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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Aberdeen IronBirds moved to the Baltimore area in 2002 after local legend Cal Ripken Jr. bought the Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Penn League and moved them to his hometown. This did displace the independent Atlantic League’s Aberdeen Arsenal, who were trying to get state and local funding to build a ballpark so they could move out of their temporary home at Harford Community College in nearby Bel Air, Maryland. That funding instead went to building a home for the Ripken organization, and that was what got Ripken Stadium built. The Arsenal was disbanded.
2013 was the first year that the IronBirds reached the playoffs. But the team has had no problem filling the seats and acting as a proper entrance to young players just joining the Baltimore Orioles organization.
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 Ripken organization recently took the food offerings in-house, which makes it a pretty consistent slate of offerings, although not always exciting.
The most "exciting" option is Conrad's Crab and Seafood Deck, located at the end of the first base concourse. Crab cake sandwiches ($14), Maryland crab soup ($5), and a crab pretzel ($10) can all be had, along with a dozen or more of market-priced steamed crabs.
Hot dogs are $4.50 throughout the park, with a kids size available for $2.75. There are also hamburgers $5 ($5.50 with cheese).
Soda is $3.50, with souvenir cups for $8. This is not a great value, as you still have to pay $2 for refills.
Some other options are Roma sausage sandwiches for $7.50, Seasons pizza starting at $7 (A gluten-free option is available, which is a plus), crab mac and cheese for $7.50, crab dip for $8 and Caesar salad for $6.
Beer is available starting at $6, although on certain nights, there will be $2 Natty Bohs available at the new Boh Garden.
There are also club level seating and dining options, including the new 378 Club and Double Play Buffet.
Ripken Stadium is a very nicely designed stadium. It was obviously designed while looking at what went right and went wrong in baseball design in the late 1990s. The result has often been that the stadium has felt a bit impersonal. The 2014 addition of "Ripken Orange" fences is a welcome attempt at making the place seem warmer, as well as tying into the parent Baltimore Oriole organization. The fences do look much better in person than they appear on paper.
Upon entering the stadium, the seating bowl slopes down towards the field. It is broken up into two main sections separated by a very large walkway area. Beyond the fences, it is not obvious that a major highway is right there, as trees make it a pleasant, albeit not exciting view.
The Extra Innings Cafe is an all-you-can-eat dining option/ticket that sits between the press box and the 100 level of home plate seats. This does take some of the better seating options away from the regular fan. Other group decks are available at the end of the third base concourse.
Game presentation is pretty normal here, with the usual between inning activities. These are supplemented by longtime mascot Ferrous (think about it....Iron....) and his newer friend, Ripcord.
There is no real neighborhood. Ripken Stadium is located across I-95 from the rest of Aberdeen. The area around the stadium is ripe for development, but only the Ripken Baseball youth fields, two hotels and some over-50 housing buildings are in the area.
One should wander around the youth baseball complex to see the replica baseball fields designed after Fenway, Yankee, Wrigley and Baltimore's own Memorial Stadium. The centerpiece is Cal Sr.'s Yard, which is home to the Cal Ripken Little League World Series, held in August of each year. It is a near-scale replica of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and even has a replica warehouse building which houses the two hotels mentioned above (Residence Inn Aberdeen and Courtyard Aberdeen).
A short drive away back over I-95 is an abundance of restaurants and hotels. Aberdeen, home to the Army's massive Aberdeen Proving Grounds, is a center of business activity. Olive Tree (1005 Beards Hill Road) is a better version of a well-known italian chain, while Mamie's Cafe with Love (939 Beards Hill Road) is an old-school Baltimore-style restaurant that offers free desserts with all meals. The Greene Turtle, Panera Bread and Super Chicken Rico (690 South Philadelphia Blvd,) are some other choices with which you can't go wrong.
The IronBirds sell out most of their games. But many are from group sales, which means the fan base can be somewhat inconsistent. The group giveaways mean you will most likely see many fans holding gear and other items at each game.
There are some hardcore fans with seats around the home plate area. They will be loud and into all aspects of the game. You will also see Aberdeen apparel from various years of the team, as the look and feel of their uniforms and logo has changed a bit over time.
I-95 runs right next to the stadium, which means that access from there and State Route 22 (a major road across the ever-growing Harford County) is strong. Long Drive (which was named before the stadium was there, surprisingly) is a four-lane road that is the only way into the stadium area. It never gets too busy, as it is directed by staff and local police.
Parking is free and plentiful, although a bit more busy when the Ripken World Series is in town.
Ticket prices are higher for the IronBirds than they are at most minor league stadiums, especially for this level. The team must be overcompensating for the lower prices of the many group tickets that are out there. If you know of a group attending, that is your best value.
Otherwise, prices for most seats range from $10.50 to $17.50, with club and sky box seats at an obvious higher rate. Just plan ahead, as they may not be available for walk-up sales.
The view of the warehouse replica is a great extra, and gives a bit more to the atmosphere of the stadium.
A fan should also stop in and check to see if any youth tournaments are using the Ripken fields. Besides the Ripken World Series, there will be games there all summer.
Member Review by gtcrawley
Ripken Stadium is located about 35 miles northeast of Baltimore in the town of Aberdeen, Maryland. Described as a baby version of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it is home to the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds. As you read about the greatness of this place, bear that in mind. This is Single-A baseball. Single-A.
Member Review by FuriousShepherd on Jan 24, 2012
Last visit here was in 2010.
This is a great stadium. My only issue is that the crown was tiny. Granted, it was a weeknight but I still expected a reasonable crowd since the weather was prefect. Maybe there was something more interesting going on nearby. I estimated a crowd of about 500-700 fans. The staff was super friendly and had lots of time on their hands. The food was good and there was a nice variety. The field and stadium were both excellent. I hope to get to another game this year.
Member Review by ballparkreviews on Aug 23, 2012
I hear a lot of people (including the author of the official review on SJ) rave about Ripken Stadium, but I find it to be somewhat underwhelming. Yes, the concessions are quite good, but other than that, there is little I really like about this park. After first visiting in 2002, I saw a game here again in 2012 and found the park felt a bit worn. There were places where the concrete was chipped and a few seats appeared to be broken or bent. While the park follows the template that has been used for most new parks, I have found the sightlines to be poor here because the seats are not sloped enough. In addition, ticket prices are on the high side with the cheapest seat being $9.50. Still, the Ironbirds seem to be selling out most games, so they must be doing something right.
Member Review by shamus170 on Jul 28, 2013
Prior to 2002, the tiny city of Aberdeen, Maryland was likely most known for being the birthplace of Cal Ripken Jr. and the location of Aberdeen Proving Ground, a U.S. army weapons testing facility. All of that changed when their favorite son bought the Utica Blue Sox of the New-York Penn League and moved them to Aberdeen in 2002. The Ripken Family and Cal’s business have their fingerprints all over the franchise as evidenced by the team name, stadium name and surrounding complex. While the on-field production has been a struggle (the IronBirds have yet to reach the playoffs in their team history), the overall Ripken Stadium experience is generally a good one.
1113 Beards Hill Rd
Aberdeen, MD 21001
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830 Long Dr
Aberdeen, MD 21001