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Official Review by Harrison Huntley, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Now a suburb of Richmond, Petersburg, Virginia was once a major city in the south. During the mid-1800s, Petersburg was a major shipping stop on railroads and a port on the Appomattox River. In the Civil War, the siege of Petersburg was key in the North’s victory. Since then, Petersburg has become home to Fort Lee, a US Army post. The Generals are the city’s only sports team. Founded in 2000, the team found immediate success with a championship in its first year. Unfortunately, the team went downhill from there. The Generals usually post some of the Coastal Plain League’s lowest attendance numbers. In 2013, the Generals did not have a crowd of more than 500 all season. Maybe the location or the atmosphere is driving fans away, but something needs to change for this organization to be successful.
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".
According to the handwritten menu, you have five options: Hot dogs, burgers, nachos, chips, candy, and sunflower seeds. I appreciate that they keep it simple, but most parks have at least one unique item. The prices are decent, if that's any consolation.
This rating was going to be a single star, but the outdated vending machine was not in fact where you buy drinks. Thankfully, Pepsi is served by the bottle at the concession stand. I'm not exactly sure why there is a vending machine housing bottles with faded labels. It seems that they should move that as to not confuse fans.
There is one bright spot in the food and drink category. The beer garden in left field has a two-story patio. The view makes it one of the best spots in the park to watch the game. The beer is available in cans, ranging from $3-$5. Bud Light is the only draft beer available for what appeared to be $2, but I couldn't quite read the faded sheet of paper that was taped over the old price.
When you have one of the lowest attendance totals in the league, you normally don't have much of an atmosphere. Petersburg Sports Complex is no exception. All around the stadium, there is a feeling of apathy from everyone. The fans and staff seem indifferent.
Now that I've said that, I'll focus on the positive. The sun sets behind the bleachers, so sitting in direct sunlight is almost never a problem. There are reserved seats right behind home plate. These seats are plastic with backs, but do have arm rests. The other option is general admission. General admission seats are metal bleachers without backs on either side of the reserved section. The seats are actually pretty far away from the field. In most CPL stadiums, you feel involved in the game because the seats are really close to the field. The seats at Petersburg Sports Complex make you feel removed from the game because of the distance from the action. The scoreboard is a bit of a letdown as well. It only shows runs, the count, and the current inning. Most teams in the league have a nine-inning scoreboard.
Petersburg is located on Interstates 85 and 95. That should mean that there are at least some fast food restaurants. Unfortunately, Petersburg Sports Complex is located well south of the city and most of the restaurants. There is a Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Bojangles' about 10 minutes from the stadium, but that's about it. There is literally nothing around the stadium, and the only close options are 10 minutes away. Anything else will require you to take one of the interstates into the city, or even neighboring Richmond.
I attended a game on a Friday night, late in the season, and on a promotional night. Even though it was a perfect night to catch a game, I only counted around 300 fans in attendance. Even worse, the fans in attendance were not even that interested in the game. There were about ten fans who routinely applauded for a hit. The rest seemed to be happy with watching the game, and made little effort to cheer.
Petersburg is a city between two of the South's major highways. The problem is that Petersburg Sports Complex is barely in Petersburg. Coming from I-95, you actually cross the border into Petersburg city limits about five minutes away from the stadium. To get to the stadium, you have to get off either interstate and drive down a back road for about 10 minutes.
Once you have found the park, you have to drive all the way around the entire facility to find the Generals' field. Parking is free and with the lack of fans, finding a space shouldn't be a problem.
The restrooms are not actually a part of the stadium, but are located in nearby trailers. Once inside, the restrooms aren't as bad as they look on the outside. It is a bit weird that the stadium has no permanent restrooms.
If you're into baseball and nothing else, you might like Petersburg Sports Complex. You may not know it based on the fans, but there is a game going on. If you just want to watch a game and not have it interrupted by noisy fans, this could be a good venue for you.
Each time an opposing player is out on a good throw, the sound of machine gun fire is played. I guess the player has been "gunned down." A bit cheesy, but the effort is appreciated. There is also a mascot. He is an eagle named Peter S. Burg. Again, cheesy, but I appreciate the effort.
One interesting perk of Petersburg Sports Complex is the free midway. There are four carnival-style games that are all free. This is a great idea to attract kids to the games.
In 2007, the Richmond Braves played their last game at The Diamond. The next year, they relocated to Gwinnett County, Georgia. The Braves cited poor attendance as the main reason to move the team. The city of Richmond lost their minor league team -- despite soon getting another in the Richmond Flying Squirrels -- to poor attendance. The residents of Petersburg should learn from the mistakes of their neighbor and come out to a game before the team packs up and leaves.
Member Review by kochamanita on Jun 01, 2014
I don't like it. The concessions are weak: warm bottled Pepsi, old hot dogs, tiny/old sunflower seeds... The crowd is small, and most of the ones that are there are there to root for friends and family playing for the Generals. When you shout something like, "Need to find the strike zone," or, "You need to get on base, you've gone 0 for 3 today," they give you withering stares like you're at a little league game saying 5-year-old Johnny needs to hang up his cleats. This is why they won less than 10 games last season in 2013. I'll just keep going to Flying Squirrels games, guys...
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