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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Gwinnett Tides are a summer collegiate wood-bat team based in Lawrenceville, Georgia. They are members of the Sun Belt Summer Baseball League, an eight-team league with clubs throughout the metro Atlanta area. The purpose of the Sun Belt League is to provide a first-class collegiate summer program for college athletes who hope to achieve their dream of playing professional baseball. The summer season is 30 games long and runs from early June through the first of August.
The Tides' roster is primarily made up of players from the Atlanta area, but has some members from New Hampshire, Alabama and South Carolina, as well. All home games for the Tides are played at Grizzly Field at Georgia Gwinnett College (GCC). Georgia Gwinnett College is the newest college in the Georgia University system, as it opened in 2006. The athletic complex on the campus is even newer, as it opened in 2013.
Grizzly Field is located immediately to the right of the main campus entrance off Collins Hill Road. The field has a natural turf surface, with dimensions of 320 feet to left field, 400 feet to dead center and 320 feet to right field. The field has bleacher seating, with a capacity of 800 fans. The stands run from dugout to dugout and are elevated above the field.
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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".
The concession offerings at summer league games are very basic due to low attendance, the shortness of the season and that the facility is owned by the university, with the teams basically renting the field. The only items available at Tides games are bottled water ($2.00) and a selection of Coca-Cola brand soft drinks ($2.00). A majority of fans attending the games understand this is the case, and bring their own beverages and food. There are numerous fast food locations and convenience stores within a few blocks of the field.
Summer league games are basically an opportunity for talented college baseball players to hone their skills and be seen by professional scouts who comprise a large portion of those in attendance. The Tides have somewhat of a "home field advantage," as several players on the roster do play for Georgia Gwinnett College during the regular season. They are aware of any unique aspects of the field of play. This also results in a larger home crowd than is usually found at a Sun Belt League game, as their family and friends live within a short distance of the field.
The seating layout at Grizzly Field consists of aluminum bleachers that are elevated above the field and span from the home to the visitors dugouts. The elevation of the seating provides excellent sight lines of the field, and the stands are also very close to the field. The bleachers do not have backs on them, so bringing a seat cushion or portable chair back is a good idea. Parents of GGC players on the Tides team have an additional seating option, as they have access to a second floor viewing area inside the athletics building, which is located just behind the third base dugout.
The field is only three years old, so the technological aspects of the stadium are very up-to-date. The sound system is top quality, and the announcements are usually limited to game stats or announcements of upcoming games. The scoreboard in right field has digital messaging capabilities, so fans are able to keep updated on batting averages, ERA, and other stats.
The neighborhood surrounding Grizzly Field is predominantly the Georgia Gwinnett College campus. It offers some very contemporary architecture for a college, and is well worth a walking tour. The area off campus is primarily residential. A majority of services, such as restaurants, shopping and hotels are located two exits south of the Collins Hill exit at the Sugarloaf Parkway exit off Highway 316. This includes a large number of fast food locations, as well as the 100-store Sugarloaf Mills Outlet Mall. Sugarloaf Mills has several sit-down restaurants including Johnny Rockets, Applebee's and Chili's.
Summer season collegiate games are primarily to showcase the talents of players who are good enough to possibly play professional baseball. With that being the case, your usual seatmates will be family and friends of the players, as well as scouts from various major league clubs. It is a unique experience to sit near a scout to learn what they are looking for in a player, as they often have radar guns or other electronic devices to measure performance levels.
Grizzly Field and Georgia Gwinnett College are located approximately 30 miles from the downtown Atlanta area in suburban Gwinnett County. The campus can easily be reached via I-85 by taking University Parkway (Highway 316) and taking the Collins Hill Road exit. You would then proceed two red lights north on Collins Hill, turning left into the campus at its main entrance. Grizzly Field will be immediately on your right as you come down the hill. Parking is available either behind the athletics building along the third baseline or in a parking deck located on your right as you enter the campus.
Access in and around Grizzly Field is excellent. There is a large building at the front gate which houses several ticket windows, the concessions area and the restrooms. Once inside the stadium, there is a large plaza between that building and the stands so you have ample room to move around. There are ramps leading up to the elevated stands and several designated seating areas for persons with disabilities.
The costs involved in attending a Gwinnett Tides game are minimal. Admission is $5, and parking is free in either the parking deck or in the ground level lot for the sports complex. Concession choices are limited, but the most an item will cost is $2.00, and you are allowed to bring in your own refreshments.
Gwinnett is the largest suburban county in Georgia and has a number of amenities that usually would be found in a more urban area. These include:
* Coolray Field is home to the Gwinnett Braves, the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. It is located within six miles of Georgia Gwinnett College.
* The Infinite Energy Center is located two exits south of GGC on Sugarloaf Parkway. It serves as the home to the Atlanta Gladiators ECHL ice hockey team, as well as the Georgia Swarm indoor lacrosse team. Infinite Energy Center is also the largest concert venue in the suburbs, and attracts major groups with its 12,000-seat capacity.
* The Mall of Georgia is the largest shopping mall in Georgia, with more than 200 stores. It is located 10 miles north of Georgia Gwinnett College at the intersection of Highway 20 and I-85.
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