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Official Review by Kirsten Richards, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Cooper’s Stadium at Norwood Oval is the oldest stadium in the Australian Baseball League (baseball has been played there since 1951), and it is the only multi-sport venue remaining at the top level of baseball in Australia. Over the winter, the ground is home to the Redlegs, who have been playing in the South Australian top level of Australian Rules Football competition at Norwood Oval since 1901.
While the ground is very large (AFL is played 18 players to side), the shared space still results in unusual dimensions, particularly in the oddly-shaped and short right outfield and the huge foul areas.
The Adelaide Bite have made it through to the Championship Series in the first year of the rebooted Australian Baseball League (ABL) and hosted the series in 2014/2015. Norwood has seen the largest crowd in the rebooted ABL, with a huge turnout for games 1 and 2 of the 2014/15 Championship Series. Unfortunately for the team, they finished as the runner-up.
Baseball was clearly not part of the design brief for Norwood Oval - there are no dugouts or bullpens. The gorgeous old stands with their Federation-style architecture make a lovely backdrop to the field. The standing areas and bleacher seating are closer to the action than the reserved seating – it is very common at Norwood to bring your own camp chair to take advantage of the shallow tiers of the standing room.
Despite of, or maybe because of, its peculiarities, Norwood is a really great place to be part of a crowd. People are cheerful, enthusiastic and enjoy getting into a little banter with the opposing team and their supporters. If and when a baseball specific venue is built in Adelaide, keeping the charm and strong sense of place that exists at Norwood will be a real challenge for the designers.
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".
In line with most of the ABL, picnic-style homemade food can be brought into the ground - no glass and no alcohol. The options for food at the ground are standard for a small summer venue. Golden North provides ice cream in mini-baseball helmets. There is a gourmet hot dog stall with hot dogs selling for $5-$8. It also serves nachos. A coffee van is also on site and there is a canteen as you come into the ground serving chips, dim sum, chiko rolls and the like for $3-$10. The bar on the concourse sells Cooper's beer (the naming rights sponsor for the stadium) for $7/cup, with pre-mix drinks also available.
Norwood Oval is a particularly pretty venue, in the middle of an older, tree-lined inner suburb of Adelaide. The outside is made of lovely Federation brickwork and there is a charming wishing well in the courtyard. The ticket office is something of an ugly chunk of concrete tucked in a corner and the space can be quickly overwhelmed if a lot of people are lining up to get tickets.
Norwood has an extremely casual and relaxed feel to it. The groundskeeper may or may not be wearing shoes. The players sit on plastic chairs on the sideline under the same kind of shade tents you'd find at any outdoor picnic or down at the beach. Spectators lean against the walls with a beer in hand squinting into the sun and catching up on gossip. People wandering back and forward from their spots in the stands are constantly bumping into friends and stopping for a chat. It's a really nice place to be.
Despite the feeling of a lazy summer evening, the staff are completely on the ball. Every staff member seems to be cheerful, friendly and deeply knowledgeable about the ground, the team and their merchandise. The customer service standards are very high.
It can be very, very hot and sunny in Adelaide over the summer. If purchasing General Admission tickets, there will be no shade until very late in the day and it comes over the first base side first. Reserved seating is all in the stands under a solid roof down the third base line. There is bleacher seating right next to the rail (like much of Norwood, it feels almost right on top of the field). Then the football standing room tiers and then the fairly narrow concourse, which also holds most of the concessions and merchandise shop. The Shark Tank corporate hospitality area is on the field and practically in the Adelaide Bite 'dugout.' Way behind the third base side is the Australian Outdoor Viewing Deck.
Despite the heat and sunshine, I would recommend bringing a camp chair and setting up just to the left or right of home plate. This is the only stadium in the ABL where you can do this, so take advantage of it.
As this ground is a football field for the majority of the year, the baseball diamond only has dirt around the bases, not all along the base paths. Occasionally, outfielders catching balls as they fall through the outfield fencing at Norwood has been featured on MLB highlight reels. Given the small size of the ground, long balls frequently turn into home runs, which can certainly add to the crowd's enthusiasm for the game. The lack of dugouts and bullpens makes many off-field aspects of the game transparent to the crowd. Players and field staff are very visible for the whole game, no matter what they are doing. It's great for the crowd, but probably not as much fun for the players.
The area beyond the outfield fence is out-of-bounds for spectators regardless of whether they are in the stands or on the grass and this is quite seriously enforced.
Overall, Norwood is a unique fan experience at the top level of baseball in any country.
Norwood is an inner suburb of Adelaide and the ground is largely surrounded by homes, a few businesses and - being Adelaide - a couple of churches.
There are a few restaurants within walking distance of the stadium, including Finn MacCool's Irish Pub, Martini Ristorante (Italian), and Café Saba (Vietnamese). Colonist Tavern is also relatively nearby for food, drinks, and gaming machines.
If you have a few days in Adelaide, regular traveller recommendations include taking the tram to the historic seaside resort area of Glenelg; satisfying all your gourmet food desires at the Adelaide Market in the centre of the city; and spending an afternoon or a day in the Adelaide Hills for yet more food and wine. A few more days might take you out to the Clare Valley, one of Australia's oldest and most well known wine regions. And of course, no trip to Adelaide is complete without a visit to Haigh's Chocolates.
Adelaide is also host to the Santos Tour Down Under week long UCI cycling race in January as the ABL approaches the end of the regular season. The city is very busy over this week and it is worth planning your trip to account for it.
Over the course of the 2014/15 season, the crowd numbers at Norwood have grown, peaking at over 7,000 for Game 2 of the Championship series. While there are certainly a number of people who know the game and the history of the team very well, there are also more than a few people who are very new to baseball and are there more for a social occasion.
Norwood is one of the easier stadiums in the league to get to. It is very close to the centre of the city and is on a frequently served bus line. There is no parking at the stadium, but parking on the streets around the stadium is permitted - look for signs. Should you need to take a taxi, the journey is short and affordable.
Norwood's age does show internally, with some of the concourse and tiered areas having unusual slopes or cracks. The concourse is narrow and people generally use both the concourse and the first tier of standing room to get around.
There is a ramp for wheelchairs into the venue. While there doesn't seem to be any specific area marked out, there are multiple places where a wheelchair user would be safe, comfortable and have an excellent view.
The bathrooms are tiny but clean. They may be overwhelmed with a larger crowd at the venue, but are sufficient for the typical crowds at Norwood Oval.
The Adelaide Bite make it easy to come to a game and enjoy it, despite the ground not being ideally suited to baseball. The sponsorship by Cooper's is very welcome and the food is both cheap for a stadium and pretty good.
Ticket prices for all parts of the park are very reasonable, with pre-arranged groups of 10 or more being able to secure tickets for under $10/head, up to the $65/head for Shark Tank seats.
There is a museum of Redlegs AFL memorabilia under the third base side, which is well worth checking out, despite not being baseball related.
Member Review by megminard on Dec 23, 2013
The Adelaide Bite plays in the historic Norwood Oval (also known as Cooper’s Stadium) in Norwood, South Australia and is a part of the ABL (Australian Baseball League). The venue is shared with the Redlegs, a team of the South Australian National Football League. Fortunately, the two leagues do not overlap their seasons. The stadium is definitely more built for football than baseball.
Baseball has been played in Norwood Oval since 1951, hosting the Claxton Shield (an Australian national baseball tournament) on six occasions.
From 1989 – 1999 in the previous ABL, the team was known as the Adelaide Giants.
The Bite gets its name from the many sharks that inhabit the waters around the Adelaide area.
For the baseball season, the Bite has to build up the pitcher’s mound and place dirt for the bases in the oval. They put in temporary dugouts and bullpens, as well as foul poles and outfield walls. It is awkward as a baseball field. However, it is baseball and one can watch a good baseball game with friendly staff and fans.
All dollar amounts listed in this review are Australian dollar value (AUD).
Member Review by uita71 on Jan 05, 2014
Cooper's Stadium is the last non-baseball facility in the ABL, and it appears that in the next one to two years the Bite will be moving as well. In the meantime I thought Cooper's Stadium was the most interesting facility in the league- it's the only park that you can technically sit in home run seating, and the rafters have a feel similar to some of the older minor league ballparks in the US.
For those who like to have a little pregame fun (food/drink) Adelaide is the one place where you can go hit a bar or restaurant then walk to the stadium. There are several places within short walking distance and you can park your car on the street for free.
When visiting Adelaide don't forget to have the Farmers Union iced coffee! That's a must if you make the visit to South Australia.
Good experience overall.
97 The Parade
Norwood, SA 5067
+61 8 8431 1822
59a The Parade
Norwood, SA 5067
+61 8 8362 7822
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