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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Holman Stadium, in the southern New Hampshire city of Nashua, housed what is considered to be the first integrated team in baseball’s modern era. As members of the Nashua Dodgers, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe played at Holman Stadium in 1946. In addition to serving as home to the Dodgers’ single-A team in the 1940’s, Holman Stadium hosted the Angels’ and Pirates’ AA Eastern League teams in the 80’s.
Affiliated ball left Holman Stadium with the Pirates in 1986, and a series of independent league teams passed through Nashua with varying levels of success throughout the 90’s and 00’s. In 2011, the Futures League, a summer wooden bat collegiate league, came calling with the Silver Knights, sponsored by the neighboring Lowell Spinners. The Silver Knights have been the standard bearers of the upstart league, winning the first two Futures League championships in 2011 and 2012, also finishing as runners up in 2013.
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".
There are two concession stands at Holman Stadium, one underneath the grandstand and another in the picnic area down the right field line. The offerings are similar at both stands, with hot dogs ($2), hamburgers ($4), Chick-fil-A sandwiches ($5), pizza slices ($3.25), and sausage sandwiches ($5) anchoring the menu. A decent variety of snacks can be found here as well, including pretzels ($3.75), nachos ($3.75), popcorn ($3), peanuts ($3), ice cream novelties, and candies. The stand down the right field line also sells chicken fingers ($5.50) and French fries ($3.50).
Thirsty fans can purchase bottles of Coca-Cola products for $3. Fans looking for adult beverage options can purchase Budweiser or Bud Light drafts for $5.75.
Fans looking for an expanded beer selection should check out the Dragon Slayer Tavern, where various domestic and imported beers can be found. In addition, the Silver Knights host Thirsty Thursdays, where members of the mug club can purchase beer refills of their own personal mug for $1 after buying the mug for $15.
The team also operates a portable stand selling a variety of Silver Knights gear. On busier nights, the team will open up some portable stands on the concourse selling items such as cotton candy, beer, and ice cream.
The Silver Knights go the extra mile to provide added entertainment and value for their fans. From the nightly promotions and giveaways to the between innings entertainment, the Silver Knights provide a lively and festive atmosphere at Holman Stadium. The Silver Knights players even get into the act, taking on fans in singing contests and leading the crowd in a dance-off between innings.
For kids looking to burn off some energy during a Silver Knights game, there is a play area with a couple of bounce houses for their enjoyment. Unfortunately, there is a $5 charge to enter. Sir Sterling, the mascot, is a constant presence, roaming the stands, posing for pictures, and participating in between inning contests.
One negative to the atmosphere is the intrusive nature of everything that goes on here. The Silver Knights, like all their brethren in the Futures League, try to present an atmosphere that is most similar to the minor leagues. To this end, there is a constant barrage of sound effects, music, and chatter over the loudspeakers. This type of atmosphere has become the norm in many places these days, but it can be very distracting to those trying to simply watch the game. Sometimes a little less is better.
Nashua is a sleepy city of over 86,000 residents located on the southern border of New Hampshire. The city straddles the Merrimack River, which gave the city the bulk of its industrial past through the textile industry. The city has rebounded quite nicely from the exodus of manufacturing jobs, capitalizing on the region's economic expansion. Nashua has twice been named the "Best place to live in America" by Money Magazine.
Downtown Nashua is about a mile from Holman Stadium, and features a variety of shops, restaurants, and scenic architecture. The city has invested a great deal of money into revitalizing the area, and has a wonderful riverfront area to show for their efforts. It's a great place to walk around during the warm summer months of the baseball season.
Holman Stadium is located adjacent to the Amherst Street Elementary School, and there are basketball courts, tennis courts, a little league field, and a swimming pool on the grounds of the ballpark.
Nashua is annually up near the top of the Futures League attendance charts, averaging between 1,200-1,300 fans per game. It's not usual to see much larger crowds during some of the preferred promotional nights, such as the annual Bruins night, which features an appearance by a Boston Bruins player.
Some of the fans who frequent Holman Stadium have been regulars since the days of the Hawks or the Pride. They will be easy to spot, and even easier to hear, as the cowbell is their preferred method for cheering on the local nine. Nashua fans are knowledgeable and very supportive of their team.
Getting to Holman Stadium is very easy. It is located on Amherst Street, about a mile from Route 3. Take exit 7A and follow Amherst Street to the ballpark, which will be on your left. There is ample parking in the lot next to the field.
Fans enter Holman Stadium into an outdoor concourse, stepping immediately onto the seal of the ballpark. Immediately to your right will be the concession stand, with the Dragon Slayer Tavern to your left. There are several portable carts located throughout the concourse selling various food and drink items. There is more than enough room to get around during a typical Silver Knights game.
Fans can enter the seating area through a number of portals. All the seats in Holman Stadium came to Nashua from Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium during the 1990's renovation of the stadium. There is a wide walkway separating the upper and lower levels, even though there is no price difference between the two levels.
Access to the picnic area in right field can be had by a stairway at the end of the seating area, or by simply walking around the back of the grandstand and down the hill to the picnic area. Several tables are located here, as well as an additional concession stand.
Fans requiring handicapped access will have no problem navigating Holman Stadium's wide walkways and concourse. There are two sets of bathrooms here, which are more than large enough to accommodate the typical Silver Knight crowd.
Admission to a Silver Knights game will cost $7 for the "padded box" seats, right down front and $5 for all other seats, which are sold as reserved individual box seats. Children under 10 are admitted for $3, and children under 3 are admitted for free. There is no charge for parking in the lot adjacent to Holman Stadium, and the lot is large enough for most Silver Knight crowds. Throw in affordable concessions, and a night at Holman Stadium will hardly break the bank.
An extra point is awarded for the great sense of history at Holman Stadium. There are retired numbers hung on the right field wall honoring Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, and Jackie Robinson for their efforts at integrating baseball. Robinson never played in Nashua, but the other two legends were members of the Nashua Dodgers in 1946.
Another extra point is awarded for the sense of fun in the game day presentation. It can't be easy to get teenage baseball players to buy into the silliness of a ballpark promotion, but players take on fans in sing along contests, dance offs, and other between innings wackiness.
A final extra point is awarded for the team's efforts at keeping a night at Holman Stadium affordable. From combo meals at the concession stands to personal beer mugs on thirsty Thursday, you don't get the feeling you are being gouged every time you reach for your wallet at Holman Stadium. It's not a feeling you often get at a ballpark.
While Holman Stadium has most likely outlived its usefulness as a professional ballpark, it has found a home in the Futures League amongst several other abandoned minor league stadiums. Holman Stadium's major downfall is its location, sandwiched between new ballparks in Manchester and Lowell. When those two ballparks were built, each less than 20 miles from Nashua city limits, it spelled doom for quaint little Holman Stadium. Luckily, with the arrival of the Futures League, Nashua baseball fans can continue to enjoy baseball in the Gate City for years to come.
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