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Official Review by Cory Sims, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Citadel Bulldogs baseball team plays its home games at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park and has since the stadium first opened in 1997. The Citadel has a lifetime lease with the stadium, because it was built on property originally owned by the university. Before the opening of “The Joe,” the Bulldogs had played on a stadium on their campus, which is just a couple blocks north.
For the last 17 years though, the Citadel has been happy to call the 6,000 person capacity park its home turf, even if it’s shared with the Yankees Class A minor league team, the Charleston Riverdogs. It is a really beautiful, small ballpark, landscaped with palm trees and other local flora.
Sit high enough in the stands, and you can look over the outfield wall and at the Ashley River. Turn around and you’ll see the Cooper River Bridge, Charleston’s most famous landmark. When the Riverdogs play here, it is really an event. Unfortunately, the same is not true of Bulldogs games.
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They serve beer, which is unusual at college sports games. Most of the concession stands are closed, which is really unfortunate because the Riverdogs serve some great, unique eats. Normally, there is a make-your-own hot dog stand, with more than a dozen choices of toppings. That is closed. There is a specialty meats stand, serving alligator dogs and brats, but that too is closed. The taco stand, normally a popular spot because of its proximity to the beer milkshake stand, is also closed.
There is one stand open for Bulldogs games. It sells sodas, beer, hot dogs and nachos. I got a hot dog and went to the condiments spot to put on some mustard, and the container was empty. My limp, boring hot dog was a perfect symbol for my time at the park.
There isn't much atmosphere. When I wrote previously about Citadel basketball I remarked that no cadets from The Citadel showed up to the game, and it was no different for baseball. The Bulldogs made the College World Series in 1990, and remain the only military school to have done so. You think that students would have a little pride in the sports teams. The only good thing about having a completely quiet crowd is that you can hear the "ping" of the bat whenever there is a hit. Which is good, or you might fall asleep sitting in the sunny stands.
Charleston is a beautiful city, and anywhere downtown is just awesome. The Joe is a little far away from the historic district, the open-air market, and the 200+ year-old homes in the South of Broad neighborhood, but it's still a really great area. The Ashley River can be seen beyond the outfield, and the same is true for Brittlebank Park, a small grassy area that ends at the outfield wall. I encourage anyone attending a game at The Joe to take a walk through the park before or after, and if you're lucky you might spot a dolphin in the brackish waters of the river.
The Joe is just a couple blocks from The Citadel campus, famous for it's "sword gates" and the parade area that is the final resting spot for several retired war machines. There are several fast food restaurants within walking distance, and a few good local spots, like Park Cafe and Lee Lee's Hot Kitchen, but I would recommend you drive. Charleston is improving fast, but there are still some less friendly neighborhoods, especially near the stadium.
The cadets don't come, and neither do young families with kids. The only fans in the ballpark seem to be retired military guys, who presumably have a connection to the school. Tickets for The Citadel and Riverdogs games both start at $8, so most people make the wise choice to save their dollars for the minor league team, and not the college team. The fans that are there seem knowledgable. The men wear polos of navy and light blue to match the team, and their shirts have the "fresh-pressed" look you would expect of a military officer. They are very gracious, but also very few in number.
These games do not sell out, and there's no secondary market for tickets, so the only option is to pay full price at the gate. There is more than enough parking within a couple blocks of the stadium, so do not pay $5 to park just across the street. Most of the bathrooms are closed for Bulldogs games, just like the concession stands, but there are so few people that there could never be a wait. Games are very accessible, but so are the Riverdogs, and those games are a lot more fun.
Paying $8 for a ticket is just not worth it for this experience. It is nice to go sit in the sun for a couple hours, but you can also just go to the beach for free. I wouldn't have thought much about the price of tickets and what I got for the money, except I have been to Riverdogs games at the same stadium, and it's a completely different experience. Obviously, the Yankees minor league team will have a much bigger budget for advertising, and promotions and in-game fun, but I think The Citadel could do a little more to give the fans some atmosphere.
As with any Citadel game, the live bulldog mascot is there to greet any fan who wants a sloppy kiss. I was fortunate enough to choose a seat right next to his handler's friends, so while I sat in the stands and watched the game, the bulldog walked up and down the aisles near me looking for spilled popcorn. If there were any kids at the game, I presume they would be all around the bull pup, but at a Citadel baseball game he's basically free to do whatever he wants. I did not see the costumed bulldog mascot, but the live dog sitting next to me for an inning was pretty much the highlight of this particular trip to The Joe.
Member Review by Harrison.n22 on May 19, 2016
Attendance at Citadel games is typically low, however when ere re teams such as Clemson and South Carolina there is not an empty seat to be found.
730 Rutledge Ave
Charleston, SC 29403
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