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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The University of Maryland - Baltimore County (UMBC) has had a fine tradition of soccer for quite a while now. Coach Pete Caringi is in his 24th season as head coach in 2014. He earned the 2013 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Senior College Men’s Northeast Regional Coach of the Year honor after leading the team to a 16-1-3 record. That year, UMBC won the America East regular season and tournament title and an NCAA automatic bid. UMBC eventually lost to UConn in a penalty kick shootout after a double overtime draw to end their tourney run.
The team’s home field is an interesting one. Retriever Soccer Park sits right near UMBC Stadium. The Bermuda grass facility, which opened in 1998, is one of the best fields in the area. But its 1,500 capacity is scattered between a bunch of metal stands located on the bottom and top of a hill where fans also sit.
UMBC Stadium is a much larger facility that seats 4,500 and has a synthetic turf surface. It could be made available for the UMBC soccer programs depending on weather, although the natural grass surface of Retriever Soccer Park is preferred. It is home to the men's and women's lacrosse, field hockey, and track and field teams. It has also served as the home field of Crystal Palace Baltimore from 2008 to 2010. That team was a member of the old USL Second Division and the temporary USSF Division 2 Professional League. They were affiliated with English soccer team Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace Baltimore disbanded in 2010 and was replaced by the Baltimore Bohemians in the new USL Premier Development League.
Also nearby is The Baseball Factory Field at UMBC, home of the baseball team.
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 is a single food stand at Retriever Soccer Park located on the field level. The limited selection is really not a bad value in terms of price, there just is not much to it.
Hamburgers/cheeseburgers are $3.50, grilled chicken sandwiches are $4 and hot dogs cost $2. Water and soda are $2.50, while chips are $1.50 and candy is $1. A combo meal consisting of a hot dog, drink and chips is just $5. There's nothing to write home about, but if you're feeling hungry, there's enough to get you through the match.
The atmosphere is where this stadium shines. The two tiered stands and hill in between make up the seating areas. Generally fans are extremely close to the game action. It makes for a loud and boisterous environment.
Just don't expect it to be comfortable as the seats are entirely comprised of metal bleachers. The most comfortable seating areas will be sitting on the ground directly on the hill. Just be warned that it is pretty steep and ends right at the bottom of metal bleachers. I saw quite a few kids make a swan dive that looked less than safe.
Many fans also stand along the fence area between the upper and lower seating areas and the pathway in between the two areas.
There is no neighborhood around UMBC. The campus is located between the Arbutus and Catonsville neighborhood of Baltimore County. Downtown Baltimore is roughly a 15 to 20 minute drive down I-95.
Fans may want to stop into some of the shops and restaurants that line Frederick Road in Catonsville for pre-game activities. Taneytown Deli (807 Frederick Rd) and Duesenberg's (10 Mellor Ave) both have limited hours but they are the best bets for stopping before afternoon games. Peace-A-Pizza at 15 Mellor Ave offers some very unique pizza options in a family friendly environment. For adults, Jennings Cafe (808 Frederick Rd) is a nice neighborhood bar. A great Chinese takeout called China Kitchen is located in Arbutus at 4642 Wilkens Ave.
That quick drive to Baltimore opens up a world of activities and dining options. The new Horseshoe Casino is located directly south of the Oriole Park/M & T Bank Stadium complex. Jack Binion's Steak and Guy Fieri's Baltimore Kitchen & Bar are two of the restaurants at the casino worth checking out. Not too far from the casino is one of my favorites, the Abbey Burger Bistro, near the Cross Street Market at 1041 Marshall Street. The beer selection is good and they offer a large array of burger choices, and all are likely to satisfy.
UMBC has been known for years as being primarily a commuter campus. That has been changing in recent years as more and more students do now live on campus. But because of the somewhat isolated campus those resident students are likely to be in search of quality night time diversions. And since UMBC does not field a football team, the soccer team fills a bit of a void in fall. So expect to see a good amount of students attending the games.
Area fans also attend the games in decent numbers. Expect to see a weekend night game have an attendance above the official 1,500 capacity. The fans who attend tend to be very knowledgeable about the game and make the crowd area pretty intense.
The UMBC campus is easy to access as it located off of the Route 166 / Exit 47B of I-95. You will be routed directly into the campus without even going onto any surface streets. Park in Lot 17, which is free, and you will have only a small walk up a hill to the soccer field.
If you venture through nearby Arbutus and Catonsville you will use area roads like Wilkens Avenue, Frederick Road, and Rolling Road. You may need a GPS as these roads tend to ramble a bit.
Parking is free. Tickets for adults are $6 with youth and senior citizens only $4. Children six and under are free. UMBC Students with ID are also free. You can get a season ticket for just $45. All seats are general admission. Overall, the experience is well worth the value and the quality of soccer is generally going to be high.
There are no real extras at Retriever Soccer Park. But the unique location of the seating areas and the exceptional playing surface is worth a bit of credit.
The Retriever Soccer Park at UMBC offers up a very good quality of play in a pretty unique location. Fans will enjoy the visit here, even if the facility itself seems to be lacking in standard amenities.
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807 Frederick Rd
Catonsville, MD 21228
15 Mellor Ave
Catonsville, MD 21228
808 Frederick Rd
Catonsville, MD 21228
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