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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Beautiful J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park is located on the campus of Louisiana Tech University in the northern section of Louisiana in the city of Ruston. Affectionately coined “The Love Shack”, the ballpark is a little ole place where Bulldog fans can get together…in support of their LA Tech Bulldog baseball team.
Love Field at Patterson Park opened in 1971 and features a seating capacity of 3000. Louisiana Tech baseball might not be known as a perennial baseball powerhouse, but their home field ballpark provides a great atmosphere that’s sure to please both college baseball fans and their families.
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Love Field provides the classic ballpark staples at a reasonable cost. The stand is located in the courtyard behind the main grandstand, build into the stadium.
Quality and Variety of Food Options. The Love Shack food items are somewhat limited, but do provide enough to keep you satisfied during the game. Your classic items include hot dogs ($3, $4 with chili and/or cheese) and nachos ($4). Gourmet dogs are available including Cajun links and smoked sausage links ($4). Additional snack items include popcorn ($2), pretzels ($3), peanuts ($3), and sunflower seeds ($1), among others.
Variety of Drink Options. The ballpark serves 20oz Pepsi products for $3. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed at Love Field.
Recommendation. While your options are anything but endless, the Cajun link is pretty tasty and pairs well with a Pepsi.
The Love Shack provides an outstanding atmosphere for college baseball. Whether it's the overhead awning casting shade on a hot day, the view of college dorms in left field or a train passing by beyond the right field wall, the overall atmosphere is a strength of the experience.
Stadium Aesthetics. If you've never been to The Love Shack, you'll likely be surprised with how quickly you fall in love with the ballpark. The awning allows for a comfortable viewing experience in the shade. The natural grass field is well maintained and the views beyond the outfield are pretty neat. You'll notice a few students watching the game from their dorms in left field and some tailgaters on the berm in right field in front of the train track. Expect a couple of trains to pass by throughout the game.
There is a fenced-in courtyard around the back of the stadium which offers green space, a couple of picnic tables, and a playground. The playground is a big bonus for familes (unless you are the lucky parent assigned to miss the game and watch your kid run wild).
In-Game Promotions and Entertainment. The promotions crew does an excellent job of ensuring there's no down-time between innings without going overboard. Expect to see a few entertaining on-field competitions. The music selection is appropriate for the crowd with primarily country and classic rock genres.
Seat Location Recommendations. The main grandstand offers both chairback and bleacher seating. The lower half of the seats on the right and left sides are chairback while the upper seats are bleacher. The area directly behind homeplate is entirely chairback. There really isn't a bad seat in the main grandstand under the awning, but the best seat will obviously be the chairbacks directly behind homeplate. If you are traveling with the visiting team, look for the dugout seats above the opponent dugout down first baseline.
Louisiana Tech University is located in the city of Ruston in north Louisiana. Love Field is situated on the northwest corner of the campus across from Joe Aillet Stadium. The neighborhood immediately around the ballpark is filled with dorms and college buildings. Ruston thrives around the university and is most decidedly a college town. You'll find enough to keep you busy for a weekend series, with additional options within driving range in both Monroe and Shreveport.
Where to Eat. While there are a few good eats in Ruston, nothing screams Louisiana Tech like the Dawg House Sports Grill. With a great pub-style atmosphere, the venue is filled with pictures, memorabilia, and pride for the Bulldogs. Other recommended stops include the Log Cabin Mesquite Grill and Ponchatoulas.
Attractions & Entertainment. The heartbeat of the city is based primarily around restaurants and LA Tech related events. There's not a plethora of options outside of that. Be sure to check-out the Louisiana Military Museum while in town. Grab a brew and enjoy a college bar atmosphere at 3 Docs Brewhouse. If you're traveling with little ones, the Idea Place is a good break from the sports scene.
Where to Stay. The Hampton Inn on North Trenton Street is near the university and provides a comfortable stay.
Louisiana Tech fans are loyal and supportive. Crowds vary in size, but Ruston loves their Bulldogs, regardless of sport.
Typical Attendance. The typical crowd for Louisiana Tech baseball games averages around 500-650. For some special promotion games, such as Greek Day, you can expect crowds which are more robost, between 1,000 and at-capacity. Despite a great gameday atmosphere, the crowd levels are a bit inconsistent, which can be attributed, in-part, to an inconsistent on-field product. Were the Bulldogs to put a solid post-season run together, the experience at The Love Shack has great potential to become an elite baseball atmosphere.
Crowd Noise & Engagement. Louisiana Tech fans are engaged throughout the game. Expect to hear a clap-down late in the game in support of the Bulldog closer. Fans will cheer during big plays and jeer the umpire when calls don't go their way. The fan produced noise level varies throughout the game.
To quote a catchy B-52's song, "If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says "15 miles to the Love Shack" , [You're] headin' down the [Louisiana] highway, Lookin' for the love getaway." One-hit wonders aside, access to the Love Shack has both ups and downs. While the ballpark is quickly accessible near the interstate, the ticket and concession lines can be a bit of a headache and the main concourse is a bit of a squeeze.
Transit to and from Stadium. Ruston is accessible off I-20 if you're coming in from the east or west. Exit onto Cooktown Road (Hwy 544) and head south towards the Louisiana Tech campus. Cooktown turns into Tech Drive. The ballpark will be on your left, across from the softball field, track and field complex, and Joe Aillet Stadium.
Parking. There are two primary lots which can fill quickly for well attended games. Across Tech Drive is a lot next to the Lady Techster softball field. There is also a lot adjacent to third baseline. Be sure to arrive a few minutes early so you can grab a spot in one of these free lots near the stadium.
Ticketing & Gate Entry. The ticket booth and main entrance gate are located on the third baseline side of the stadium. You'll actually walk through the entrance gate and then take a slight right to the ticket window. The pathway between the fencing and ticket window is extremely small and lines can block your path. If possible, get your tickets ahead of time so you can avoid a headache (there's a small entrance behind homeplate you can utilize).
Moving around the stadium. In addition to the tight walk-way by the ticket booth, the main concourse at the bottom of the grandstand allows two people, at most, in width. The concessions line moves well for typical crowd sizes, but can be a little long for well attended games. The restrooms are adequate for average crowds.
The overall return on investment for a Louisiana Tech game is especially strong. General admission runs $8 with the dugout seats selling for $12 each. Children admissions is $4 for ages 4-17. Concessions are reasonably priced and parking is free. The only thing holding back the ROI for now is a quality on-field product. If prices remain intact and the Bulldogs near a 40 win season, the investment will be well worth it for the overall experience.
The Love Shack comes through with a few "extra" items that help to enhance the overall experience. Be on the look-out for the plaque and display which memorializes J.C. Love, the ballpark namesake, and the dedication of the stadium.
The dugout seats are a neat idea for visiting team fans. You'll get to sit on-top of your favorite team's dugout.
The playground area is a great benefit to families attending the game with little ones.
The train passing by beyond right field and the dorms in view just beyond left field add a unique flavor to the overall experience.
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