To tell the story of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, we have to go back to 1989. That was the year the Maine Guides of the International League moved to Northeast PA and after decades of shifting franchises, the region finally had a stable minor league baseball team. Anchoring the area are the two cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The team used both for the name, along with combining the nicknames of past minor league teams (Scranton Red Sox and the Wilkes-Barre Barons) to create the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. Their newly constructed ballpark was almost a mini replica of the stadium used by their parent team, the Philadelphia Phillies. Those that remember Veterans Stadium know that it is not exactly a place that should be copied.
In only a few decades, the generic and dull Lackawanna County Stadium was already obsolete. The Phillies moved affiliations to a new team in the Lehigh Valley and the Yankees came in to SWB during the 2007 season, which promptly led to the “Yankees” nickname being used. After some legal issues, plans were finalized for Lackawanna and Luzerne County to sell the ballpark and a complete renovation would lead to essentially a brand new stadium on the same site. The SWB Yankees played their 2012 season on the road and then returned home in 2013 to a beautiful new facility and a rebranding that led to the nickname “RailRiders.” The name is a perfect fit as the region has a rich history in steam locomotives and railroading. While the new PNC Field is a great ballpark with several nice touches, it does fail to build on this RailRider identity as much of the facility has Yankee handprints.
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Multiple stands throughout the stadium offer varied assortments of standard ballpark fare including hot dogs ($3.50), burgers ($6.50) and peanuts ($3.00). The barbecue is apparently pretty good with offerings like Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket and even a unique Pierogie Pork Sandwich (all around $8), however I did not get a chance to try it as the stand was closed on the late April Saturday I attended. To satisfy any pork cravings, there is a standalone cart selling pork nachos. The gyros on the third base side are recommended as well. There are several more choices, including the now requisite loaded hot dog and burger combinations; however I was not blown away by the menu. Pizza is from Revello's, the only local vendor and the style is Sicilian.
Pepsi and Budweiser supply the majority of the beverages, while the only craft beers in the ballpark are located near the front entrance. A premium draft ($7.00) from the Susquehanna Brewing Company is the best choice.
Compared to the hulking old exterior before the renovation, PNC Field features a short, sleek and modern entrance that shines thanks to the widespread silver metallic material. The main entrance includes a nice inset with plenty of room, even enough space for a band to play as fans enter the ballpark. While the outside does little to blend in with the surroundings, the inside of the ballpark retains that unique setting, which is right at the base of a steep hillside. Designers were able to utilize the landscape by incorporating the exposed rock as the outside frame of the walkway in center field. That walkway is part of a 360 degree concourse, which really opens the place up.
As for the seating bowl, a single level wraps around from foul pole to foul pole and these seats are at a perfect pitch that allow for very good sight lines. The only downfall is the seats located further down the foul line are not angled towards home plate. The seats themselves are quite wide and comfortable with cup holders provided. Perched above the seating bowl is a suite and club level, one of the nicest in AAA. The press box is between the seats and luxury level, which means an annoying block is in place for those walking the concourse as this is the only spot you can not see the field. The corners of the stadium include tiered multi-use sections, one for groups and the other for individuals looking for a bar setting. In the outfield is a grassy area called the "Homer Zone," where fans and families can spread out while watching the game. This section is conveniently close to the kids play area. About 2,500 fans fit in the standing/grassy sections, while individual seats number 7,115.
While PNC Field is a great place, one gripe some may have is the "Yankee-ization" of the ballpark. From the dark blue seats to the design of the stadium sign to even the light colors throughout the concourse, there is a general lack of attention to the RailRiders branding. What were to happen if the affiliation changed in future years? Though some occasional logos can be spotted, only the names of the concession stands display any local flavor. A place that really plays up the train theme nicely is the home of the Altoona Curve and you just don't get that feel here at PNC Field. The most glaring omission contributing to the somewhat sterile environment is the near complete ignoring of the team history. Over 25 years of baseball has been played in SWB and nowhere is a display to mark any of that. Only a pair of small retired numbers on the outfield wall denote team history. The good news is this all fixable and hopefully the coming years see additions added to make this a true home ballpark.
With that being said, this is still a fine facility and technology abounds with high-def monitors all over and a beautiful video board in left field. Fans should enjoy high comfort and a peaceful setting for baseball.
PNC Park is located in Moosic, a small town of about 5,700 located between bigger cities Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Most people come to Moosic to visit Montage Mountain, where folks ski in the winter and use the water park in the summer. Near the ballpark (but certainly not within walking distance thanks to the steep hill) are the Shoppes at Montage. This collection of retail includes shopping, hotels, a movie theatre and restaurants. The food options are mostly chain-variety places, with the exception of Doc Magrogan's Oyster House and The Gourmet Slice.
While Moosic is devoid of many tourist attractions, I highly encourage visitors to spend the day in Scranton. The center of the city is only a 10 minute drive away and there are plenty of places to sample the coal mining and railroading history of the area. Steamtown is a National Historic Site and this huge indoor/outdoor museum offers insight into the history of the steam locomotive in Scranton. It's a great museum and to fully complete it, visitors should allow 2-4 hours. Just across the parking lot is the Electric City Trolley Museum and then a bit further away from town is the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour. There are plenty of great options for those looking to make a day trip out of a RailRiders game.
Fans of SWB baseball have seen a lot of change in the last ten years. The season after both the affiliation switch and the new park, attendance increased by a significant margin. However, in those off-years, the team was one of the lowest draws in the International League. In 2014 (the second season of re-made PNC Field), the team ranked 10th in league attendance and it is possible that once this honeymoon phase is over, crowd size goes back to being small. The playoffs do not bring much attention either as the last few home games have averaged fewer than 1,500. It's a real shame that the region does not draw better as management puts a lot of hard work in to attract fans.
The crowd in the ballpark for the game I attended was on the quiet side, but that is hard to fault on a chilly day. Mild applause greeted hits and outs, while a spectacular diving catch by a RailRider only was able to produce slightly more people clapping.
Interstate 81 offers very easy access to PNC Field, as exit 182 leads to Montage Mountain Road and subsequently, the stadium's parking lot on the left-hand side. Parking is generally plentiful, but the non-paved lots are annoying. Attendants direct cars where to park upon arriving and they also help with directing at the end of the game, though the road back to I-81 can get a little tight if the game is well attended. A much better alternative to driving is a relaxing ride on a historic trolley. Scranton is known as the Electric City thanks to their innovation of the electric street car. For most Sunday home games, the Electric City Trolley Museum brings fans to the ballpark on a trolley and the deal is pretty good as $20 includes a ride, ticket and $2 concession voucher.
Inside PNC Field, the concourses are very wide and bathrooms are spacious. Initially, backpacks were not allowed into the ballpark, but the team listened and changed the policy for 2015. The entry includes a bag search before passing through the gates.
Ticket prices are excellent as the $7 - $12 charge is quite a bargain for this level of sport. After years of free parking, a $2 fee was added in 2015, however that is still cheaper than the parking for most AAA ballparks. Food/drink prices are average. This is a baseball experience that is quite affordable and well worth visiting.
About an hour south of the Lackawanna Valley is the Lehigh Valley and it is there that the IronPigs play in the same division as the RailRiders. In 2013, the IronRail Series was cleverly created and this series is an awesome way of adding interest to the series. The team with the most wins receives a trophy and has the services of the opposing GM to sing an embarrassing song the following season.
The design of the ballpark allows for plenty of shade as the sun starts the slow trek downward later in the day. The majority of the seating bowl ends up in the shade and this is great for the summertime and those that do not want to bake in the sun. Meanwhile, those that do want a tan can head to the grassy berm in the outfield and sprawl out.
PNC Field is a sleek, modern baseball park that is a vast improvement over the concrete monstrosity of Lackawanna County Stadium. The steep hillside view is retained and even incorporated into the stadium and PNC overall is a much more comfortable park. While the Yankees have their handprints over many design touches, some more attention to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre history and the RailRiders brand would go a long way.
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The new Yankee stadium is known to have all of the modern amenities; however, what is a game like at PNC Field, home of the Yankees AAA affiliate?
The Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees are the AAA affiliate for the New York Yankees and are located just 128 miles from their parent team. The SWB Yankees play in PNC Field, which was built in 1989. The Park holds 10,800 fans, although they rarely sell out.
The park setup itself is pretty basic, with 2 levels of seating with a suite/press box level in between. The lower box seats are green, while the seats well down the lines and in the upper deck are orange. They look to be recycled from an old major league field but I couldn't find any information on this. They are mislabeled in many places, leading to confusion over which seat is really yours.
For instance, my seat was in section 312, row D, seat 7, except the rows were labeled C, E then D and row "E" had the seats numbered 1, 2, 6, 4, 6, 4, 7. Thankfully they were only at around 30% capacity so I just went and sat by myself.
Been to three game here. Once I went in July. The weather was OK but a little cool. I went in April and froze. I went in May and froze. I like cold weather but Moosic is always about 20 degrees colder than any place around. The food is lousy, the fans disengaged, the ticket prices are awfully high for a AAA club and the crowds are predictably small. There are three things I like about this park. Parking is never a problem since the park is empty. The view of the stadium is interesting. The city of Scranton (home of Dunder Mifflin) may be a played out coal town but they have a surprising number of excellent ethnic restaurants.
Went yesterday (7/24/13) and saw the Toledo Mudhens play. Unfortunately, I never got up here prior to the renovation and the name change so I can't really judge it before and after, but prior to the renovation, it sounds like it left a lot to be desired.
Moosic, PA is a suburban/rural area in between the cities of Scranton and Wilkes Barre. There is not much to do in the immediate surrounding area--a couple hotels and a shopping center.
To me, it is a intimate stadium and I like that. The best minor league stadium I've been to is Hagerstown because all the seats are right against the field and it's an older ballpark. PNC Field looks very simple too albeit modern. There's not a bad seat in the house. I was looking on Yelp and TripAdvisor and a lot of people's main gripes came with the ticket prices. It cost $12 dollars for an infield box seat or seat in the outfield bar. That's great prices considering you're seeing the highest level of the minor leagues and future MLB players. I don't know how low people are expecting to pay, but I find $12 fair. The stadium is listed at over 10,000 seats, but it feels substantially smaller than that. Like I mentioned, it feels modern, but it doesn't feel like it has the uptightness and corproateness that Yankee Stadium has which is a plus.
The scenery leaves a lot to be desired. There's not much in the outfield, but you can see mountains. I think the concourse may be the best feature of the stadium, which is an easy walk, and it actually encourages you to, as noted by the Subway healthy walk mile markage posts throughout the stadium. In the outfield too, there are a number of things for kids to do, such as a bouncing gym, slide, pitch speed games, etc. so that's a nice bonus for families going to the games.
The food seems like a mediocre selection compared to other ballparks. They don't have all too much, just the typical fare, although them having local pizza (which was very good I might add) is nice. I also liked how they had a beer stand selling beers from within the Scranton/WB region. They had a Susquehanna Ale, a couple others and I had the Lions Head. Whenever I go to a ballpark and they have local brews, its always a plus in my book, because it gives a glimpse into what the locals drink yet gives out of towners a chance to try it too.
I would go back to PNC Field again and I'm sure I will. I live a little over two hours from there in Central New Jersey. It's not the best minor league park I've been too, but it's definitely not the worst either. It's a good place to go with your family and is a fun time. As a Mets fan, I can't stand the Yankees, but they definitely have a ballpark worth checking out in Moosic, PA.
PNC Field, which was originally a huge hulking structure that opened as Lackawanna County Stadium, was almost completely rebuilt for the 2013 season. This came after a few years of legal wrangling between the team and the counties (Luzerne and Lackawanna), which were the ones who actually owned the team. In order to finance the cost of essentially rebuilding the park, the counties sold the team to Mandalay Baseball (who had been operating the team since 2007) and used the proceeds.
Besides the field and lower bowl, very little remains from the old park. While the old park was state of the art when it opened in 1989, nobody could have foreseen the building boom that was to come in the minor leagues during the 1990's which would make the place obsolete by the 2000's. Along with the new park came a new nickname for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise - a name the team contest resulted in the RailRiders being picked, but because the Porcupines names finished second it is featured prominently in the team's logo. Attendance had been dwindling ever since 2007 (when the Yankees first affiliated with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise), so the rebuilt park will surely have a huge impact.
4200 Birney Ave
Moosic, PA 18507
1101 Shoppes Blvd.
Moosic, PA 18507
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