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Official Review by Drew Cieszynski, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
On the Stadium Journey website, fans can learn about programs with rich college baseball history, such as the USC Trojans and CSU Fullerton Titans. Conversely of course, there are programs that are just opening the cover to the book of their history.
The CSU Bakersfield program is an excellent example of building from the ground up. It started back in 2006 when after significant Division II success; the program began the transition to Division I. The goal was to begin play at the top level during the 2009 collegiate baseball season.
Playing in a more significant Division required a more significant facility. In August of 2008, construction of the Roadrunner Baseball Complex would begin. The venue would be named Hardt Field, named after Tom and Barbara Hardt, who gave a generous $1 million of general contracting work to build the facility.
The field would open on February 20, 2009 as team would begin play as an Independent, unaffiliated with any conference.
The school was far from finished with the field. A new $120,000 scoreboard was purchased and in operation by February of 2012. A $560,000 installation of lights was ready by mid-March, allowing the team to play night games.
The field today has 25 cypress trees making up the “batter’s eye” in centerfield, an infield mixure of sand, silt, and clay (similar to what is used at Petco Park and Angel Stadium), a grass berm on both the first and third base sides, and several sets of temporary seating.
The most exciting recent announcement was that after initially being turned down as an all-sports member of the WAC, the conference agreed to allow CSU Bakersfield in as a baseball-only member.
In Feb, 2012, the Bakersfield Californian reported that the program is aiming to raise another $2 million to add the finishing touches to the venue. First will be to add permanent seating for roughly 1,200 fans, a press box for coverage of the growing program, and two suites that can generate future income for the program. Secondly would be a $600,000 cost to add field turf, as the program is spending $80,000 annually on maintenance, creating more sustainability for the program to grow. Lastly, while the facility is already new, adding on a videoboard to modernize the facility and potentially allow it to host NCAA regional games. The Roadrunners are hoping to implement these changes prior to the start of the 2013 season.
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".
With temporary stands being the only option, there was not a lot of variety in the concessions. The options included the 10" Runner dog ($4), sandwiches ($4), nachos ($3), snacks ($3), and chips ($2). Unfortunately I'm unable to further elaborate on the sandwiches and snacks as they were hidden from view due to the wind. The beverages included soda, water, or Gatorade all for a price of $3.
There was an additional temporary stand that specialized in coffees, smoothies, and other sorts of beverages commonly found in coffee shops.
There was certainly an atmosphere of hope at Hardt Field; seemingly that "we've come this far and we're going to continue to bring relevancy to this program."
The resiliency was shown in the fans with most of them sticking it out through miserable weather to see the sport they clearly love.
As with many baseball games at the college level, there was a calmer atmosphere with most fans sitting back and enjoying the game. They did play some music between innings and had some friendly competitions or opportunities to win which brought about some conversation and excitement within the games.
When fans look around the exterior of the field, they may not notice a lot outside of the ever growing CSU Bakersfield campus. Seemingly just a stone's throw away however is the Marketplace Shopping Center.
The center has an Edwards Stadium 14 Cinema, Applebee's, Tahoe Joe's Famous Steakhouse, and all sorts of shopping. If the area in the shopping center is a bit overcrowded, fans can drive in either direction and find many other varieties such as the Elephant Bar, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, California Pizza Kitchen, Que Pasa Mexican, or Miyoshi Japanese Restaurant.
Out of town visitors may want to take a drive towards downtown to check out the Buck Owens Crystal Palace, Kern County Museum, Mill Creek Park, or any of the other attractions Bakersfield offers.
It is challenging to assess the fanbase of the young program on a single evening's pass at it. There were certainly fans sporting the royal blue and gold, but with the temperature well below average most fans were bundled up in blankets.
While there was not a strong showing, I would give all fans a perfect score just for sticking it out and cheering for their team during all nine innings during the cold, windy, and rainy evening.
The fans did show their appreciation upon a big play, and there was one impressive heckler in the front row, but its tough to assess their night to night performance with such weather anomalies.
The new ballpark is not far from the 99 freeways, which connects to California's popular Interstate 5. Being one of the newer ballparks, it may not register in all GPS devices, so I would advise fans to find directions beforehand.
The towering lights above the field give a visible cue to fans that pull onto campus where the field is located. While there are many lots that might look tempting to park in, the baseball lot is attached to the field and offers free parking on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There are two portable toilets on site for the fan's use, one with handicapped capabilities. This obviously is not the lap of luxury, but appears to get the job done with the current crowd size until further renovations are made.
The program definitely has a long way to go to make the experience at Hardt Field one of the better sports options in Bakersfield.
The good news, however, is it is priced appropriately for its current phase of completion. The chairback sets behind home plate cost just $10 per contest while the bleacher/berm general admission areas are just $8 ($5 for youth). The general admission seemed to be the more popular option for this evening contest. There was also a season seat option for $185.
The low priced tickets paired with free parking make it a nice little start to an evening out in Bakersfield. With a movie theater, shopping, and restaurants within walking distance, it's a reasonable add-in to any night out.
Unfortunately with Hardt Field just being constructed and the program's recent soirée with Division I, few items of historical significance or uniqueness have been added.
I did enjoy the large banners behind each dugout, one reading "Gold Plated" and the other "Field of Gold."
This may be one of the few venues that fans could get hit by not only a foul ball, but also a tumbleweed. I noticed many of them sprawling around the "concourse."
It's difficult to pass judgement on an experience that has grown so aggressively in the past five years. The area surrounding the field certainly shows that Hardt Field is very new and it will take some time to build up the aesthesis and create a following. With the move to the WAC conference, the Roadrunners should be able to develop some rivalries and ultimately increase the attention to the baseball program.
Follow Drew's travels through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew
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10750 Stockdale Highway
Bakersfield, CA 93311
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