Walking the tree-lined paths of Daffin Park you’ll approach a historic Georgia home for America’s pastime. Built in 1926, Grayson Stadium is home to the Savannah Sand Gnats and one of the oldest ballparks in all of baseball. Baseball has existed on and off in Savannah since 1926 with occasional breaks with the current product being the Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League, a Single A affiliate of the New York Mets.
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Food prices at Grayson Stadium are very reasonable with hot dogs and hamburgers going for $3.25 to $5. Although the dinner selection is pretty average, the good news is you won't find anything on the menu over $7.
You'll find specialty items in the dessert category. On the first base line you'll find the Sugar Shack, offering sweet treats like the S'Mores Panini or Marco's CinnaSquares all for under $6. There's a wide selection of beers available, either by the glass or by the bottle. It's a great value as everything is under $6.
The history around Grayson Stadium is palpable, but not necessarily in a positive regard. The location is great with an old Savannah feeling all around the park, but the park itself hasn't aged as well as the surroundings. The positives of the park lie in the right field tiered bar and left field picnic area. It includes the giant fans to cool the humid heat of Savannah and the old south feel of the surrounding area. There is definitely charm around the park, but a lot of the structure is old and feels neglected.
As with many of the older parks, there's no field view from the concourse. The concourse itself is pavement and had pools of standing water during my most recent visit. There are a few obstructed views, but the best seats are behind home plate. The general admission seats are a low point for the park, as the rows are narrow and my knees ran right up against the bleacher seats in front of me. Overall, the seating is quite uncomfortable.
The best spot to view the game is definitely the bar in right field, although that gets very crowded. It's tiered, so there are a lot of sight lines, but it's definitely recommended you arrive early for a spot.
There is room for improvement with the staff as well. The young woman who took my ticket on entry didn't welcome guests or even acknowledge them as they entered. The concession lines were long and slow all around the park. It is amazing how many teams don't make staff training a top priority, as a friendly and knowledgeable staff really helps to improve the overall atmosphere at a game.
The park isn't a terribly long drive from downtown Savannah, but it's through a pretty unfriendly looking area. There aren't a lot of places to eat around the park, but Savannah offers an abundance of southern cuisine along the riverfront not too far away. Grayson Stadium is immediately surrounded by Daffin Park, which has a distinct old Savannah feel with tree-lined roads and sports fields. Parking is free throughout the park and makes for a unique walk-up to the game. Overall, Savannah is a great city to have nearby and the park is great, but there's some drawback to the immediate area as well.
Grayson Stadium seats around 4,000, but doesn't fill up often. The fans that are there seem to be strong supporters and demonstrate a lot of baseball knowledge. I overheard a lot of talk about baseball strategy and the Mets in general, a relationship that can be rare among Single A clubs at such a distance from their MLB affiliate.
The other portion of the fans on-hand are largely there to enjoy the right field bar area with the game as an afterthought. There are a few families under the trees in the picnic area in left field. Overall there is a decent mix of fans, but not in any volume or supplying any real noise in support of their team.
Located about 2 miles from Savannah and I-16, access to Grayson Stadium is pretty simple. The drive from downtown is a bit of an undesirable drive through some borderline neighborhoods, so it's recommended to come in on I-16 to Victory Drive if possible to minimize that exposure. Parking is free anywhere in the park, and the cars line the streets in the area surrounding the stadium.
Ticket prices are pretty standard for minor league baseball, with General Admission running at $8 and reserved seats at $10. Handicapped seating also falls in the $10 range. Getting in and out of the area is no problem as the crowds are typically pretty small and cars are parked on the roads in the park and not in congested lots.
Ticket pricing is about average and parking is free, but you're not getting a big bang for the buck as far as minor league baseball goes. The staff isn't the friendliest, the stadium isn't the most comfortable and the overall experience falls somewhere below average. The gift store had almost no items available and nothing sized L or XL during my visit toward the end of the regular season. Concessions all have lengthy lines and the bar was packed during my visit despite the less than large Sunday crowd. If you're a serious baseball fan who appreciates the history, then Grayson Stadium is worth checking out, but if you're going for a comfortable and exciting experience you may be disappointed.
The only real uniqueness in the park comes from the surrounding area and proximity to Savannah. For a park with the kind of history of Grayson Stadium, it doesn't seem like a whole lot of effort was put into creating a winning experience for the fans.
Grayson Stadium (named after Spanish-American War veteran General William L. Grayson), was built in 1926 as the home of the Savannah Indians. It went through a major rebuild in 1941 after a major hurricane decimated the structure in August 1940. A press box and other renovations were added in 1995, and a new scoreboard in 2007.
Currently, there seems to be a movement in Savannah to look at replacing Grayson Stadium with a more modern ballpark designed to spur development at the Savannah River Landing, but at this point, it appears to only be in the earliest of planning stages.
News has gotten out the Sand Gnats might be on the move out of Savannah and likely to Columbia, SC as the owner does not see Grayson Stadium fit for baseball anymore and the city is lukewarm to the idea of a new ballpark.
It is a shame on both ends, because Savannah does like their baseball, but also Grayson Stadium is a decent place to take in the game as you do have that "old time" baseball vibe happening.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Not much in the way of variety as the biggest thing they had was a cheesesteak. You do have Land Shark Landing along the first base side, but overall, the quality of the food is so/so.
ATMOSPHERE: You do have that old time feel to the park, which I enjoy. You have all the fun minor league "quirks" of the mascot, the dancing field crew, etc.
NEIGHBORHOOD: The place is set in Daffin Park, Savannah's largest and nicest park. You have a few restaurants around, but some are family restaurants and you have a small sports bar right across the street, though nobody really seemed to go to before or after the game. I guess a park on the riverfront would help in this category, but not overly necessary.
FANS: In terms of knowledgeable fans, Savannah has them. Just don't go when the Rome Braves are there because most of the fans will cheer for the Braves over the Sand Gnats for the main reason of they will still pull for future Braves players over the future Mets players.
ACCESS: It is on the main road in Savannah as you can't miss. However, parking is limited, though free. If it is a large turnout, you might have problems getting to the game. This is the main reason why the owners want a new park as there is no other way to really expand the parking.
ROI: Everything is pretty much good value here with foods mostly being under $5 and the most expensive ticket around $10.
EXTRAS: I give credit to the PA announcer who made it a little more fun with how he announced names and explained the policies before the game in the park. I like the classic feel of the park, and wish there was some way to keep baseball at this place.
I now know why the name Sand Gnats is so appropriate for this team; they are everywhere!
Food: Yes, you can't beat their prices. I would say some of the best prices in all of professional and college sports. Variety I think is pretty good for an almost 90 year-old ballpark. The one problem is that the main concession stand is on the concourse behind home plate and the lines can be long and slow. But, here is a tip, go to the small window out towards the 3rd base line which had pretty much everything except nachos and there was never a line. Or, walk out toward 1st base line and there are two portable stands serving Philly cheese steaks and another serving different types of grilled cheese sandwiches. The pimento grilled cheese with peppers, onions, and mushrooms was great! There is also a portable grill out front on main plaza that never had a line. Box Seats do come with servers offering the full menu. The beer selection was great, they let you take the unopened can, plus a full liquor bar on the concourse and another up in the Sky Bar out in right field. I have very rarely seen full liquor bars in the general areas of a minor league park, unless it was located in a club area. Of course, Savannah is known for drinking and everyone walking around with their "traveler."
Atmosphere: Yes it's an almost 90 year old stadium, well to be honest most of it was re-built in 1941, so an over 70 year old park, so the concourse is very narrow in some areas, especially where they have portable food carts, some higher up seats are obstructed with steel columns, and there are no club seats or luxury boxes. I must say I was disappointed with my box seat. I was in second row on 3rd base side, but I felt like I was a million miles away from the action. First, the seats are very high up from the field, higher than some NFL stadiums, and way far back from the base lines, compared to other parks I have been to (this park was also designed to accommodate a football field) and the ball netting extends all the way down past 1st and 3rd bases. So, I felt disconnected from the game and not part of it. Next time I will buy a general admission ticket and sit in the 1st base bleachers, which are actually closer to the action on the field. I later ended up standing in the 3rd base picnic area by the fence at field level and that was a better view than my box seat, and I felt part of the game. It's definitely a place to see a game in a real old ballpark, and not a new ballpark made to look old. The box seats were wide and comfortable, aisles were wide, and the restrooms were modern. In-game promotions were entertaining, but with the netting completely blocking the field and roofs of the dugouts from the seats, it was hard for the mascot to interact with the fans from the field. He did come through the stands and was walking around the concourse.
Neighborhood: For residents of the city and surrounding area, the park is pretty centrally located. However, for the visiting fan from out-of-town, like me, it's not as convenient as other downtown parks. Instead of driving from downtown through all the neighborhoods, drive East from downtown on East Bay or East President Streets to Harry Truman Parkway and go South on that to the exit for US 80 (East Victory Dr.) turn right and the stadium is just ahead on the left. It's an old park, so of course it was built in the middle of a neighborhood. Not much within walking distance, although go East on 80 and as soon as you pass under Truman Parkway there are chain restaurants. You are in Daffin Park, so come early and have a picnic!
Fans: The stadium size is just right for Single A ball. The night I was there the stadium was close to 3/4 full. Those in attendance cheered on the home team, the crowd was great, and there seemed to be no fan incidents. I though they were pretty loud tonight, especially when they had to win the game in the 9th. I do agree that it may be hard for these fans to connect with the Mets, when most I would assume root for the Braves at the MLB level. Too bad they can't hook-up with maybe Tampa Bay or Miami.
Access: Again, good location for the locals as it's close to the Parkway and the Interstates, but not for those wanting to hit downtown restaurants and bars before or after the game. And today's trend, except for the Atlanta Braves, is to have your baseball stadium downtown. Parking is free anywhere in the park, but you are on your own to create your space as there are no attendants directing traffic. Ticket prices I thought were reasonable, but I will buy a General Admission ticket next time and float from the bleachers, to the picnic area, to the Sky Bar.
Return on Investment: Ticket prices are good. Parking is free! If you want to experience baseball as it was in the '30's through the '50's then this is the place to go. But hurry, as that also may be the reason why this team leaves for Columbia SC and a brand new stadium in the next year or two. I understand wanting to hold onto old ball parks, and I bet there are a lot of great memories here, but the sign will say Historic Grayson Stadium along with a sign that says "We Have Moved." A stadium down on the riverfront would be great!
Extras: Maybe they had that staff customer service training as I thought the staff were friendly and courteous all night. I was impressed when the National Anthem was sung, all the staff in the stadium, even in areas where you would not expect like in the concourse, outside on the plaza, and at the gates, all staff stopped what they were doing and stood and saluted for the National Anthem. Plaza has bounce houses for the kids, and the team store was stocked pretty good. Here is one final tip, my game was an after game fireworks night. First, park along the park road behind center field scoreboard. Then leave the game around the top of the 9th inning and head back to you car. Then open your sunroof or drop the top and sit back and watch as the fireworks are almost shot right over you from behind center field. Great view and a great show.
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