Literally nestled in the hills of central Pennsylvania is one of the gems of the Eastern League. Anyone familiar with the state of Pennsylvania knows that there is a lot of action on the east and west boarder, but not much goes on in between. While that may still hold true for the town of Altoona, the stadium and surrounding area is as great and beautiful as the drive through the hills.
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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".
This is a tough category to start on for this stadium because it is the only part that was less than expected. There are only a few things past the normal stadium concession stands, such as Philadelphia Water Ice, several different flavors of hand-dipped ice cream, and an extremely unique bologna and cheese cup. The pricing is about average: a hamburger, bag of chips and small soda cost $10.
Other items such as hot dogs ($2.75) and nachos ($2.75) are decently priced. There are also plenty of "upgraded" stadium foods, such as pulled pork nachos ($6.25) and walking tacos ($4.50). The quality of the food is also just around average or perhaps a little above depending on the food item. The burger and local chips aren't bad, but the previously-mentioned Water Ice, which is a blend of a slurpie and Italian ice, left a little to be desired.
It's tough for the normal fan to pay attention for an entire minor league baseball game. However, Altoona fans are into the game for the entire nine innings. This fan base is crazy about their hometown team the way most major league cities are. From the game atmosphere alone, you get the sense that this town adopts the team's players as their own for about five months of the year. The fans make the atmosphere, but the team management helps along the way.
There were a few unique games played between innings, such as the Angry Birds game where a mascot launched stuffed Angry Birds characters from the second deck, and a young man tried to catch the stuffed birds with a fishing net. Anything put up on the big screen was immediately chanted and done so with passion. The staff was all very friendly. If you bought a hat in the team store, the cashier would offer to take the tags off so you could wear the hat out. The little things like this make a great atmosphere. On a side note, the team store is really great with an amazing amount of apparel and memorabilia.
There are great aesthetics that go along with the stadium. To start is the beautiful red brick that greets you on your way in. The word "Altoona" is spelled out very nicely in left field, and the best view of the stadium looks out over right field. A roller coaster from nearby Lakemont Park sits in right field and is a great backdrop for the stadium. The lights on the roller coaster do shut off around 9 p.m. Leaving the lights on may be something the Curve could work out with Lakemont Park to keep the lights on for the game; because this really does add to the ballpark aesthetic. This stadium is a great mix of new and old and is definitely worth the trip.
The only thing within walking distance of the stadium is Lakemont Park, an amusement park. Don't expect to go early in the morning and stay at the park all day until the game starts; it's just simply not that big or modern of an amusement park. A small drive away are several nice restaurants, such as Al's Tavern and Anthony's Pizza, and there's also a decent shopping mall. After this there are not a ton of activities in Altoona. The name Curve comes from local railroad, so railroad enthusiasts will really enjoy the town itself.
The one thing that is easily noticeable is how early the fans show up. Fifteen minutes before the park was due to open, a line stretched the entire length of the stadium on the third base side. The fans really seemed to know their team and were excited about the top prospects that were in at the time of the game. The fans got really loud when Curve players were in scoring position. The video screen would prod for the crowd to cheer the phrase "We want Al." This is because one of the many mascots, the fish named "Al Tuna," would make an appearance in center field whenever a run was scored.
The crowd played along with everything, from the in-between-inning games and entertainment, to starting the wave on their own. The game overall was a really nice atmosphere--exactly what you look for in a minor league baseball game.
Getting to the park involves making two turns once you're off the highway. Also, since the ballpark is right next to Lakemont Park, you won't be able to miss it. The crowd shows up very early, so it makes getting into the park very easy. Getting out of the park also seems to be almost as easy, as there seems to be plenty of area police to direct traffic.
Don't be fooled by the parking lot outside of the home plate entrance though; this is for season ticket holders only. Parking at the stadium garage is only $2, so that's easy enough to be found in the change in your car. It would be a wise idea to park on the highest level of the garage, though.
Also, the bathrooms were very clean and had plenty of room as well.
This is by far the easiest category to rate. We were lucky enough to show up on a night where the Zooperstars were the in between inning entertainment. These are big inflatable characters that involved staged and non-staged acts. These guys were hilarious so if you find out they're coming to your area, make sure to show up. That being said, even without the Zooperstars, this category would still easily earn five stars. The combination of $10 baseline seats, $2 parking, and the overall beautiful scenery make this an easy decision. It might be a good idea at some point for the Curve to team up with Lakemont Park and a hotel in Altoona to perhaps sell a package deal. I could see that being really hard to pass up.
A couple of bonus stars for the combination of the amount of leg room in between rows and the amazing promotion that we were lucky enough to see-the Zooperstars. I realize you can't depend on the Zooperstars being at your game, but it will be a major bonus if they show up. There is also by far the most leg room I have ever seen at any stadium. I am by no means a big guy, but at most stadiums I still have to stand up normally to let someone in a row. In Altoona, I barely had to shift my feet to let someone else in the row. The Altoona Curve are the AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it is about a two hour drive from Peoples Natural Gas Field to PNC Park, so a doubleheader is very possible if you want to see both current and future Pirates on the same day.
The Altoona Curve have the definition of a great minor league stadium. Driving through the Pennsylvania hills in the middle of the summer is nothing less than pleasant and relaxing. If you need to get out of your hometown for a weekend and want to see a great stadium, Altoona is a great choice.
Blair County Ballpark is home of the Altoona Curve, the Eastern League AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The park is beautiful and a real model for how minor league parks should be built. The team itself is named after the infamous horseshoe curve built for the railroad.
The park opened in 1999 with a seating capacity of 7,210, although the largest crowd to ever watch a game was 9,255 on August 10, 2003. The park was built with over 69,000 bricks and has a great background in right field - a working rollercoaster, the Skyliner, from Lakemont Park that is only a few feet behind the fence.
This is one of my favorite ballparks. I've been there three times and hope to get back in 2012. It is exactly what you'd hope all ballparks would be like. It reminds me of Camden Yards (without all of those annoying Oriole fans). They roller coaster beyond the outfield wall is a great backdrop. The fans were very pleasant. The food was good though I don't remember the selection being as great as described in another review. Still it's a fun and relaxing place to watch a game.
1600 Crawford Ave
Altoona, PA 16602
1300 9th Ave
Altoona, PA 16602
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