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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
2015 was the beginning of a new era of Sun Devil baseball. Not only did ASU move from Tempe to Phoenix, but also brought in a new head coach to bring the program back to national relevance.
Arizona State left behind the on-campus Packard Stadium for the bigger, brighter stage of Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Phoenix Muni is just a short little drive from the ASU campus, literally about a three minute car ride from Packard, but it feels like a completely new world.
ASU is not a stranger to Phoenix Muni, having previously played home games there after the park opened in 1958. Former ASU great Reggie Jackson was the first college player to hit a home run at the stadium. Willie Mays was the first Major Leaguer to hit a home run there. It is the oldest baseball stadium in the Phoenix area.
The stadium opened in 1958 as part of the New York Giants’ relocation to San Francisco. In fact, it still has the light stands from the old Polo Grounds. Phoenix Muni hosted San Francisco Giants spring training for a year in 1964, then became the long-time home of the Oakland Athletics, who have now moved on to Hohokam Park. The A’s moved in prior to the 1984 season. The Phoenix Firebirds of the Pacific Coast League played at Phoenix Muni from 1962-1991 before moving to Scottsdale Stadium in 1992.
Not only are the facilities at Phoenix Municipal a giant upgrade over what ASU had at Packard, but Phoenix Muni brings a whole new atmosphere and feeling around an ASU baseball game. ASU is the second team in the state to make this kind of facility move. The Arizona Wildcats left behind Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium for off-campus Hi Corbett Field in 2012. Arizona promptly went on to win the College World Series that year, and has seen all sorts of benefits since moving to an old spring training facility.
There are still things that definitely need to be improved upon, but the move just down the road was certainly the right thing for ASU to do for the long term.
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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".
One of the reasons that both Arizona and ASU have moved to off-campus facilities is the ability to sell alcohol at games. Beers cost anywhere from $8-$12, which is just the beginning of the big league prices ASU has for their concessions.
Hot dogs cost $4.75. Nachos and peanuts cost $5. Bratwurst costs $7. Soda (Coca-Cola products) costs $5.50. These prices are extreme for a college baseball game.
There is one generic concession stand located down each baseline. The left field line has an extra specialty food area, where you can get cheeseburgers ($7), corn dogs ($3), French fries ($4) and chicken strips with fries ($8).
The most striking thing about Phoenix Municipal is the backdrop beyond the outfield wall. The stadium faces Papago Park, which is known for its unique rock structures. The centerpiece of Papago Park is "Hole in the Rock," which is off in the distance, directly behind the batter's eye. Add to that the Phoenix Zoo sitting just across the street, and you've got a beautiful setting for college baseball.
ASU has done a great job making Phoenix Municipal feel like home. Some things have even changed as the 2015 season has progressed, which makes you think that there's even more coming in 2016. When walking across the pedestrian bridge from the parking lot, you're welcomed by giant Sun Devil Baseball signage, and an ode to ASU's baseball history.
Almost all of the fans enter the stadium through the left field gate, which is where the pedestrian bridge drops off. The main concession stand, as well as an ASU team shop are right there by the main entrance. The seating area is almost entirely below the main concourse, with the exception of some seats being above it behind home plate. Along the infield are chair backs with cup holders. As you get further away from home plate, the seats change into metal bleachers.
The Arizona State dugout is located down the first base line, with the visitors sitting on the third base side. Both bullpens are in the field of play, with the pitchers throwing towards the infield. This leads to occasional delays when balls get away from the bullpen catchers.
Even though ASU sits on the first base side, the student section, known as "The Inferno," sits on the third base side behind the visiting dugout. There's also a family section a couple sections down the line from "The Inferno," where you are not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages. For shade during those hot day games, you'll want to try to sit up high behind home plate. There are not a ton of seats in the shade available.
The scoreboard is located beyond the right-center field fence, sandwiched in between a giant board of ASU's past National Championships, and a giant board that remembers ASU legend Pat Tillman. The scoreboard shows some live video segments, but does not show replays. The sound system has been upgraded as well, but can be a little loud if you happen to be sitting near one of the many speakers found throughout the stadium.
The stadium is adjacent to Papago Park, which also includes the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden. If you're an outdoorsy person on top of a baseball fan, this area is the perfect place to spend the day. It also works out nicely to take your family to the zoo (which closes at 5 typically), and then head over to the ballpark for a night game. The zoo is so close, you can actually hear fans cheering in the stadium from inside almost the entire zoo.
Even though ASU has moved their baseball operations, they still have essentially the same neighborhood, which includes the great Mill Avenue. It's just across the Loop 202 highway, and is just a two minute drive from Phoenix Municipal. This is an especially good place to go after a night weekend game, but you can start the day on Mill as well and take the light rail over to the stadium. Mill has basically everything that you could want, from traditional restaurants, to sports bars, plus shopping and entertainment.
Marquee Theatre is another place right in the area, where many concerts are held.
Another outdoors option is Tempe Beach Park, where you can rent a boat or just sit in the park along Tempe Town Lake.
There are plenty of hotels in the area as well. Many chains are located along Washington Ave. This is convenient for ASU baseball games because you can just hop on the light rail and not have to worry about driving your car from the hotel to the stadium.
With the stadium move, ASU has experienced a significant increase in attendance, just like Arizona has. But ASU fans are not a very vocal bunch. Yes, there's a little more buzz during games compared to games in Packard, but it's not a huge jump.
Phoenix Municipal Stadium is located just north of the Loop 202 Red Mountain Fwy. The easiest ways to get there are by taking either the Priest or Van Buren exits depending on which direction you're coming from.
Another way to get to ASU games is via the Valley Metro Light Rail. Phoenix Muni is conveniently located along the light rail route in between downtown Phoenix and downtown Tempe. This is definitely the way to go if you are either staying in a hotel in either downtown area, or if you have spent the earlier part of the day elsewhere. The light rail is cheaper than parking at the stadium.
There is one main general parking lot for Phoenix Muni. The entrance is located at 56th St. and Van Buren. It costs $5 to park here. Then everyone must use the pedestrian bridge to make their way over to the left field entrance gates. There are a couple of ways to exit the parking lot after games, so traffic isn't too big of an issue when you're trying to leave.
Once inside the stadium, getting around is very easy. The concession stands are out of the way, and have many cashiers open, so the lines are never a problem or in the way. The bathrooms are also placed off the main walkway, and are enormous, so there's not an issue here either. The main concourse wraps around above the main seating area, so handicap access is very easy as well.
Here is the main issue with going to an ASU baseball game: It is very expensive for college baseball. The pricing for everything is as if you were going to an MLB game. It's $5 for parking, and anywhere from $7-$22 for tickets when buying online, and can be more expensive when purchasing at the stadium. Add on to that the extremely high concession prices, and you're looking at big league money spent on a college game. Sure, ASU is one of the best baseball programs in the country, but the pricing is ridiculous for college.
With the move to Phoenix Muni, ASU has done a great job with displaying its baseball tradition everywhere it possibly can.
The outfield is littered with all kinds of historical mentions. The honored numbers in left field include some true baseball legends like Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds and Rick Monday among others. Right field has the five National Championships listed, as well as a huge remembrance for Pat Tillman.
But the historical references don't stop there. When you enter through the left field gate, take a stroll behind home plate. Here you'll find plaques dedicated to each former ASU head coach, and what they were able to accomplish at the school. There's also a Packard Stadium info board, where you can find tons of info on ASU's former home.
Keep on walking all the way over to the first base side, and you'll find the ASU Baseball Wall of Honor. It's crazy to see all the familiar MLB names up there.
But before all of this, check out the exterior wall of the stadium when you're crossing the pedestrian bridge. This wall sets the tone for the history of the program, citing all the letter winners, MLB draft picks, conference championships and all kinds of other historical facts. If you didn't know how decorated ASU's baseball past is, you certainly will before you even set foot inside Phoenix Muni.
If you're bringing the kids to the ballpark, the family friendly section down the left field line is a good option, since no one can drink while sitting here. There are also mini-parks at the end of the concourse down each baseline where you can take the kids if they're getting restless.
One last extra to the overall ambience being set by the background of Papago Park. It's a truly unique setting for college baseball, and one that all baseball fans should try and experience. ASU is a premier program in the nation, and they now have the ballpark to go with it.
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1201 N Galvin Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85008
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