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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) is made up of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) located between Florida and Delaware. Only nine of the 13 member MEAC schools field teams in baseball. Bethune-Cookman University has been dominating the MEAC for nearly two decades. Delaware State has been a member of the MEAC since its founding in 1971.
Delaware State is the smallest of the MEAC schools with a little over 3,600 students and was ranked 9th among all HBCUs by U.S. News & World Report in 2014. It opened in 1981 as Delaware State College and changed to a university in 1993. One of their most unique programs is the university-based flight school.
The Delaware State Hornets baseball teams are one of the strongest teams in the northern part of the MEAC. Their longtime home, Soldier Field, has been open since 1958. Recent renovations have seen work performed on the field, as well as the addition of a 20-foot tall left field “monster” wall in 2009.
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 food will not wow you. But they offer friendly service at a small stand located behind the first base grandstand. Hot dogs are a bargain at $2 and the "Hornet Special" is $4 and includes hot dog, chips and either water, soda or coffee. Drinks are $1.25. The best bargain is 10 cents for gum with $1 for assorted candy. Those prices are not found almost anywhere at a sporting event. From talking to the friendly concession staff, there are always changes and additions to the menu, so just ask at the stand for any specials.
This is not a high end stadium. But the atmosphere at Soldier Field is perfect for the true baseball fan. And the MEAC conference offers a good quality of baseball.
There are two metal bleachers, one on the first base side and one on the third base side. But the best views of the action are not from these seats. There is a very small right field seating section. It is a row and half of plastic seats with seat cushions. They offer a great view of the action on the first base side.
Another unique seating section is the single row of wooden seats that run along the third base line past the dugout. It is a hidden gem and also offers great views.
If you do sit in the metal bleachers, you should stop by the shed located under the press box and get a seatback/cushion for the game. This keeps you from killing your back on the metal bleachers. They are free, although you may have to pick through the pile to find one in good working condition.
There is not much to the neighborhood. The field is located at the back part of the university between some general facility buildings and in front of dormitories.
If you go to the front facing part of the university you will see that the neighborhood consists of the massive Dover Downs Casino and Dover International Speedway NASCAR track complex across the large and busy DuPont Highway. Dover Mall and assorted big box retailers are also in ready view. You can even hear the dogs barking from the local pet supply store.
What this means is that you will not be walking to any neighborhood locales. And most food options are the multitude of fast food and quick service chain restaurants that are nearby. You will have to search out if you are looking for other fare.
One great option that is reasonably close is the Southern Smoke BBQ restaurant at 737 North DuPont Hwy. They offer friendly and quick service at good prices. A good choice there is the $7.99 brisket sandwich combo that comes with two sides. Restaurant 55 at 2461 South State Street is also a good choice with a strong beer selection and tasty sandwiches.
There are also many lodging choices, with the Dover Downs Casino Hotel and Hampton Inn Dover being the closest to the ballpark.
As with most northeast college baseball stadiums, the bulk of the fans tend to be family or friends of both teams. There are a number of local residents who seem to be regulars at the games. The fans are knowledgeable and friendly to visitors.
Soldier Field is at the back part of the Delaware State campus. It is not too hard to find, although signage is not well marked. The university is right off of a major road in DuPont Highway. A toll road, Route 1, that takes you most of the way north to Wilmington is also nearby.
Dover is about a one and a half hour trip from Philadelphia and Baltimore, and at least two hours from Washington DC. It seems close by on a map but is isolated at the center of the Delmarva Peninsula. If venturing to a shore destination such as Ocean City, Maryland or Rehobeth, Delaware, then Dover may make a quick, enjoyable stop, but as a destination it is not the best. Watch out for NASCAR weekends when traveling in the area; those weekends are not recommended unless you have no other options, as traffic can pile up.
There may also be tolls, not just from nearby Route 1, unless you are already on the eastern shore or Delmarva region. If travelling from the DC and Annapolis area you will have to pay tolls across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. If going around the top of the bay from Baltimore you will have to pay very hefty tolls on either Route 40 or I-95. And coming from Norfolk you will need to pay for the Bay Bridge Tunnel.
Parking for weekend games should be easy to find in the numerous nearby lots. Weekday games while school is in session may make parking a bit trickier. Be sure to read signs so that you don't get ticketed by campus police.
Soldier Field is free to attend and parking is also free. Those coupled with the cheap prices for food make this a good investment for a true baseball fan. You will use quite a bit of gas getting to the game in somewhat isolated Dover unless you live in the area, but try and plan your game trip with a trip to the shore, or to the NASCAR track and/or casino.
The left field 20-foot monster sized wall is a nice treat to see.
Also make sure to spend some time sitting in the two quirky field seating sections, found near right or left field. They are an experience like no other.
This is a quirky, old baseball field that offers a good value to see a good on the field product. It is not shiny and new, but baseball fans will find Soldier Field to be one of the best college baseball experiences around the Mid-Atlantic region.
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737 N Dupont Hwy
Dover, DE 19901
1568 N Dupont Hwy
Dover, DE 19901