North of many of the notable schools of Los Angeles, including USC, UCLA, and Loyola Marymount, is the beautiful California State University, Northridge. If fans are not from the area, they may remember Northridge as the epicenter of a devastating earthquake in 1994.
Years have passed and today Northridge has as beautiful a campus as any Southern California school. Found on campus is Matador Field, which was built in 1961 and has since had six major renovations, most recent of which was a new backstop in 2008.
The program now has over 800 wins under its belt and while Matador Field lacks a number of bells and whistles, it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing fields I have viewed in Southern California.
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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".
Matador Field offers one of smallest menus in college baseball, featuring only a hot dog, turkey dog, or spicy dog ($3), chips ($2), popcorn ($3), or candy ($2). There was a combo deal where fans could get a dog, chips, and soda for $6, which would save them $1 if purchased separately.
The beverage options included soda, water, or Gatorade ($2 each) or a larger-sized water at $3.
While the variety was not there, I did appreciate how easily the stand was to get to and the lack of crowds surrounding it.
There is not a lot to be said regarding the atmosphere at Matador Field. It is a beautiful baseball setting, free of advertising and a lot of the other noise fans have come to expect in today's modern game.
There were no chants, but rather only simple cheers when a big play for the home team occurred. Of course, this had its benefits as well as fans were free to simply enjoy an unobtrusive baseball experience.
My first glimpse of the playing field definitely was a "wow moment" as it was impressive and the experience was enjoyable without all of the noises surrounding me. So ultimately if you are more of a baseball traditionalist, this may be the venue for you.
The Northridge campus and the area surrounding it are an interesting contrast. Step one block off campus and there are areas packed with strip malls, restaurants, and all sorts of consumerism.
I think the best part of neighborhood is on campus itself, with many facilities modernized since the earthquake in 1994. The more notable items include the "Matty the Matador" bronze statue, the orange grove that includes a pond filled with koi, ducks, and turtles, and the Lauretta Wasserstein Earthquake Sculpture Garden.
As one of the most diverse campuses in California, there is a variety of different flavors when it comes to restaurants. Fans can try Middle Eastern and Greek at the Falafel Palace, Mexican at Acapulco Restaurant Y Cantina, Korean at Woori Kalbi, Mediterrainean at Emle's, or Italian at the standard Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill.
Seafood lovers will be directed to A & W Seafood Restaurant while pizza lovers should try the cleverly named Pizzasaurus Rex.
Finally, if you're a good old average American unwilling to explore international cuisines, there's always the standard Chili's and Jack-In-The-Box nearby.
As with the atmosphere, there was not a lot of activity coming from the Northridge fans. Very few of them were sporting the CSUN attire and the cheering was limited.
The opposing fans outnumbered greatly on this day (as they were from a cold Midwest city and likely on vacation), but even as Northridge jumped out to a big lead, there was little mocking or jeers towards the guests.
I have tried to come up with something more to say about the fans, but ultimately they were rather muted during this contest. When I visited the basketball program at the Matadome, the students and fans were a bit more animated, so perhaps I caught them on an off day?
The Northridge campus is just a few miles off the 405 freeway, however coming from the south, this often receives significant congestion. In the past, I have arrived late to Matador basketball due to the unpredictable traffic in the region.
When entering the venue, fans will find a simple grandstand where 90% of the fans will find their seating. The middle section has seat-backs while the left and right sides are simply bleachers. While most seating is close in most regards, the playing field is rather large and there is quite a gap between home plate and the fans.
While the aesthetics of the playing field and bleachers were top notch, the restrooms were an entirely different story. It is quite a hike in collegiate baseball terms and it was shared with students competing at a track meet that day. Unfortunately the restrooms looked as if a hurricane had passed through. There were carvings on the toilet seat, a plunger on floor, trashcan overflowing, and sitting water all over the place.
Parking is found in the nearby lot on Lindley Avenue and spots run at $6 from a self-serve kiosk. While there does not seem to be anyone monitoring it, I would not advise fans to risk parking without paying the fee. Depending on the timing of your visit, you may be able to find street parking nearby if you are willing to walk for a bit.
This has to be one of the few venues in the country where parking will cost more than any ticket offered. General admission seating goes for just $5 and youth/seniors for just $3. While I am not thrilled with the parking fee, the ticket prices are a great value. Not lost on anyone should be the chance to see a spectacular baseball field with top level collegiate talent.
Having been to over 50 professional, minor and collegiate venues, the unique items are always something I try to keep an eye out for, but I really had to stretch here.
The only two items I felt that were worth notable were the signs on the back of the home team dugout, designating the significant years of the program and a fake owl that sat atop the pressbox to keep birds away.
This is one of those venues that doesn't exactly align with scoring big points on Stadium Journey's FANFARE scale, but can still provide benefits that baseball fans can enjoy including a great looking field and relaxed setting. If you are baseball fan heading north from Los Angeles, be sure to stop by and give Matador Field a try.
**Follow Drew's journeys through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew
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9255 Reseda Blvd
Northridge, CA 91324
9400 Reseda Blvd
Northridge, CA 91324
9250 Reseda Blvd
Northridge, CA 91324
17646 Lassen St
Northridge, CA 91325
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