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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Built in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Montpelier Recreation Field served as the home of the Montpelier Senators and Twin City Trojans of the long-extinct Northern League through the 1940’s and early 1950’s. Ten players from these teams went on to play Major League Baseball, including Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.
When the Northern League folded in 1952, the picturesque little grandstand on Elm Street went without organized baseball for a half century until the Vermont Mountaineers were granted a franchise in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in 2003. The Mountaineers have won two championships during their time in the NECBL (2006 & 2007), and have finished as runners-up on two other occasions.
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".
There are several concession stands sprinkled around Recreation Field, each one very specific in terms of what they sell. There is a stand selling pizza, another selling ice cream, one selling fried goods, another selling soda and snacks, and finally, a grill serving well, grilled foods.
At the pizza stand, fans can purchase slices of cheese or pepperoni pizza for $2.50 a slice, or $4.50 for two slices. Nachos ($5), cookies ($2), chips ($1), nuts ($1), or watermelon slices ($2) can also be purchased here.
Also located underneath the grandstand is the ice cream stand, selling a variety of cones, shakes, blizzards, and various novelties at reasonable prices. Fans looking for something out of the ordinary should try the frozen banana.
More concession stands are located down the right field line. The first stand you will encounter offers a varied menu of deli sandwiches ($8.50), wraps ($6), salads (chef and taco for $8), nachos ($5), and snacks. Fried items are found here, including sweet potato fries, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks for $5.
Assorted Pepsi products can be found at the next booth for $2, as well as a variety of candy bars and other treats.
Finally, hungry Mountaineers fans will find Gus' Catering Truck. Hamburgers ($4.50), hot dogs ($2), sausage and pepper sandwiches ($6.50), fries, and grilled chicken sandwiches ($8.50) are all available here. Fans can also purchase chicken fingers ($8) and pulled pork sandwiches ($8.50). Fans can upgrade their sandwiches with chili, cheese, and/or bacon for an extra charge.
You know you are getting close to the Canadian border when items such as Poutine appear on the menu. For those who don't know, poutine is a Canadian staple consisting of French fries covered in cheese and gravy. It may not sound like ballpark food, but when done right, it is outstanding.
The Mountaineers also sell a variety of shirts, hats, and novelties from a building on the concourse.
The atmosphere at a Mountaineers game is one of the most pleasant you will find in the NECBL, and that is saying something. Vermonters are by nature a friendly group, and this comes through in spades at the ballpark. They are extremely welcoming to visitors, and seem genuinely happy to have newcomers in their neck of the woods. Fans here are very enthusiastic about their Mountaineers, and get really loud when the home team is making plays. It's also not unusual to hear them cheering a great effort by the opposition. Sportsmanship is alive and well in the Green Mountains.
The Mountaineer game day staff do their best to make everyone's experience at cozy Recreation Field a memorable one. There are a giveaways and promotions at most games, some between innings promotions, and an active mascot. The extra-curricular activities are not intrusive, as they are in other places. The same goes for the music and PA announcements. They can hardly be considered a distraction from the game, and enhance the atmosphere here.
Montpelier is the capital city of Vermont, and in terms of population, it is the smallest state capital in the country, with a population of under 8,000. Recreation Field is located in the northern part of the city, about two miles from the State House and downtown Montpelier. Fans visiting the area will want to walk around the downtown area, where there is a vibrant arts scene, several museums, shops, and fine restaurants to visit. Fans looking for recreational activities will be pleased with Montpelier's many trails, bike paths, and parks.
Burlington, located about 45 minutes away, is Vermont's largest city and a popular tourist destination in its own right. Ben and Jerry's factory is located less than a half hour away in Waterbury. It's worth the trip for any ice cream fanatic.
Vermont has finished in the top three in attendance in every year they have played in the NECBL except one. In a ballpark with a listed capacity of 1,200, the Mountaineers regularly draw over 1,500 for games at Recreation Field. When the covered grandstand behind home plate fills up, the crowd spills over to the bleachers down the right field line. It's also not unusual to see fans sitting behind the outfield fence, peeking in between the banners for the team's many sponsors.
Fans at Recreation Field are knowledgeable about their team, and enthusiastic about their efforts. In a league where polite behavior and a quiet ballpark environment is the norm, it's not unusual to hear boisterous cheering for the home team here. But don't be fooled, Mountaineer fans are as polite and friendly as you would expect from folks in Vermont. Great plays by the opposition are likely to be warmly received as well.
Recreation Field is located about two miles from downtown Montpelier, and is easy to get to from I-89. Take exit 8 off of 89, follow Route 2 (Memorial Drive) to Taylor Street, cross the bridge, take a right onto Elm Street, and follow it until you reach the ballpark on your right.
The ballpark consists of a large, covered grandstand which was built in 1940 and is still in use today. The Mountaineers have invested a lot of money and effort into improvements on many aspects of the park, such as the drainage, fencing, concession stands, the playing surface, and the grandstand. Their efforts show, as this ballpark is considered to be among the nicest in the NECBL, both from a player's standpoint as well as a fan's.
Since the grandstand often fills up for Mountaineers games, overflow seating is available down the right field line in the form of a pair of metal bleachers and several picnic tables. There is also room for many fans to stand against the fence further down the line. Many fans choose to camp out beyond the outfield fence. The park is easy to get around and all areas are easily accessed by fans who may need special accommodations. With the large crowds, it would be wise to arrive early unless you're bringing your own chair to the game with you.
Tickets to Mountaineers games are sold as general admission at a cost of $6. Students, seniors, and military receive a two dollar discount. Children 5 and under are admitted for free. Family tickets for four are sold for $12.
Parking is available in a small lot beyond the left field fence, next door at a childcare center, or across the street at the Community College of Vermont for $2. It's unusual for a team in this league to charge for parking, but it's a nominal cost. Add in reasonable concession costs, and a night at Recreation Field is an affordable entertainment option for families in central Vermont.
One point is awarded for the friendly staff and fans at Recreation Field. If you are visiting Montpelier from out of town and want to be left alone, don't tell anyone, or else you will be peppered with curious questions about your home and how you happened to come to Montpelier.
An extra point is awarded for the game day extras offered by the Mountaineers, such as the 50/50 raffle, tennis ball toss, and frequent giveaways provided by the team.
A final extra point is awarded for the view from Recreation Field. From the breathtaking views of the mountains to the old-timey feel of the grandstand, Recreation Field is one of the most picturesque ballparks in New England.
Any baseball fan who enjoys travelling to different ballparks would do themselves a favor to consider a visit to the Green Mountain State. The ballparks in Montpelier and nearby Burlington have been around for a combined 170 years. These ballparks may be old, but they are still quite functional and contain enough modern amenities to satisfy any baseball fan. With 40 percent of the players in the NECBL going on to professional careers, the quality of baseball on the field can match even these beautiful surroundings.
Member Review by Natureman15 on Jan 20, 2016
Great little place to see a game on a budget! This park has a classic old grandstand which is always fun and everyone is always into the game! Try the gravy Fries!
100 State St
Montpelier, VT 05602
108 Main St
Montpelier, VT 05602
100 State St
Montpelier, VT 05602
213 Paine Turnpike N
Montpelier, VT 05602