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Official Review by David Hanson, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
It is impossible to oversell the view of the Manhattan skyline from Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees and Wagner College Seahawks. Located on New York Harbor at the mouth of the Hudson River, the stadium’s waterfront location makes the stadium an idyllic location to catch a ballgame on a warm summer night. The Staten Island Ferry terminal is adjacent to the ballpark, and fans can enjoy an unforgettable 25-minute boat ride, passing the Statue of Liberty with a full view of the Freedom Tower and the rest of lower Manhattan.
Wagner College sits three miles from the park, boasting its own stunning view from its hilltop campus. The school’s baseball team plays its home games at RCB Ballpark. Though the baseball program is hardly a powerhouse, it boasts one notable Major League alum in the form of 2009 AL Rookie of the Year and two-time All Star Andrew Bailey.
No review of the Wagner College baseball experience at RCB Ballpark would be complete without the disclaimer that this stadium’s primary tenant is the Staten Island Yankees, a short-season Single A affiliate of its namesake franchise whose schedule does not overlap with that of the Wagner squad. The majority of the stadium’s amenities, and even basic functions, were not in use on the day of this visit, a doubleheader comprising Wagner’s second and third home games of the 2015 schedule (originally scheduled as its sixth and seventh home games, as the first four contests were snowed out). Furthermore, it appeared no maintenance other than possibly playing surface upkeep had occurred since the past season.
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 stadium's water had not yet been turned on for the season during our March visit and none of the stadium's several concession stands were open. This was a strictly Bring Your Own Everything experience.
The beauty of the view from this ballpark cannot be overstated. It is an absolutely remarkable backdrop for any game. The view alone makes this an essential ballpark for any baseball or photography enthusiast, but it is the only thing that gives Wagner baseball an atmosphere.
There is some history to the park, as photographs of New York Yankee players, most notably Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner, who both came through the Staten Island team, adorn the concourses.
A Baseball Scouts "Wall of Fame" appears on the third base concourse, though it has not been updated since 2006. Just for good measure, photos of Babe Ruth (never part of the Yankee farm system) and other Yankee greats are also displayed on the concourse. None of these, however, pertain to Wagner. Aside from the players on the field, only a miniature video panel on the right field wall (showing a photo of the batter, along with his number and position) lets you know what team you are watching. The main video board was never turned on during my most recent visit, and the scoreboard displayed only the essential information, not even showing the names of either team. The PA announcer and walk-up music are played at too loud a volume for the small amount of people at the game.
The stadium has three staircases to the upstairs suite level, two of which had locked gates at the top. The middle staircase was open, presumably to allow the PA announcer and any other necessary personnel into the press box. Though the lights were off on the upper concourse and each suite was empty, they were all unlocked and anyone could hang out in them and enjoy the view from a higher elevation if they were so inclined, but nobody did. Random baseballs and other objects could be found by strolling through the stands, and it was clear that the park had not been used much, if at all, since the previous season.
This neighborhood was not built for entertainment. Across the street from the ballpark stands a police station and a court house. There is a single deli nearby, but other than that, the best food and beverage options are a five minute walk away inside the Staten Island Ferry terminal, which contains a large sports bar, a Subway restaurant and a few other small snack shops. All this said, the Staten Island Ferry gives you a free 25-minute ride to Manhattan, where three subway lines run right by the Manhattan end of the ferry. If you made it to RCB Ballpark, you can find entertainment after the game.
Beyond the left field foul pole is a small playground, and a walking path runs between the stadium and the waterfront. Staten Island's September 11th Memorial, honoring the island's residents lost that day, is just beyond left field.
This is pretty clearly a crowd of friends and family, but not very many of either. The stands are almost completely empty and hardly anyone is paying attention to the game aside from the players themselves, who outnumber the spectators.
A few people strolled in and out of the stadium, likely curious tourists who wandered over from the Ferry terminal (the Staten Island Ferry is a mandatory experience for tourists and can have up to a 30-minute turnaround time on weekends). Aside from two individuals at the gate handing out "tickets" (really just ticket-shaped pieces of paper with the Yankees logo and nothing else on them), there was no security for the game and spectators were spotted smoking cigars, drinking 24-ounce beers, and spitting tobacco onto the stadium's cement floor. Nobody even bothered to track down foul balls in the stands, likely because nobody appeared to be younger than college age. Even then, few attendees appeared to be Wagner students.
The Staten Island Ferry delivers passengers from Manhattan almost directly to the ballpark, and Staten Island's one subway line also ends at the ferry station. Inside the ferry terminal, there are signs directing visitors to the park and the walk from the ferry terminal to the park takes just over five minutes.
There is no parking to speak of (the gate attendant said he did not know if there was a parking lot), and the lot just past the left field line was full of large pieces of metal machinery, leaving no empty spots.
The stadium is wheelchair accessible via ramps outside, and the majority of the concourse (save for part of the first base line) is in direct view of the field. The elevators were out of service, as were the bathrooms (again, no running water). If anyone had to use the bathroom, they would have likely had to try the police station or use the facilities in the ferry terminal. One men's room was left open, though it appeared as if nobody had been inside since the previous season and there were leaves all over the floor.
You simply do not see a view like this every day, and the game was free to attend, but the Wagner baseball experience is pretty bare bones. There is a baseball game, a bunch of seating, and that's about it. Strangely, paying to go to RCB Ballpark would have been preferable, as attending a Staten Island Yankees game with the stadium fully-functional would have been a much more fulfilling experience.
Again, the view is absolutely stunning. Other than that, however, the experience feels like going to a beach house in the winter. All the ingredients of a fun experience exist, it's just not the right time of year and it feels like you might be trespassing. Due to the location and backdrop, this is a must-do park for baseball fans and stadium chasers, but if you are not related to a Wagner player or opponent, there is no reason not to wait a few months and go to a Staten Island Yankees game in warmer weather. You truly get what you pay for at RCB Ballpark.
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