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Official Review by Brian Merzbach, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
If you want to experience the typical minor league atmosphere in the typical minor league ballpark, there is no place better to visit than Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (a mouthful of a name, no pun intended) where you will definitely find both. While many fans who only frequent their hometown park may enjoy this, for the traveler like myself who visits many ballparks each year, there is nothing to distinguish this park from numerous other new parks built since 2000.
This is not to say Northeast Delta Dental Stadium is a bad place to see a game, but just that there is nothing too memorable about it. The Fisher Cats were born in 2004, after the team moved from New Haven (CT). Because the ballpark was not ready yet, they actually played one season in historic Gill Stadium before moving into the new ballpark (originally just known as Fisher Cats Stadium). Gill is a quirky stadium loaded with character and charm, something missing at the Fisher Cats new ballpark.
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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".
Upon my first visits here in 2005 and 2006, I was not overly impressed with the concessions. Besides the normal ballpark fare, some of the unique options include clam chowder, fish platters, Italian sausages, chili, and BBQ sandwiches (pulled pork). While prices are reasonable, the quality was a bit lacking. They have also added a bar and grill area behind the left field fence, which looks pretty impressive.
The atmosphere at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, while not overly loud or distracting, is filled with shameless promotions. The team conducts an on field game between every half inning that is just another way to get a sponsor's name on the scoreboard. There is no creativity or imagination put into these promotions. Everything just feels overly scripted.
The ballpark itself is located right next to the Merrimack River, but unfortunately there is no view of the river while watching the game as it is actually behind the ballpark. The view behind the outfield fence is dominated by the Hilton Garden Inn hotel that was built directly adjacent to the ballpark. Some have said that it actually gives it a bit of a Camdenesque feel. Besides the hotel, there are also views of some of the buildings in downtown Manchester. The hotel and city skyline do combine to give you some sense of place, which I always enjoy at a ballpark.
Located just a short walk from downtown Manchester, there are obviously tons of restaurant and shopping options nearby for before and after the game. Also, the Hilton Garden Inn hotel is located directly next to the ballpark, so if you don't mind spending a bit for your hotel room, this would probably be a cool place to stay, especially if you can get a room with a view of the field.
This is the heart of New England, so most of the fans you'll find here are Red Sox fans. Despite being a Blue Jays affiliate, the Fisher Cats have still managed to do a great job attracting fans. I was skeptical at first that they would be able to bring in large crowds on a regular basis, but they have managed to increase their attendance and are now up over 5,000 per game. Certainly the games against the Portland Sea Dogs (a Red Sox affiliate and their closest rival) are the biggest draws, but they have various other promotions which seem to pack the park as well. As with most fans in New England, they seem to be knowledgeable and into the game. However, when urged by the scoreboard, they can obnoxiously stomp their feet on the metal flooring which makes up the seating bowl.
The ballpark is located just off the downtown of Manchester, and is relatively easy to find. The aspect I don't like is the parking situation. There is very little parking near the ballpark. The team has one small lot that is mostly reserved for season ticket holders. If any spots are available in this lot, the cost is a ridiculously high $10. Other parking options include on street parking (some of which is free), small private lots (which charge around $5), or the parking garages in downtown (which are a 10-15 minute walk from the ballpark). Despite a less than ideal parking situation, fans obviously don't mind too much. One oddity here is that the one and only entrance is located in the left field corner.
One aspect that I don't like about this park is the fact that the whole seating bowl is made of metal rather than concrete. This can make it quite treacherous on rainy nights as the metal can get slippery. Also, a full wraparound concourse is a glaring omission here. Almost all new ballparks have this nowadays and really allows the fans to spread out more. I'm not sure if they could have built one here, though, as a street does run directly behind the right field wall. Still, it would have been nice if they could have found a way to incorporate one.
Prices are quite reasonable overall at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, especially for AA baseball, which I think is the highest quality minor league ball there is. Most of the tickets are $10-$12 and that gets you a reserved chair back seat. The team also does lots of promotions and giveaways, so if you come on the right night, you'll even feel like you are getting more for your dollar.
It's hard to find much unique or memorable about Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. It is pretty much your standard AA ballpark.
**Follow all of Brian's journeys at BallparkReviews.com.
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149 Hanover St
Manchester, NH 03101
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