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Official Review by Brian Merzbach, Guest Reviewer
Amid controversy, Provident Bank Park finally opened in June of 2011. There had been protests and lawsuits from the Preserve Ramapo group from the day the project started, but ultimately these never slowed the progress of the ballpark construction. Now that it's been built, it seems like the opposition has quieted and the people in the area are beginning to embrace the ballpark. Located about 1 hour north of New York City, Provident Bank Park is located in affluent Rockland County (hence the name of the team).
During its inaugural season, the ballpark still had a somewhat unfinished feel, but this may be because it was rushed to completion. Hopefully by 2012 everything will be finished. Despite this, I was very impressed with what I saw during my visits in the summer of '11. It is easily the most impressive facility among those in the Can-Am League - in fact, it is probably too good for this low level independent league. So far, attendance has only been so-so, but this may be because the Boulders got a late start. It will be interesting to see how the team and ballpark progress in the coming years.
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".
The Boulders offer a good array of concessions including pizza, specialty hot dogs and burgers, chicken fingers, wraps, chicken sandwiches, and meatball subs ("Boulders On A Bun"). In addition, there is one stand that sells kosher food items (though it is not open every game). All the specialty burgers and hot dogs must be bought as "baskets", which include French fries. While it is nice of the team to offer the baskets, I would prefer if they also offered more items a la carte. A single ice cream stand (which is a bit hidden and has no signage) offers up waffle cones and sundaes.
Beer is sold out of free standing carts setup along the concourse. Overall, the food is above average, but beware on busy nights "" the lines can be quite long at the concession stands. Prices are a bit higher than what you will find at most parks, but that is probably because of its location near New York City. Burger baskets are $8.50 and hot dog baskets are $7.50. The cheapest individual hot dog is $4.50.
For a brand new ballpark, the atmosphere at Provident Bank Park is surprisingly laid back. The team does not inundate their fans with unnecessary sound effects or music and lets the game be the attraction. This is certainly a refreshing change from so many other minor league parks which do everything they can to distract their fans (see Dutchess Stadium).
The Boulders have a mascot, Boulder Bird, who makes several appearances each night and who seems to interact well with the kids. My only minor complaint is that the Boulders have a dance team. While they only usually come out once per game, this is totally unnecessary at a baseball game. One other aspect that I appreciate is the complete lack of ushers. Most new ballparks have tons of ushers standing around needlessly bothering fans. But not here "" I have yet to see one usher. Hooray for that!
There really is no neighborhood to speak of. Provident Bank Park is located right off the Palisades Parkway in Pomona, but there are no restaurants or bars within walking distance. You'll have to drive a mile or two to find any establishments.
As can be expected at a brand new park, the fans are a mix between those who are there to see baseball and cheer on their home team and those who are just there for a social outing. Though for a first year team, I was surprised that so many fans seemed to be paying attention to the game. With a location in a wealthy, suburban area, it is not surprising to see most of the crowd made up of young professionals and families. So far, the turnout has been lower than what I would have expected (the Boulders are averaging around 2500 per game) for a team in a new ballpark, so hopefully it will pick up once the team becomes more established.
Provident Bank Park could not be much easier to get to. It is located right off the Palisades Parkway, about an hour north of New York City. A large, paved parking lot surrounds the ballpark. A fee of $5 is charged per car. The one problem with the location could be the egress "" because there are only two exits (both onto single lane roads), it may be slow getting out on nights with big crowds.
While people who compare Provident Bank Park to MLB parks in New York may think that it's a bargain, veteran minor league travelers will be surprised at some of the high prices. A real seat will set you back between $11 and $16 (a buck more on Fireworks nights). Bleacher seats are available for $8, however, and since there are no ushers, you always have the option of sneaking into a better seat.
Concessions are also on the high side with the cheapest hot dog being $4.50 and the cheapest burger being $8.50. The parking fee of $5 is also a bit steep, especially since most of the teams in the Can-Am League don't even charge. Overall, I certainly would not consider Provident Bank Park cheap, especially compared to other minor league parks.
Provident Bank Park definitely gets bonus points for some unique features. First and foremost is the Bridge Bar in left field. Made of stone, it is meant to resemble the many bridges on the nearby Palisades Parkway. Underneath the bridge, is a bar and large open area where fans can stand and watch the game from field level.
Second, behind the right field fence are two other interesting seating areas. The first is the "Billboard" pavilion seats, which give the fans seated there a bar to rest their food and drinks on. Strangely, these seats are not being sold yet, so apparently anyone can sit there. Also in right field is the "Short Porch" - a group area on field level with its own rows of seating.
One other cool feature is the batting cages, which are located along the first base concourse. Before the game, fans can peer in and watch as the players take their practice cuts. During the game, kids are allowed to take some swings, free of charge, in the cages.
The playground in right field, "Boulderburg", is also a popular attraction, especially for those kids who are bored with the game.
The setting here is also worth noting. It is quite bucolic with trees and mountains providing the backdrop. Views are best from the first base side where fans can witness the setting sun against the mountains. The Boulders owner calls it the "best sunset north of Key West", though that may be a slight exaggeration.
Brian Merzbach is a Guest Reviewer from BallparkReviews.com.
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