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Official Review by Mike Poirier, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
It may not look it, but the London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League play at the oldest continually operated baseball grounds in the world. Labatt Park in London Ontario currently holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Records, but has flipped flopped over the years with Fuller Field in Clinton Massachusetts, which first opened in 1878. The field has undergone several renovations over its 139 year history including the addition of new grandstands in 2001 for the Canada Games.
Labatt Park is the only ballpark in the IBL where you will have to pay for parking. You can pay $2 to use the lot next to the field, but risk having your vehicle hit by foul balls along the third base line, or you can park behind the Kiwanis Senior Community Centre on Riverside Drive for $4. If you are walking to the stadium, they have a single entrance where you can buy your tickets, and it’s next to the vehicle entrance. Once you are past the gate, you are greeted by the first of two concession areas, but you will have to pay attention to cars that are driving through to get to the parking lot.
If you go to the left, you will find the team store which is loaded with tons of team gear, and the second concession stand next to the parking lot. There are several access points to the field, and there is no assigned seating. No matter where you choose to take in the game, you will not be disappointed with the sight lines. If you don’t want to use the grandstand, there are also a couple of picnic tables beside the outfield on either side.
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".
Labatt Park has two concession stands which have a good selection of food items including hot dogs, nachos, pizza, chips, candy and freezes. They also have a variety of cold beverages including pop, sports drinks and beer.
The only thing to remember when you are in either concession area is to watch for traffic. It's busier before the game as people are arriving at the stadium, but you will get the occasional person who decides to leave early or arrives at the game late.
If you are looking to attend all of the ballparks in the IBL, going to a London Majors game should be at the top of your list. The stadium seats 5200 fans, and thousands turn out for every home game. Knowing the history of Labatt Park also helps, and the staff at the stadium also does a great job of making a London Majors game feel like a big event.
Labatt Park is located in a near perfect location, as it is a short walk away from the downtown core. If you are looking to pick up a meal before the game, there are several restaurants within walking distance along Wharncliffe Road which includes Under the Volcano, All About Rose's and West Side Family Restaurant. There are several more food stops on the other side of the Thames River in the downtown core along Dundas Street, Queen's and King Street.
There are also several hotel options within a five minute drive from Labatt Park including the Delta Hotel, Holiday Inn Express and London Executive Suites, all located on Dundas Street.
Despite winning nine IBL Championships since entering the league in 1925, the Majors haven't earned a title since 1975. Despite the long drought, the team receives some amazing support. Fans young and old fill the stadium seats each game, and the passion that you see is similar to what the London Knights hockey team receives, which plays around the corner at Budweiser Gardens. It goes to show how much of a sports city London is, and how everyone loves to cheer on the home team.
Despite feeling a little cramped before the game with everyone arriving on foot or in their vehicle, getting around Labatt Park is pretty easy. There are three tunnels which will get you to the main grandstand behind home plate, and from there you can walk along either baseline to access more seating. It's also really nice that the ballpark also has two concession areas which helps limit the lines a bit in between innings.
You can't go wrong attending an IBL game, especially if you are looking for a night out with the family. Adult tickets are $9 which is at the higher end of the league, while students and seniors are $7 and kids 12 and under are free. The only disappointing part is having to pay for parking, but there isn't much you can do when parking on city property.
If you are a fan of baseball, attending a game at Labatt Park should be on your to do list as it is the oldest running ballpark in the world. It would be nice if the Majors showcased some more of their history, but you will find a few plaques around the ballpark if you keep an eye out for it.
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