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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
There’s an old saying that you can’t go home again. After a couple of nomadic years between 2012 and 2014 where UNO baseball played off-campus between Zephyr Field (home to the MiLB’s New Orleans Zephyrs) and local Wesley Barrow Stadium, home is exactly where Privateer baseball has returned. During that time, Maestri Field underwent a near complete facelift which saw a new grandstand installed with 800 chairbacks and a new press box with a private suite, among other upgrades.
Not only did the Privateers return to a new stadium experience, but the program also emerged from flirtations with a transition to Division II and III after once having been a strong member of the Division I Sun Belt Conference. In 2014, UNO once again returned in full-force to Division I as a member of the largely Texas and Louisiana based Southland Conference.
The road back home has been tough for many in New Orleans after the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. From a higher education perspective, this is seen clearly in the struggles UNO has faced both academically and athletically since then. Many in the community look to the multi-million dollar renovation to Maestri Field as a sign of promise for the future.
Whether you’re an alum of UNO or a member of the greater New Orleans region, there’s something special about attending a game at Maestri Field. You get the feeling that you’re playing a small part in helping the university and community continue on the long road to normalcy. Doesn’t hurt that you’ll also get to take in a traditional college baseball atmosphere and quality Southland Conference baseball opponents as well.
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".
The upgraded concessions experience at Maestri Field covers the basics. While the concession offerings will satisfy you, it's missing a greater variety of options and a signature item.
Quality and Variety of Food Options. There is a single primary concession stand which offers up staple stadium food items including hot dogs ($3), nachos ($4), cheeseburgers ($5), popcorn ($2.50), peanuts ($2), and sunflower seeds ($1.50). While these items are anything but gourmet, they will satisfy your craving for ballpark grub. The most unique items on the menu are the bowl of jambalaya ($4) and grilled chicken sandwich ($4.50).
Variety of Drink Options. Your soda/drink options include bottled Coca-Cola products ($2.50 - $3). Maestri Field offers up both domestic (160z) and import (12oz) beers for $5.
Concessions Recommendation. When in Louisiana, it's hard to pass-up a good bowl of jambalaya and we recommend you grab a bowl while at Maestri Field. If you're looking for something more traditional, it's hard to beat eating a hot dog at a baseball game.
Overall, Maestri Field provides a solid atmosphere for college baseball. Highlights include a new-stadium feel, outfield video board and a traditional baseball environment.
Stadium Aesthetics. It's clear upon the walk-up to Maestri Field that you're stepping into a brand new facility. While the grandstand area is smaller in size, the modern look and feel add positively to the experience. Chairback seating in the main grandstand is comfortable, the field is beautiful, and the video scoreboard adds to the overall atmosphere at Maestri Field.
In-Game Promotions and Entertainment. Don't expect an over-the-top minor league atmosphere at Maestri Field. While the athletics department has the occasional promotion, you'll get to enjoy a more traditional college baseball setting without the bells and whistles. There's no dance team or mascot to block your view of the field. With that said, the experience fits well with baseball purists, but may leave families attending with little ones searching for ways to keep the kids entertained.
Seat Location Recommendations. The chairback seating in the main grandstand will obviously be your most comfortable seat in the stadium along with the best view. The bleacher seating along left field foul line is also a good location for the younger crowd since this is where you'll find most of the students who may be in attendance. Fans of the visiting team will likely find comfort in numbers in the bleacher seating along the right field foul line.
When you think about the neighborhood for UNO baseball, it's definitely a mixed bag. The immediate area around UNO is known as the Lakefront and Gentilly neighborhoods. As primarily residential neighborhoods, there's not exactly a ton of options in the immediate vicinity. If I were to rate the immediate area only, it would probably be closer to a score of 2 or 3. However, a major benefit for those coming to a UNO game from outside the New Orleans region is that the New Orleans French Quarter and CBD is only a couple of miles south of the campus and stadium. Since there's tons of information available on what to do while in the more touristy parts of New Orleans, we'll focus more on restaurant, entertainment and lodging options in the immediate area.
Where to Eat. If you are planning to eat around the campus, there are a few quality restaurants popular with the locals in the university community. The Munch Factory (325 Elysian Fields) serves up some regionally inspired dishes like shrimp remoulade green fried tomatoes, gumbo, and buffalo oysters. East of Italy (6600 Franklin) is a quality stop for Italian food cravings. Deanie's Seafood (1713 Lake) is a great stop for fried and boiled seafood. Though it's not exactly in the immediate area, it's a short drive to the nearby Bucktown neighborhood.
Attractions and Entertainment. Located just a couple of minutes from UNO, there's plenty to do at City Park. You could literally spend a whole day here and not see everything. Be sure to check out some of the more popular attractions at City Park like the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, City Putt, and Storyland (great options for traveling families). There's also plenty of recreational options including the City Park golf course. Again, if you're not from the New Orleans region, you'll likely be budgeting some time in more popular areas like the French Quarter, the Garden District and CBD. You'll find more than enough to keep you entertained in those areas.
Where to Stay. New Orleans is one of the tourism capitals of the world and there's an endless variety of hotels to choose from around the city. A unique option nearby UNO is Pontchartrain Landing. Located on a straight connecting to Lake Pontchartrain, this option is perfect for families traveling by RV, those with boating interests, or simply to rent out a comfortable stay in an on-site villa.
The Privateers find themselves in a new home, a new conference, and a renewed opportunity to entice local, student, and alumni fan support. If UNO is able to put together a strong conference record, the community seems ripe for flocking to the field. Until then, however, fan support could use a shot in the arm.
Typical Attendance Patterns. While UNO is certainly a traditional and integral part of New Orleans, the back and forth shift from life support to Southland Conference membership has certainly done some damage to the Privateer fan base. Being away from home during renovations have certainly left a mark. Expect a crowd which ranges from 200 - 500 for a typical game. Some of UNO's conference rivals include Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana, so expect better than average attendances for these games. Also, when UNO is able to schedule a home game against regional powers like Tulane and LSU, attendance peaks.
Crowd Noise & Engagement. Unfortunately, typically little engagement by UNO crowds. While there are certainly long-time die-hard supporters on hand, crowds can typically feel disengaged and border-line apathetic.
Traditions & Chants. There's not much going on at the ballpark in regards to chants or traditions. Hopefully as UNO begins to establish itself in a new ballpark and new home in the Southland Conference, fans will start creating a few new game day traditions.
One of the strengths of the UNO baseball experience at Maestri Field is the ease of access throughout the full experience. Whether it's the quick and friendly service at the ticket office or spacious concourse, expect short lines and room to move around.
Transit to and from the Stadium. Getting to Maestri Field is pretty easy. Though highways and interstates in major cities can always be a bit of an annoyance, Maestri Field's location gives you access to the Gentilly area through both I-10 and I-610. Once off the interstate, the stadium and UNO's campus is about a six mile drive.
Parking.There's plenty of available parking next to the stadium. If you're unfamiliar with the area, be sure to check out a map before you begin the trek to the stadium. Situated near the Lakefront Arena, it can be easy to accidentally get caught up in parking for a special event. Enter at the intersection between Leon C. Simon Dr. and Press Dr. Parking is typically $5 on game day.
Ticketing & Gate Entry. After you've parked, make your way over to the left side of main grandstand to find the ticket office and will call. You should be greeted by friendly staff and quickly be on your way to the gate without encountering much of a line. The same can be said for the main entrance gate, which is actually the only entrance, just behind homeplate and the main grandstand.
Moving Around the Stadium. There is plenty of room to move around the outer concourse. With only a single concession stand, you may encounter a bit of a line for well attended games. While the aisles within the seating areas aren't especially spacious, they do allow adequate room to get up and down to your seat. The restrooms aren't state-of-the-art by any means, but are large enough for typical crowds at Maestri Field.
While Southland Conference baseball typically flies under the radar of the casual college baseball fans, those who pay close attention understand that there's some quality smallpark ball being played across Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The cost associated with attending a UNO baseball game is minimal, especially for the quality of play you'll get to experience.
The outfield video board is a nice touch for the level of play. It's not often that you see a video board at many smaller ballparks like Maestri Field and it adds significantly to the overall experience.
You won't have to look far for Privateer apparel. There is a merchandise stand adjacent to the concessions stand immediately upon walking into the stadium.
While there are several points of the experience which qualify as an "extra", the atmosphere could be greatly enhanced with banners and plaques which memorialize past accomplishments and legends of Privateer baseball. There's not currently much in this regard on site.
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325 Elysian Fields Ave
New Orleans, LA 70122
6600 Franklin Ave
New Orleans, LA 70122