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Official Review by Jackson Wolek, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
What do you get with a program that has won four national championships, has notable alumni such as Ryan Braun, Mike Piazza, and Pat Burrell, and a location right in the heart of Miami? One of the best on campus baseball stadiums in Division I baseball. Opening in 1973, the stadium was originally only called Mark Light Field, after George Light, who was a fan of the team, donated money for its construction. Instead of having it named after himself, and dedicated it to his son Mark, who passed away due to muscular dystrophy.
It wasn’t until 2007 when the stadium went through a massive renovation, thanks in part to current New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who in 2003 donated a sum of $3.9 million. Interesting enough, Rodriguez never attended UM, but was recruited by them. He did, however, grow up and play high school baseball in Miami. The money went towards concession stands, a new press box, and four suites, as well as many other things. Now, the stadium seats 5,000 fans, and still houses one of the best college baseball teams. On top of that, they averaged 2,895 fans a game in 2011, the 23rd-best in the nation.
Although there is so much to see and do while in Miami, people still find time to enjoy the American pastime. From its wide variety of food selections, decent prices, free parking and terrific fan support, this truly is a must see.
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".
I issue a fair warning to all those who want to attend a University of Miami game; don’t make your food selection as soon as you enter the stadium. I made this mistake, and regretted it soon after. I ended up with a hotdog, small popcorn and a Coke for $10, but there is far better food you can choose from if you look around. There are two main concession stands on the sides as you enter the stadium and a smaller one straight ahead. On the left concession stand, not only can you get your usual hot dogs, peanuts, and popcorn, but to the very left on the side they sell Edy’s Ice Cream from around $3.50-$4.00, and milkshakes for $5.00. I didn’t try the milkshakes, but judging by the constant line and how many people I saw with milkshakes around the stadium, it seemed to be a crowd favorite.
On the other main concession stand to the right is where you can find hamburgers and cheeseburgers for only $4, chicken wings and fries for $7, and sausages for $4. This is why I say look around, because instead of spending $10 on a mediocre hot dog, small popcorn, and Coke, I much rather would have got the chicken wings and fries for $7.
What by far was the best concession stand, however, was the small one in the middle, which was run by Chicken Grill, a popular Miami food chain that serves chicken chops (chopped grilled chicken breast served over yellow rice, sauce, and pita) for just $7. They even had cookies for just $1. Right next to Chicken Grill was a stand that sold cheesesteaks for $8, something I would have definitely been interested in had I seen it beforehand. Moral of the story is come hungry because there is a lot of great food here, but don’t come so hungry that you rush to the first thing you can get to like I did.
Also, one thing worth mentioning is to bring cash, if possible. They only accept credit cards if you spend $10 or more, which is a rule I never really understood. There is an ATM available, but no doubt there will be a service charge to take out money. If you don’t feel like missing the game action but you're still hungry or thirsty, no worries; there is a vendor that makes his way through the stands selling drinks, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and Cracker Jacks. The stadium does not serve alcohol. The Titanic Brewing Company located across from the stadium is a great place to grab a drink before, after, or even during the game (since they do allow you to come in and out of the stadium as you please) and it has a little better food than what is offered at the park. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised from the food at the stadium.
When I went it was opening night for the Canes, and the 5,000 seat stadium was packed. What they seem to do best is draw fans from the community more than students. There were far more middle-aged/older folks at the game than people in their 20s. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as the place still got rocking with every run the Canes scored. It helps that the team has been successful each and every year, and that the program has such a rich history. Even though the stadium seats so many people, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, except for maybe the bleachers in right field. There are no seats in the outfield, which is fine because they are not really needed.
They have a mascot that walks around and gets the crowd involved during the game without being too obnoxious, and prize giveaways to keep the fans entertained. It may have been renovated in 2009, but you can still sense the history that the field presents. And with a fanbase that seems very knowledgeable about the sport, the atmosphere was top-notch.
Located on the University of Miami campus, it isn’t directly in the South Beach spotlight, but is close enough. Just 15 minutes away is South Beach, but even closer is The Grove, where you can find tons of bars and restaurants to choose from, while spending far less than you would if you went to the beach. My suggestion would be to drive down U.S. Route 1 and you are bound to find something to fit your fancy. If for some reason you can’t, then by all means venture into downtown Miami, where the fun never stops. There is no small town feel to the surrounding area of this stadium.
As I mentioned when talking about the atmosphere of the stadium, you’re not going to find crazy college kids going wild throughout the whole game. Nor would you really want to find that at a baseball game. What you will find however are extremely loyal, passionate fans who love watching their team play. They know just as much about the team as they do their football team. What I liked most about the fans was that they showed up and sold out the stadium. I say this because, in Miami, that can be seen as a rarity. I only wonder if the team wasn’t so good would the fans still show. My one knock on the fans, and this pretty much goes for all sports fans in Miami, is they did tend to still show up on the late side.
I had no trouble at all getting to the stadium, which is on-campus right off of US 1. The website the University has should give you all the directions you need to get there. When you do get there, there is no need to worry about parking since it is free and easy to find. There is a parking garage that you can see from inside the stadium in right field and a parking lot across the street from the stadium, too. What I would say, though, is the signs around the stadium were a little hard to read during the day, and almost impossible at night.
General admission tickets are only $10 and get you a seat on concrete with no chair-back. For $14, you get a chair and close viewing. There are also bleachers on the sides for $10. Those prices scream out "good deal", especially since it’s to see one of the best teams in the nation play.
An extra point is given for the team’s constant success that they have maintained since they arrived. Another one for allowing fans to enter and re-enter the stadium as they wish during the game, something most stadiums don’t allow, and one final extra for having the 23rd-best attendance in the nation last season.
If you want to see one of the best teams in the nation around some of the most passionate fans in a stadium that comes close to resembling some Triple-A baseball stadiums, go to Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park. You shouldn’t be disappointed.
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