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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Built in 2003 on the TCU campus in Fort Worth, TX, Lupton Stadium is named for Charlie and Marie Lupton in recognition of a $2-million gift from the Brown-Lupton Foundation, of which Charlie was a founder back in 1944. You might notice in the photo gallery that the field is named separately for two others (Roger Williams was a TCU player and coach, while Michael Reilly is a local businessman), meaning there are four individuals recognized here. It may be a bit wordy, but it is much better than naming rights sold to a corporation.
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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 are concessions along the concourse with sausage wraps at $4.50 very tempting, but I chose a freshly grilled hot dog at the TCU Grill for $4, where cheeseburgers are also on offer at $7.50. Other typical fare is available, as well as a Mexican stand with $5 burritos that looked very good.
A popular choice was the Chick-fil-A stand selling a combo, which included a sandwich, chips, and a cookie for $10.50. Dippin' Dots were available, but as it was still a bit chilly, they were not doing a brisk business. Overpriced soda was available at every stand, and there were no alcohol sales, as is usual at campus stadiums.
There are a couple of picnic tables where you can eat your meal and they offer views of the field as well.
Before the game, country music is played at a reasonable level, and it fits in well with the setting. During the game, when a visiting player is at 2 strikes or another key game situation is at hand, fans stamp their feet on the metal underneath the bleachers, which creates a neat sound. There are no distractions between innings, and the crowd noise and ambiance works well for the size of the venue. I visited on a perfect February afternoon during the home opening weekend and could sense the anticipation in the crowd as spring was just around the corner.
Perhaps the best place to be to capture the atmosphere is along the fence by the berm in right field. You can stand there and here the players yelling encouragement to the pitcher, and outs at first base are happening just a few feet away.
The ballpark is located on the southwest corner campus of TCU with the Bayard H. Friedman Tennis Center, Lowdon Track and Field Complex, and Garvey-Rosenthal Soccer Stadium all nearby. However, there is not much else within the immediate vicinity; if you want to eat or drink, you will need to head over to University Drive where the main campus buildings are located, and thus a few restaurants serving the students can be found there.
There are also several tourist attractions that make Fort Worth an excellent destination in its own right. The Fort Worth Zoo is just on the other side of University Drive and makes a good afternoon destination for families. Slightly further away is the Cultural District, which has several museums, including the world-famous Kimbell Art Museum, as well as the Will Rogers Memorial Center, where the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is held on an annual basis. All of these sights are within 5 miles of Lupton Stadium so make sure to see one or two before or after the game.
In 2012, the Horned Frogs ranked 11th among Division I baseball programs, averaging 4,112 fans per home contest. The game I saw was no different, where 3,906 showed up and had a great time. Most had on a Horned Frog sweater or jacket, and all were polite and friendly, cheering at the right time and booing the umpire when he made a questionable call.
The visiting fans from Cal State Fullerton were out in numbers, too, and at times were a bit louder than the locals. But at this level, the rivalry is more for show and all those in attendance enjoyed their three hours in the sun.
Parking is free in a large lot off West Berry Street. From here, you can walk around the outside of fence and see that history is well respected at TCU. Once inside, the concourse is a bit narrow but perfectly adequate for the crowd. In the bleachers, there are 26 seats per row, so it can be difficult to get in and out if you are stuck in the middle, which is about the only complaint here. As mentioned, fans show up in droves here, and many seem to be season ticket holders, so there were only reserved bleacher seats available when I showed up an hour before game time. As getting out can be annoying to other fans, you should request an aisle seat if you plan to move around for pictures or whatever. If you are hoping to get a better seat, there were few options in the upper deck, while sitting in the lower deck was usually met with an usher asking to see your ticket.
Along the right field line, there is a large berm where kids can run freely. Even better, you can stand against a fence here and get a completely unobstructed view of the diamond. All seats are protected by netting, so if you want a clear view, best to move over to the berm and stand for most of the game, if your knees can handle it.
There are those metallic picnic tables on the concourse, as well. They are a bit back from the front and people may sit in front of you, but if you want to avoid the sun, these make a good spot to take a break for an inning or two.
The reserved bleachers are $12, and as you can make your way inside, be sure to pick up a copy of the free game notes. The stadium has two seating levels, and the bleachers are the uncovered seats in the second deck. But again, that berm area is my recommended spot. It also gives you a clear view of the scoreboard, which was added in 2006, and has a small video display along with the usual line score.
That is all you need to know - $12 to stand in the sunshine with an unfettered close-up view of the action is hard to beat in the world of sports, so the ROI here gets a perfect score.
The amount of historical information here is excellent, starting with the 1921 conference champions plaque in the shape of a baseball that is on the outside of the fence near the parking lot. Continuing along the third base side of the fence, the championships are listed in chronological order, with the CWS appearance in 2010 the highlight.
Along the concourse, you will notice signs for players that have made the majors, although they include minor league contracts in the display as well.
The Horned Frogs nickname is quite interesting. The moniker was given back in 1897 when the university was located in Waco and must be one of the longest serving nicknames in sports, even though the actual animal is a lizard. There are horned frog representations everywhere around the ballpark, including an inflatable one at the bottom of the main stairs. There is a small stand selling hand-made Horned Frog jewelry, and art for true fans, but it merits a point as I've never seen anything like it anywhere else.
Lupton Stadium is yet another beautiful college ballpark with great fans, good food options, and a nice atmosphere on a weekend afternoon. If you are in the DFW Metroplex during baseball season, check out the TCU schedule to see if the Horned Frogs are at home, and if they are, make sure to catch a game.
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