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Official Review by Jim Wood, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
On June 6, 1939 the first Little League Baseball game was played in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Founded by local resident Carl Stotz, it offered children the opportunity to play organized baseball in a setting similar to their major league heroes. Based upon the concepts of competition, respect, and fair play, Little League Baseball has grown into an international phenomenon of 7,000 local leagues and over 2.4 million participants. Of these 7,000 teams, the best 16 throughout the world (8 from selected regions of the United States and 8 internationally) participate in the signature tournament known as the Little League World Series. The LLWS is held annually in mid-August and for many throughout the US it symbolizes the end of summer baseball.
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".
The food & drink options in Williamsport are rather average, but considering the atmosphere and excitement that surrounds this tournament this will not be much of an issue. Everyday ballpark staples such as hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, and pulled pork sandwiches are readily available. There are additional concession stands that sell items such as roast beef sandwiches ($8; the most expensive food item at the park), corn on the cob, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and cracker jacks. Water, soft drinks, and Gatorade are readily available throughout the park, and vendors walk around the hill offering up fruit smoothies and lemonade.
The atmosphere at the Little League World Series rivals any experience you'd find at a major professional sporting event, and from the moment you walk into the facility you'll recognize how special this event is to the people of Williamsport and the visitors that make the trip on an annual basis.
The Little League Complex is not just one ballpark- rather a facility that includes two ballparks for LLWS games (Lamade Stadium and Volunteer Stadium), three practice fields for the participating teams to use before games, a housing facility for the LLWS participants, an interactive area known as the Family Fun Zone, the official Little League store, the Little League Museum and Hall of Fame, several food concession stands, and a tent used for pin trading. In the middle of these areas you'll find the ESPN mobile studio that has become a staple over the years. The layout at the complex is similar to one that you would find at a Spring Training facility.
Upon entering the complex, a series of steps take you directly to Lamade Stadium, the cornerstone facility of the LLWS. Since it's opening in 1959, Lamade Stadium has been the home of the LLWS championship game. It is also the home of the majority of games held during the 10 day event. The grandstand seats approximately 10,000 fans, has a covered roof overhead, and has netting surrounding it to prevent stray foul balls from entering the seating area.
Just underneath the roof behind home plate you'll spot the ESPN crew broadcasting the game, and along the home plate area you'll be able to spot additional umpires, scorekeepers, and media. In the seating area directly above the dugouts you'll find the parents and families of the participants - undoubtedly the most passionate fans at the event. Throughout the game you'll witness a constant stream of chants, cheers, and flag waving that keep many fans active in the action on the field.
While many fans choose to sit in the grandstand area, it is the area behind the outfield walls affectionately known as 'The Hill' that garners the most action and attention. The Hill is a two tiered berm seating area that allows for additional seating along with a longtime tradition known as 'hilltop sledding'. The bottom tier is closest to the field and is where additional seating takes place. Depending on the event and the participants, it can accommodate as many as 35,000 additional fans. Local residents and/or regulars bring plastic lawn chairs with the back legs cut allowing them to sit on the hill at a comfortable angle, while others bring portable chairs or blankets to spread out on the lawn. Even better- once you've placed your belongings on the hill for the day, they will remain there for as long as you wish. It is not uncommon to leave your chairs or blanket for several hours only to find them in the same spot when you return.
The top tier of The Hill is reserved for the younger fans of the LLWS, as this is the area known for its hillside sledding. Among the many traditions in Williamsport is bringing a large piece of cardboard, walking to the top of the hill, then sliding down the grass or dirt (on rainy days it will be mud!). Some kids slide on the backs, some on their bellies, and some choose to surf down the hill. No matter what they choose, there will be tens if not hundreds of kids doing this throughout the entire tournament. Sometimes you'll find the LLWS participants going down the hill with other kids! This undoubtedly separates this venue from any other sporting facility in the US and is a must for any child or child at heart.
Volunteer Stadium opened in 2001, and was designed to ease the scheduling for the early round games. This facility sits to the north of Lamade Stadium and seats 5,000 fans for its games, almost entirely with bleacher seating. There is a hill behind the outfield walls at Volunteer Stadium, but it is a steep one so it only allows hill seating for roughly 100 fans; there is some space directly behind the outfield walls, but again it's only for an additional 100 fans or so. While a large part of the history and drama reside at Lamade, it's worth taking the short walk across to the other facility for the occasional game.
The Family Fun Zone interactive area is located across the walkway from the home plate area at Lamade Stadium and gives the younger fans an opportunity to test their baseball skills, try out new baseball bats, and play video games at assorted sponsor booths. What's more, it gives them an opportunity to gather collectible pins that can be a neat free souvenir or bartered at the trading tent. Commemorative pin trading is not only a LLWS tradition, it's a Williamsport tradition. Throughout the tournament local businesses will offer their limited edition souvenir, and it is not uncommon to see fans walking through the complex with books or lanyards filled with pins. There are also team jersey pins available at the team store giving anyone a chance to take part in this uniquely Williamsport tradition.
This is more than a tournament; it's a festival celebrating Little League baseball and its rich history.
South Williamsport (where the LLWS complex is located) and Williamsport are small towns so finding things to do nearby are limited at best. The people who attend the LLWS are there for the event and not the pregame or postgame activities. There is an amusement park called Knoebels Park that is a 30 minute drive from Williamsport and is a nice single day getaway. For those baseball diehards, the Williamsport Crosscutters of the NY/Penn League (Minor League Baseball) play at nearby Bowman Field and can be an alternate diversion should you want to catch a professional baseball game while you're in town.
Because of the participants in the LLWS, it's no surprise that the majority of fans attending this event are families with younger children. The children are the focal point of this event and you'll be hard pressed to find one without a smile plastered on their face at all times. Several of them will be wearing their local Little League jersey, while others will be wearing the uniform, shirt, or hat of their favorite LLWS team. Almost all of them at one point or another will take turns sliding down the hill, participating in the sponsor booths, or tracking down the players asking them for an autograph or picture. Williamsport is 'their place'.
The community of Williamsport is also second to none when it comes to supporting this event. The Little League World Series is a volunteer run organization, and the support by all is evident.
South Williamsport is located in the middle of Pennsylvania, roughly equidistant between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (3 ½ hour drive). The vast majority of people living on the east coast are best served by taking I-80 to US Highway 15; drive north along US 15 for 17 miles and the Little League complex will be located on the right hand side. Traffic will be dependent on the day you attend games- for weekday games there will be no problem, but on a championship Saturday or Sunday expect to arrive a little bit earlier than usual.
If you live further away and would like to fly in I would recommend Harrisburg, PA International Airport. This is the closest major airport from Williamsport and is roughly a 90 minute drive between the two points.
Beginning with the first tournament in 1947 and continuing through today, admission to all Little League World Series games is free of charge, whether you decide to sit on the hill or in the stands. The same applies for the Family Fun Zone experience inside the complex. Most of the parking spots nearby the Williamsport complex are available for $5. Souvenirs are the only portion of the LLWS experience that is financially on par with other major sporting events, but with a variety of items available in the store it is possible to purchase items and walk out with plenty in your pocketbook.
If you're looking for an affordable baseball experience you cannot do better than a visit here.
There are a number of extras that make the Little League World Series a special event. Whether it be sliding down the hill on a piece of cardboard, collecting and trading commemorative pins throughout the week, or taking in the local amusement park, a trip to Williamsport will have plenty for people to experience.
Simply put a visit to Williamsport and the Little League World Series should be considered a must. Whether you're a diehard baseball fan or a family looking for a memorable experience this is the place to be.
Member Review by collegiatestdms
The Little League World Series is an interesting sporting event that celebrates 11 and 12 year old athletes. The current format through a series of regional tournaments selects eight teams from the United States and eight International teams to compete in Williamsport, PA every August to become Little League World Champions. The tournament in Williamsport is hard to describe as it isn't a true double elimination tournament, but you wind up with one United States team to play one International team for the championship in a one game situation on the last Sunday every August.
The tournament itself uses two venues, with the main field being Howard J. Lamade Stadium, and the secondary field is Volunteer Stadium. Lamade Stadium is the older field, and holds approximately 10,000 fans in the seats and another 35,000 on the hillside. Lamade Stadium was opened in 1959 and was built with the labor of local college students, and was refurbished most recently in 2006.
Volunteer Stadium was opened in 2001, and seats approximately 5,000 people in bleacher seats. The outfield seating is much more limited at Volunteer Stadium with much less room than Lamade Stadium. As a result, all games that are expected to draw large crowds are moved to Lamade Stadium.
341 E 4th St
Williamsport, PA 17701
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