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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Rogers Park is a multi-use community park in the small city of Danbury, Connecticut. It contains six baseball fields, four softball fields, a multi-purpose turf field, tennis courts, handball courts, volleyball courts, a nature trail, and a recreation building which houses many additional activities. Since 1995 the main ball field has served as home to the Danbury Westerners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. The Westerners, the oldest active team in the NECBL, are still waiting for their first league title, having lost in the finals four times.
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The Westerners operate a small snack bar behind home plate, where hungry fans can purchase grilled items such as hamburgers ($3), chicken sandwiches ($4), and hot dogs ($2). Peanuts ($3) and assorted snacks ($1) are available for fans looking for snack options. Cans of Pepsi products are sold for $1, but I recommend sodas from the local company Dead Red, which offers several flavors with a Westerners theme for $2 a bottle. An enterprising ice cream truck parks near the ballpark and makes a killing with the children in attendance.
There is a table located outside the snack bar selling a variety of t-shirts, sweats, and hats, along with a few novelty items. Fans can even purchase cowboy hats if they so desire.
The atmosphere is generally what you would expect at this level of baseball, especially when the crowd averages about 300 fans. It's a laid-back, low-key game day experience at Rogers Park, where the game is the main attraction. The team does hold a couple of between inning contests for the kids, but the extras here can hardly be considered intrusive. It makes for a comfortable baseball experience for families. There is plenty of room for kids to roam, let off some steam, and chase foul balls.
Rogers Park is an impressive facility, with several ball fields capable of hosting diverse sports such as soccer, volleyball, and tennis. A short distance away is downtown Danbury, which is a nice place to explore during the daytime, with a mix of small shops and restaurants. After the game the area seems a little dark and deserted, with the majority of the businesses closed for the evening. Visitors to Danbury can find some good places to eat in the area. Fans of the chicken wing should seek out TK's American Café, which features over 50 different flavors.
Danbury consistently ranks in the lower half of the NECBL in terms of attendance, and the fans at Rogers Park are similar to what you see in other summer collegiate parks. There is a mix of families and locals. A great percentage of the crowd here at Rogers Park seems to have some connection with the team, either as host families or team volunteers.
The city of Danbury is located in southwestern Connecticut near the New York State line. New York City is located about 70 miles to the southwest, and Hartford is located 60 miles to the northeast. The Connecticut coastal cities of New Haven and Bridgeport are about 30 miles to the south. The easiest way to drive to Danbury is to take Interstate 84, which passes right through Danbury about three miles from Rogers Park. The easiest way to get to Rogers Park is to take Route 53, also known as Main Street. Take exit 5 off of I-84, and simply follow it straight to the entrance of the Rogers Park complex. The field the Westerners use will appear immediately on your right.
Fans requiring public transportation to arrive in Danbury will likely take commuter rails from southern Connecticut and New York. The Housatonic Area Regional Transit System (HART) provides bus service throughout the city. Still, driving is the easiest and preferred method to arrive at Rogers Park.
Once you arrive at the ballpark, you can either park on the street beyond the outfield fence, or follow some side roads to a small lot located behind the field. Either way, you have just a short walk to get to the seating areas. Some fans simply set up shop on the street near their cars and avoid the admission charge while watching the action through the chain link fence.
Fans wishing to enter the ballpark proper will have their choice of several sets of bleachers. The main set of bleachers is located on the third base side and has a press box atop it. There is an additional set of bleachers behind home plate, and a third, small set of bleachers on the first base side. Fans wishing to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets to set up will find ample room down either foul line.
Bathrooms are located in the adjacent recreation center, which closes at 9 nightly. If you need facilities after then, there are some port-a-johns behind the field. Fans should remember to step carefully, as there are no paved sidewalks or landscaped areas here. Access to all areas of Rogers Park is across grass and uneven ground.
Admission to a Westerners game will cost you $5, and parking is free either on the local streets or in a small lot behind the ball field. Some fans choose to skip the admission fee and camp out with their cars on adjacent Memorial Drive, watching the action through the outfield fence. Factor in inexpensive food prices, and a night at a Westerners game will not break the bank.
One extra point is awarded for dedication to the whole "Westerners" theme. Danbury, Connecticut can hardly be confused with the Wild West, but it is just about as far west as one can go and still remain in New England. Fans can even purchase a Westerners cowboy hat at the souvenir stand if they so desire.
There aren't a whole lot of extras to be had at any NECBL game, but the Westerners staff do hand out complimentary lineup sheets to every fan, and the team offers a 50/50 raffle along with a few giveaways from sponsors during the course of the game.
Rogers Park is an impressive, busy facility serving the citizens of Danbury. There are a variety of fields available for public use, and if visiting here you are sure to see a buzz of activity all around. As a venue for the NECBL, however, it's simply a serviceable, unspectacular facility. The Westerners have had an impressive run in the NCBL, as they are approaching their 20th anniversary. Longevity aside, Rogers Park will be a destination for only the most avid ballpark chasers.
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