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Official Review by Stephen Schmidt, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Upon asking about the history of Gary Hogan Field, Hogan himself leads you to a large photo. It is a picture of the stadium that would become his namesake, taken on the July day in 1985 when he began his 11-season tenure as the head coach of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock baseball team. It rests on one of the walls of the venue’s Legends Room as a reminder of the team’s humble -- and dusty -- roots. Back then, the field had no infield grass and looked no better than a sandlot encased by rickety chain-link fencing.
“I have that same picture, the original picture, in my office. When I have a bad day, I look at that picture and go ‘Nothing can ever be as bad that,’” said Hogan, who currently serves as the school’s associate athletic director. He still attends a majority of the Trojans’ home games, helping out with various tasks in the press box.
The exact date of the field’s construction is unknown, but the Trojans first started playing on it in 1978. Its infamous playing conditions forced the Trojans in the early ’80s to play some of their games at Ray Winder Field and Fort Roots Field in North Little Rock. Under Hogan’s guidance and fundraising ability, the park has steadily made an assortment of improvements -- including most recently the addition of polyurethane turf in the infield in place of standard AstroTurf in the field in 2011 -- to allow UALR to stay competitive in the Sun Belt Conference.
In 2004, the school received an offer for its biggest donation to date for $1.6 million -- provided that Curran Conway Field got a name change. “Does it feel strange to see my name out there?” Hogan said of looking out to see the scoreboard with his name on it. “Yes... Always strange.”
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There is only one concession stand that sells the standard fare. The most popular items are hot dogs for $2. Fans can also get a combo meal with chips and drink (Pepsi products) for $4 with a hamburger or $5 with a cheeseburger. Other items include nachos for $2 and an assortment of candy for $1.25. In addition, team wristbands are also available next to the candy for $3 each. Fans are allowed to bring in coolers, something that caters to the crowd taking advantage of the wide concourses by lining the top of the stands with collapsible chairs. Beer is permitted, too, as long as it's in a cup.
The backdrop certainly puts the park in ballpark as the outfield wall butts up against a thick range of towering trees that create quite the scenic view, interspersed with rooftops from the surrounding Oak Forest neighborhood. The stadium is located inside Curran Conway Park and this is evident as soon as you drive into the parking lot that is almost entirely shaded due to the massive trees. The stadium's overhang covers at least half of the venues seating area. There is only one gate to enter. Instead of a ticket booth, fans will find someone sitting at a table selling general admission tickets for $5 each that resemble those given out for a raffle at a church picnic. The grandstand features approximately 500 green chair back seats that are surrounded by rows of bleacher seats. Four large poles hold it up, but none are overly distracting. Still, it is best to avoid the perimeter of the chair backs if you want a clear view of the first and third base paths.
Although the stadium and park have a certain rustic beauty about them, they are in a less-than-ideal locale. There are no surrounding bars, restaurants or places of interests, besides the UALR campus itself, within an easy walk or drive from the stadium. The area is highly residential -- in an area that has a bad reputation for crime. There have been documented instances of cars getting broken into in the parking lot in the past. One off-duty police officer, who has patrolled a majority of the UALR games, said he only had one occurrence happen on his watch this season. There is not a nearby traditional UALR sports bar loaded with Trojan gear, but members of the college community love to flock to Senior Tequila at 2000 S. University Ave. for good fajitas and margaritas -- and mariachi band music on Sunday night. For nightlife, most everyone in town heads to the River Market area in downtown Little Rock, which is a 10-minute drive away with no traffic.
The fans are knowledgeable. In spite of their small numbers, they could certainly generate a lot of noise whenever the Trojans made a noteworthy play. Many used giveaway plastic rattlers to create noise at opportune times. It should be noted that the game I attended was taking place during the school's finals, so it's hard to fault a low student turnout.
There are plenty of places to park and it's free. Curran Conway Park and the stadium are not very well marked, noted only by a couple of small brown signs. An out-of-towner might find it a little difficult to navigate there. There is only one set of restrooms. The men's facilities are small (one toilet, two urinals) and could use a fresh coat of paint -- among other enhancements. That being said, there is never a line to get inside. The stadium does have a wheelchair ramp to allow easy access to disabled visitors and plenty of space for them to perch at the top of the concourse and enjoy the game.
In spite of the surrounding neighborhood, a game at Gary Hogan Field remains a high value -- especially for baseball purists who are mainly interested in watching Division I baseball for $5 a ticket to sit anywhere. It would be hard to imagine a more idyllic scene at other college baseball venues in Arkansas than watching the sun setting for an evening game amidst the lush trees. The fact that anyone can bring in coolers and outside food adds to the overall value.
One point is awarded for the wooden deck in left field that offers great views on the third base side and great opportunity for fans to eat and drink next to a table surface.
One point is given for the wide concourses that allow for good views all the way around. In addition the top of the grandstands feature fans to help cool down visitors when the weather heats up.
One final point is awarded for the surrounding greenery in the outfield -- especially if you saw how the backdrop looked in the early 80s before Hogan took over the ship.
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2000 S University Ave
Little Rock, AR 72204
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