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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
J. Richard Awalt Field at the Ridley Athletic Complex is the home stadium for the Loyola University (Maryland) Greyhound soccer teams. It is also the home of the lacrosse and field hockey teams for the university. The 6,000-seat grandstand at Awalt Field opened in 2010. Lacrosse is the biggest sport at the university, with the men’s team winning the national championship in 2012, and the women’s team ranking fifth all-time among NCAA Division I women's lacrosse teams, in terms of wins.
Former Major League Soccer goalkeeper Zach Thornton is a Greyhound alumni. Thornton was the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire when it won the MLS Cup in 1998, and won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year awards in 1998 and 2009.
The Ridley Complex was named after Rev. Harold Ridley, S.J. at the request of an anonymous $5 million donor. J. Richard Awalt Field is named after a member of the Class of 1950 at what was known then as Loyola College, who also happened to be a big proponent of the new facility. The complex was also home to USL Premier Development League’s Baltimore Bohemians in 2013.
Just south of Awalt Field is Sean Lugano Memorial Field. It is named in memory of the 1995 Loyola graduate and former captain of the university's men's rugby union team who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. It is the home of the Loyola rugby union club team and is used as a practice field by other sports.
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 is a single food stand in operation selling Chick-fil-A items. A chicken sandwich is $4.50, with the spicy option for $5. Bottled soft drinks are $3. The menu is rounded out by chocolate chip cookies ($1.25) and chips ($1).
The prices are good, but the selection is just not good enough to award more points here.
The single grandstand is double-decked and goes along the length of the field. It is located only on the west side of the field, as the east side opens up to the Jones Falls Valley. You can see the main part of campus off in the distance. The busy Jones Falls Expressway is right next door, but is barely visible and offers no negative effects to the gametime atmosphere.
The two seating areas are separated by a wide concourse with concession and merchandise stands. Above the upper seats are a large press box and a few luxury suites.
Since the player benches are on the same sideline as the grandstand, the seats are too high from the game play. You feel a bit removed from the action, and the atmosphere is not as strong as it could be. The field is also a synthetic surface, with many different line markings permanently displayed.
Baltimore is a great metropolitan city, with many fun and exciting places to spend time both before and after a game. Relatively close to the stadium is the Mt. Washington neighborhood that straddles I-83 South (known as the Jones Falls Expressway, or the JFX, by locals). The Mt. Washington Tavern (5700 Newbury Street) is an excellent restaurant with both a fine food and bar food type of menu. The place is large, and there always seems to be room for more. Parking is the biggest problem here, so it would be worth paying the nominal valet charges. Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys (5100 Falls Road) is the closest hotel, and has a new and exciting lobby restaurant that is another option.
Right down the street is Miss Shirley's Café at 513 W Cold Spring Lane. Their fried green tomatoes are quite tasty. They are also quite well-known for their breakfast offerings.
Also close to Loyola is the Hampden neighborhood, with its variety of quirky shops and restaurants. A favorite of mine is Ma Petite Shoe Café (830 W 36th St,).
The stadium does not fill up for soccer like it does for lacrosse. But there is a respectable crowd that seems to be quite knowledgeable about the game. Many of the fans are family and friends. Local youth soccer teams are also a big part of the crowd.
The entire complex is located off campus, behind the Northern District Station of the Baltimore City Police at the intersection of the Jones Falls Expressway and Coldspring Lane in the Woodberry neighborhood of Baltimore city. For ease of finding the stadium, the complex is also right behind TV Hill and directly underneath the iconic television antennas.
Parking is free and plentiful for soccer games. It would be much more difficult if coming for the more high-profile lacrosse matches. The parking attendants are a bit aggressive and border on rude.
Most of the parking is on cement lots, although there are grass overflows just west of the main stadium.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children. That is probably a buck or two too high, but still a decent value. Coupled with the free parking, attending a Loyola soccer game is a decent value.
One should make sure to stop back at the main part of campus to visit the Diane Geppi-Aikens Field. This is the former home to the men's and women's soccer and lacrosse teams. Geppi-Aikens was a former star athlete and women's lacrosse coach at Loyola who died of brain cancer in 2003. Located just outside of the Reitz Arena, the field is valuable space, so visit it while you can. Hopefully if they do remove the field, the university can still find a way to honor the beloved former coach.
Stop by the table in the entrance plaza and pick up flyers, posters and other giveaway items for the various Loyola sports teams.
A decent value for visiting a soccer program with a strong history of success means that J. Richard Awalt Field at the Ridley Athletic Complex is worth a visit by the soccer fan.
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5700 Newbury St
Baltimore, MD 21209
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