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Official Review by Josh Oakes, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Sandwiched between a rail freight yard to the north and a sewage treatment plant to the south lies Sherri Lee Parker Stadium, home of the Lady Vols softball team. Don’t let the unfortunate location keep you from attending a Tennessee Softball game though. The stadium is beautiful, the food is affordable, and the people are friendly. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the red tailed hawk that likes to hang around the stadium.
Constructed in 2008, this modern facility comfortably seats 1,622 with 600 reserved chair-back seats behind home plate, benches along the first and third baselines, four hospitality suites and two VIP suites in the press box area.
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 two concession stands at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium and both are behind home plate. One is a permanent stand built into the brick of the stadium and across from it is a trailer. The brick stand has the basics, hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, soft drinks, nachos, peanuts, and candy. The trailer menu extends beyond this and includes chicken fingers for $8 and cheeseburgers for $9.
The specialty item at all Tennessee sporting events is the Smokey Dog. Describing the Smokey Dog is difficult. It is bigger than a hot dog but smaller than an Italian Sausage and the flavor profile is somewhere in between the two. A Hebrew National hot dog costs $5, but so does a Smokey Dog. Go with the Smokey Dog.
Tennesseans love all sports, not just football and even for non-conference games, Sherri Parker Lee Stadium can be rather lively. There is definitely an intense atmosphere here but it is also very family friendly. It almost has a minor league feel to it. There are various prizes and giveaways between innings for the rowdiest section, best dancer, keeping the crowd up, not that they need it.
The architecture also lends to the atmosphere. Every seat seems to be right on top of the action and the players love that.
A medium length walk along the Tennessee Greenway will take you to the University Gardens. This area is part of the Agricultural Campus at the University of Tennessee and is a nice place to unwind before or after a game. If you have some time before the game, explore the campus of Tennessee's flagship university. Ayres on The Hill, much like The Rotunda at UVA or the Pillars at Mizzou, is the centerpiece of the campus and the origin of the infamous checkered pattern. Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane's, Panda Express, and other such restaurants can be found on campus.
A couple miles up Neyland Drive is Volunteer Landing, a popular football tailgating spot, and Calhoun's On The River, which serves up Tennessee BBQ and burgers.
Game in and game out, regardless of the weather, Tennessee fans show up to support the softball team, consistently ranking them in the top 20 in the nation for attendance. Tennessee fans in general have the reputation of being somewhat rowdy and this carries over to softball as well. Don't worry, the fans are very friendly and so are the staff. If you get the chance, strike up a conversation with some of the students at the game, they love talking about the university and are always more than happy to tell you about their favorite place to eat downtown.
The top of Section C along the first baseline is the unofficial supporters group of the Lady Vols Softball team. Every game, this group of fans dress up in orange regalia and they go all out from the player intros to the final out.
Despite being a prime facility, Sherri Parker Lee Stadium is one of the most inconveniently located stadiums I have ever come across. To the north is a CSX freight yard, to the west is Third Creek, to the south is a sewage treatment plant, and to the east is a dead-end road. There is only one way in and out of the parking lot for the stadium, Joan Cronan Way off Neyland Drive. After crossing the train tracks and turning left, the next hurdle is finding parking. That task usually isn't incredibly difficult, but the parking lot is cramped, so be careful and drive slowly. If you thought about parking on campus and walking, forget about it, as this would include circumventing the freight yard and the sewage plant only to have to walk back the same way after the game. Even the players say that they have a hard time getting to and from the stadium.
Once inside, however, getting around is much simpler. Sections run from A to G with Section A as the first section on the first baseline and section G closing it out along the third baseline. General Admission sections are A, B, F, and G. The main gate is outside Section A. Water fountains as well as restrooms are located along the first and third baselines.
General Admission tickets for conference games are $10 and $5 for non-conference. Add $5 to both prices for reserved - Sections C, D, and E. Parking is free and the concessions aren't overly expensive. Add this to a beautiful facility and you get a great place to see a game and relax with family and friends, both new and old.
Game day programs are free, which is always a plus. The benches in general admission all have seatbacks and that's not something you see every day. The freight yard may cause problems in regards to access, but it does provide a cool backdrop.
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