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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Meiklejohn Stadium at the University of Pennsylvania opened in 2000 as Murphy Field. In 2006, it was renovated and renamed after the donor who supported the renovation.
What makes Meiklejohn Stadium most unique is the setting. Located between a large campus power plant, officially known as the Module 7 Utility Building, a railroad track and the Schulykill Expressway (I-76), this field is more jammed into what should be an unwelcoming environment than any field we have ever seen. But strangely enough, you are surely to enjoy your time here watching Ivy League baseball.
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".
There is one simple concession stand located in the shadows of the power plant. It is a temporary stand that uses fold-up tables and a sun tent. It is not clear if the stand operates on weekday games, as we attended on a weekend day. Hot dogs are a very fair $1, but bottled water is the opposite, costing a pretty high $4. Canned sodas, pretzels, peanuts, cheese cups and Cracker Jacks are the other options, ranging from $1 to $3.
Fans are also able to bring their own drinks and food. The university does have a security bag check-in place, so it would be assumed that alcoholic beverages are not allowed. O'Malley Family Park is located inside the gates of the stadium, and provides a handful of picnic tables for pre and post-game picnicking.
The atmosphere is unique and the knowledgeable fans make the games quite enjoyable. The quality of baseball is pretty good for the Northeast, and the Ivy league rivalries can be pretty intense. The PA announcer also does a fair job of entertaining fans and providing musical introductions for the players.
The power plant building has a large humming noise that can be quite distracting. The PA announcer even seems to have to pump up the sound level to over compensate for the loud sound. There is no way around it, the sound takes away from the stadium's atmosphere.
First base seating is built into a small hill. The seats themselves are nice, but remind me of what you would experience at a state or national park campfire auditorium, as the floors are basic gravel.
On the third base side, the seating is limited to just a couple of rows due to the road behind the park. The home dugout literally has no stands behind it, and you can stand extremely close to the action.
The field is also pretty unique in that it has a netting surrounding nearly all parts of the field. It is unclear if this is to protect the fans or to keep balls from entering the power plant, highway and/or railroad track. The further you sit back, the netting becomes less of a vision issue. High foul balls will still occasionally enter the seating area, as well as the entrance promenade.
There is no real neighborhood to the stadium. There is a long, complicated path back to the main part of the university, but most fans will drive and park at the facility.
If you do go back to the main part of the University of Pennsylvania, you will find a plethora of shops and restaurants to satisfy almost any appetite. The best bet for this route is to find a food truck, as they will be plentiful around the campus. Also located nearby at Drexel University is a location of Landmark Americana, which is a great option for post-game eating. This restaurant offers a nice choice of meals and has a large bar, as well. For Saturday games, look out for the $10 all-you-can-eat wings special. They also offer numerous drink specials at the bar.
If driving, consider Philip's Steaks at 2234 West Passyunk Avenue for traditional Philly cheesesteaks. This is not one of the more touristy spots, but is still in a safe neighborhood and offers free parking. Philip's also has a surprisingly good cheeseburger for a cheesesteak joint. Just remember you have to buy the drinks and fries at a different window than your main entree, which is a strange and unique Philly tradition.
Fans of baseball in the Northeast tend to be family or friends of the players only. The distance from the main part of campus does not allow for too many college students to attend. Even so, the fans are knowledgeable and provide for a good atmosphere of baseball watching.
If you attend a baseball game at Meiklejohn Stadium, you must study your directions ahead of time. Entrance to the area can only be made from northbound University Avenue. Also be aware that the River Fields Drive address may not be understood by all GPS systems, as this is more of a campus drive than a real road. An alternate address for the GPS is 634 S University Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
Parking is relatively plentiful at the stadium for weekend games, but may be more problematic on weekday games. It is also not clear if you need to pay for parking on the weekend. A self-park credit card payment machine is located in the lot. But we saw almost no one using it until, as we were leaving at the split point of a doubleheader. We did not get a parking ticket, but we left slightly confused. During weekdays games, you would most certainly have to pay up to $12, depending on time commitment.
A good option is to pay at a garage near the main part of campus and walk the circuitous walkway to the stadium from the Hollenback building and past the soccer and softball fields. Walking via University Avenue is another alternative.
Admission to the stadium is free. And we did not pay for parking (although that may have been in error), so a weekend game is a good investment. Even if you have to pay to park for a weekday game, the costs are small compared to many places. Food is also cheap, although not with a very expansive menu.
There is a Hall of Fame located in the press box building, which makes for interesting viewing. Also, the location alone, even with the loud humming noise, warrants a visit by itself. You may never see a facility like this in almost any other area.
The costs are pretty small to attend this unique facility. If in Philadelphia, you should look to see if you can fit a game into your schedule.
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