer selection. Look out for some great daily specials. On Fridays and Saturdays the happy hour special includes free pizza and half off beers. Federal Taphouse is another area recommendation.
There are also many historical sites littered around the capital area. The Pennsylvania State Capitol building, the Pennsylvania State Museum, the National Civil War Museum, and the Whitaker Center, a kid-friendly science museum are just a few of the options.
The numerous attractions of Hershey, PA are also a short drive down the road.
The fans are knowledgeable soccer fans that show their team pride well and with respect.
There is a steady attendance of 2,000 or so that come to each game.
Harrisburg is surrounded by major highways such as I-81, I-83 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But the highways won't help with traffic to the stadium. The island is accessed by a single bridge and that means traffic will be heavy at times.
One option is to sneak onto the bridge from the west, by way of the town of Camp Hill, where traffic may be lighter. You could also park in downtown Harrisburg and walk over, but be prepared to pay parking prices that are far too high for such a small city.
If you park on the island, be prepared for parking to be $4.
The return on investment is where this experience shines. Single game tickets are $14 with cheaper prices for children ($8). Kids 4 and under are free. Game day prices are additional $1.
With the $4 parking, coupled with great food prices, the whole package makes the City Islanders a decent value. Fans will see a good level of talent on the field, at a very close view.
The Senators team store located beyond the left field wall is one of the largest we have seen at minor league baseball. They will be open for City islanders games as well. Prices are good and they usually have some clearance options to make things cheaper. There will also be City Islanders merchandise for sale.
Check out the very high flood level marking on the pedestrian bridge towards downtown. It is amazing to think that in the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes the water level of the Susquehanna River was way above the bridge. The bridge used to also span west from the island but collapsed in 1996 due to flooding and was never rebuilt.
There is no better way to get ready to watch a match at a baseball stadium than to try out one of the batting cages operated between the entrance of the park and the Walnut Street Bridge. Prices are $1.25 for a single time in the cage with 12 pitches. $20 gets you 480 total pitches.
Soccer matches in a stadium designed for baseball seems like it could be full of issues. But the City Islanders and FNB Field seem to work very well together. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the soccer team in terms of their own stadium, but the current setup works quite well.
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