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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The popularity of soccer has reached epic proportions recently and the town of Kokomo, Indiana decided to throw its hat into the ring with a club of their own in 2016. Kokomo Mantis FC plays in the 4th division in the Premier Development League that is sponsored by the United Soccer Leagues. The club calls the Kokomo Municipal Ballpark home.
The ballpark was designed for the Kokomo Jackrabbits of the Prospect League and holds a capacity of 4,000 people including lawn, suite, table top, and traditional seating. It is easily one of the top facilities in the league as most clubs operate at high school or recreational stadiums across North America.
The name Mantis ties neatly into the fabric of the town of Kokomo; it was the winning suggestion in a name the team contest and was inspired by the Kokomantis sculpture. The praying mantis sculpture stands 17 feet tall and 22 feet long from nose to tail and was constructed from repurposed metal.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is one main concession stand open during the game and includes many familiar varieties found at sporting events. Down the third base side of the stadium is a barbecue pit stand that serves brisket and pulled pork combos for $9.
A few feet down in the corner of left field is a beer tent that is for the 21 and over crowd, although anyone can sit outside at the tables and chairs. You will find bottled beer and well drinks inside while also providing wonderful views and protection from the weather conditions.
Near the main concession stand is the Indiana-based HotBox Pizza tent that offers $5 slices and further down the right field line is a stand that sells popcorn and sweets.
The facilities are still under construction including ticket windows, a second concession area, and parking area. It is extremely open and spacious, but the best seats are directly behind the third base line down to the right field corner. The sport is somewhat new to Kokomo and many elements that can be found with similar teams are not evident, most notably there is a lack of a dedicated supporters section. However, this is one of the more professional looking buildings you will watch a soccer game at in the league, and crowds should get bigger in time.
The Mantis have a diligent crew that is very helpful and spirited. It's hard to imagine someone leaving the game not feeling welcomed. A souvenir stand is situated on the main concourse offering a sample of Mantis merchandise that features a sharp green and neon yellow logo that should be a hit with local fans.
The unusual set up of a soccer pitch on a baseball diamond is peculiar, but definitely not without precedent. Louisville City FC, New York City FC, and Harrisburg City all play in baseball stadiums. The synthetic FieldTurf looks more like a diamond, but the greatness of the facility is that it provides wide concourses and open views of the game for the patron. You might just have to get used to the brown color portions for the infield markings during a match.
You'll find a variety of chain restaurants and retail outlets on US-931 in Kokomo, which is not too far from the stadium. However, if you are looking for a few interesting sites to see or places to eat, then there are some local suggestions.
Harvey Hinklemeyers features great pizza and sandwiches and is also great for the kids.
Half Moon Restaurant and Brewery is a nice stop for a bite to eat or to enjoy a craft beer after the game. Enjoy a giant tenderloin sandwich at Windmill Grill or Artie's Tenderloin. A tenderloin sandwich is a giant breaded piece of pork that is deep fried and big enough for two.
Ray's Drive-In is a funky little place that makes a killer beef Manhattan sandwich.
Dan's Variety Bakery is a popular destination that opens at 1am featuring hot, fresh baked donuts.
There are many hotel options outside of downtown and along the busy route of SR-931, including Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn & Suites, Courtyard Inn, and Fairfield Inn.
Fan interaction at soccer games of all divisions can be frenzied and electric, but that is not the case here in Kokomo. Many in attendance are still adjusting to the new game in town, perhaps resulting in the tepid approach to the game from everyone in attendance. There is a feeling that there might be a budding enthusiasm towards the Mantis and with a little time, the place can be rocking.
Kokomo Municipal Stadium offers a wide open wrap-around concourse that makes it easy to get around from section to section than normal bleacher style setup you would find at a high school stadium. Bathrooms, concessions, and exits are all well marked for customers. Parking is free and space is available on the streets or in the various parking lots surrounding the stadium.
The Mantis offer prices that should appeal to even the most thrifty sports fan. Single game tickets run from $6 to $12 and the club ups the ante with offering Party Suite tickets for $40 (unlimited food, water, soda and three beers) and VIP Tables for $160 (four tickets, plus unlimited food, water, soda and three beers).
One extra point for the great ticket pricing that includes $6, $8, $10, and $12 price points.
A second extra point for the great choice of nickname for the team. It's unique and not too exotic. The sharp looking logo ties in well with the identity of the town of Kokomo.
A final extra point for the helpful staff that makes the visitor feel welcomed throughout the match by answering questions, striking up conversation, and assisting with any needs.
Kokomo Municipal Ballpark has helped attract two sports franchises to the town during the summer months to create a vibe that has been missing from the area for quite some time. The facility is still not 100% completed, but the impressive design adds a nice touch of modern comforts to this level of soccer. It has the recipe to be a great soccer town.
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