You could be forgiven for not immediately associating York, PA, with baseball, but it had a semi-pro baseball rivalry with nearby Lancaster from the 19th century through the late sixties, when both teams folded. That rivalry has been reborn in the new century, as both cities fielded independent Eastern League franchises, the Lancaster Barnstormers and the York Revolution. The Revolution have called 5,200-seat Sovereign Bank Stadium home since 2007.
Especially for an independent league park, Sovereign Bank Stadium is solid all-around, with a number of unique characteristics, such as the retrograde manual scoreboard in left field. Overall, the ballpark offers a good value for families and students.
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 Revolution help fans find food and drink with a "Hungry Fan Map," found in several places around the stadium. Most of the concessions are located in the area under cover of the luxury boxes, roughly from first base to third base and above home plate. The two main concessions serve up standard ballpark grub (hot dogs, burgers, and chicken dishes), while the third base concession section also has Pizza Hut and healthier options, while first base serves up New Grounds coffee. Prices are generally under $7 for each main item.
The specialty food at the park is Bricker's Famous French Fries, out in center field. In addition to the titular item in various sizes, the stand also offers up chicken dishes to go with the fries, along with giant refillable drink mugs to wash it down. The fries are worthy of their fame (firm, crispy, and tasty) and definitely worth a try. The chicken and fry combo will set you back $8.
Suds are on offer at most concessions in can and draft form (Bud, Miller and Yuengling at $5.50 a draft), but beer connoisseurs should hit the Hop Corner in left field, where for $7 you can get craft selections, including Kona, Dogfish, Magic Hat, and Wolvaver's.
The main (and only general admission) entrance to the park is through Brooks Robinson Plaza, named for the major-leaguer who spent time playing for the York White Roses ballclub in his youth and who is now a member of the ownership group of the new team. The entrance opens an hour before game time, and fans can look for Revolution autographs on the first base dugout before and after the game.
As with many parks in at this level, the only protection from the elements are found in the top levels of the grandstand in the Field Box seats, or in the luxury boxes that extend from first to third base. A promenade extends around the stadium, and all the seating is down from that walkway. General admission "Capitol Hill" picnic hill seating extends from center field to right field, ending in the group picnic area in right. A row of seats lines the outfield wall in front of the kids area that are a hidden gem for general admissions fans.
The most obvious standout of the stadium is the "Arch Nemesis" wall in left field. Much like its smaller cousin in Boston, it was built to accommodate the confines of the stadium site, and also hosts a large manual scoreboard. From the walkway to the kids area, you can watch the scoreboard being updated by the operator stationed out behind it. A digital scoreboard in right provides more modern scorekeeping. The manual scoreboard is quite a nice touch and adds a great deal of atmosphere to the park.
Monster mascot Downtown is the main attraction between innings. He and the fan crew run a standard gamut of minor/indie league activities of races, quizzes, and tests of questionable "skill" (such as being the first to shake all the balls out of tissue boxes strapped to your back).
While the park itself doesn't appear to be in the greatest neighborhood (it is in a renovated rail yard), it is located down the street from historic downtown York. Once boasting one of the nation's early capitols, York is a treasure-trove of architecture from the early part of the country's history. A number of these historic buildings are located right next to the Visitor's Center at the west end of downtown. The other big attractions are the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center (for culture hounds) and the Harley-Davidson Motor Company to the northeast (for the biker set).
The Central Family Restaurant is to the north of the stadium, and La Casa de Tapas is across the street on the other side, followed by the Stadium Grille just down the road. There are many bars that also serve food, including George's Tavern, the Left Bank, the Mudhook Brewery, and (local favorite and provider of the ballpark buffet) Maewyn's Irish Pub & Restaurant.
Most of the chain hotels are at the north end of town including Days Inn, Motel 6, Red Roof, and Sheraton. There's a Roadway Inn right across the street from the stadium, and the historic Yorktowne Hotel is right down the street for a more unique experience.
The minor and indie leagues are generally family-first places, and the Revolution are no different. The stadium was nearly full for a late summer weekend game during my most recent visit. The majority of the fans are families, although a large contingent of local York College students were also on hand, as it was York College Day at the park. While many are engaging in the extensive kids area, most are into the game and the events on-field.
There are a couple of local traditions of note. Every time a York player comes to the plate, he is greeted by a call to "Hit the ball," which is usually refrained by another section of fans with "Over the Wall." The fans are roused to action by a recorded announcer screaming "Revolution!" followed by a sound of a baseball being struck to sound like a gun firing.
And then there's the cannon. Yes, the cannon. "Cannonball Charlie," a man clad in revolutionary regalia, stands on the edge of the picnic berm in right and fires off a small, real cannon at the start of the game and when the Revolution take the lead. It is a loud, smoky fan favorite.
York is located just off-center from many central Pennsylvania locations. It is right by I-83, which skirts the city to the east, and state road 30, which goes by the north end of town. It is under a half hour to Harrisburg, just under an hour to Baltimore, and about an hour and 45 minutes to Philadelphia. Parking is a bit of an effort. Although there are eight lots, the most obvious near the park are not open to anyone but VIPs. The main general lot is across the river and $3. Thankfully, some local businesses rent out their lots on game day for the same price as the official lot at a much closer walk, and they are the smart choice for parking.
Local Rabbit Transit buses routes 2 and 6 ($1.55) make stops at the stadium if you don't want to drive, and Greyhound serves the city from those further afield. A small airport south of town offers some regional connections from a larger area.
In the park, the main promenade extends all the way around the stadium, if taking big detours behind the picnic area in right. Outside of right at the gate opening, congestion isn't much of an issue.
The Revolution's ticket prices are about on average for the independent Eastern League. Dugout Box tickets are $14, and field box seats at $12. General admission lawn seating is only $8, and the special Heritage Boxes behind home plate go for $152 per 8 tickets or (if available as singles) $19 a person. The Revolution also offer some generous standing discounts for AAA ($1 off) and senior citizens, military ID, and children ($2 off). Any kid in his little league uniform (with a paying adult) gets a free general admission ticket.
"Revolusive" packs make corporate or group events easier, with 6 packs of 4 tickets, 6 $40 meal cards, 6 VIP parking passes, and video board recognition for $495. Season ticket plans can cut the ticket price in half. And other special events, such as Fill-Your-Tummy-Tuesdays (with a three-hour all-you-can-eat buffet) are $23 per adult and $14 for kids. Food and drink prices are quite reasonable, making it an affordable night out for families.
The magazine-sized program is a free giveaway at the gate, with the regular indie league content. A team store is located by the main entrance, offering a decent variety of Revolution and Eastern League merchandise.
In Brooks Robinson Plaza, there is a statue of the man signing autographs for two children. The park is absolutely surrounded with historic markers that talk about the buildings still around the park, or were replaced by the park. Three retired numbers grace the outfield wall (42 - Jackie Robinson, 8 - Andy Etchebarren [former manager], and 5 - Brooks Robinson). A league championship is commemorated in a graffiti mural next to Cannonball Charlie in the right field berm and with championship flags on top of the manual scoreboard.
An extensive children's area (Downtown Playground) is located right next to the manual scoreboard in left and extends around center field behind the batter's eye. Kids also play a regular role in the on-field games, and you can sign up to participate in the fan relations booth near the home plate entrance.
Sovereign Bank Stadium is a good all-around park with some unique retro-features that make it an excellent place to catch a game.
Founded in 2007, the York Revolution are still newcomers to the professional baseball scene, yet they're already establishing quite a niche in this central Pennsylvania town. The anchor of the northern end of York, Sovereign Bank Stadium has been home to the Revolution since halfway through their debut season. Part of the independent Atlantic League, SBS is home to AAA-level baseball in a ballpark built to match, and even exceed, its affiliated counterparts.
The Vault is a great little minor league park. Tough to park near, but overall a great place to catch a game.
Every time I come here (4 games so far), it seems that I have to park a mile away. The neighborhood is depressed but doesn't strike me as unsafe (like Binghamton or Lancaster). Nothing is very special about this but nothing is terrible either. The price is right and you can expect to be surrounded by families with kids since the place is so affordable. That's a good thing.
Sovereign Bank Stadium has so many cool little features to it that it puts most affiliated minor league parks to shame. The tallest wall in baseball, a hand operated scoreboard at the base of it and a really cool kids area in outfield are just some of the reasons this stadium rocks!
White Rose Bar and Grill and First Capitol are two bars within walking distance that are really fun.
I attended my first York Revolution game on 9/16/2012. It was a Sunday, and also Fan Appreciation Day.
Food and Beverage: Great selection. Fair prices. I ate a pretzel the size of a catcher's mitt.
Pros: Overall, the atmosphere was great. The stadium is very nice, the players are super friendly and attentive to the fans, the staff was friendly and helpful, etc. This stadium is a really great place to watch baseball. There's also a manual scoreboard out in left center, which added to the charm.
I went on Fan Appreciation Day, which upped the Atmosphere as well. The coach, Andy Etchebarren, was retiring, so they honored him...and Brooks Robinson gave a speech. Super cool surprise!
Announcer/Sound: I don't understand why some ballparks think they need to put a sound effect or song after EVERY pitch. Let it breathe a little here and there...BOING! CRASH! Come on...Not the end of the world though.
Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!: If you're not christian and are easily offended or made to feel excluded, you may want to pick another day to come to the ballpark. All the songs on the loudspeaker before the game were christian rock songs, followed by one terrible (in my opinion) church ensemble live performance after another between innings.
I found this to be very distracting (luckily between innings) and a little overkill. To be fair, ANY performance between every inning would have been distracting. I came to watch a ball game. Instead of rolling my eyes, I just used the opportunity to eat that giant pretzel I mentioned above.
I got there early. Parking was $4 and close, although it was not closely monitored. I saw some people slipping in another entrance for free. The neighborhood seemed fine.
Fans: Absolutely awesome! They've created a real family there in York. They've got their inside cheers (Hit the wall!), they've got their mascot and kid version of the mascot, the fans know the players, the players know the fans. It was wonderful to watch and be a part of.
Return on Investment: Ticket prices were reasonable, as was parking fees.
Extras: Perhaps unfair because I went on fan appreciation day. There were tons of free give-aways at various times during the game (frisbees, tee-shirts, ticket taped to bottom of seat, etc). I received a free program upon entrance. The seats were nice and wide, and if you got row D or below, you got nice padded seats. The extras were great.
Conclusion: I would DEFINITELY go see the York Revolution again.
Sovereign Bank Stadium was built two years after Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, but it is almost an exact copy. Other than the high wall in LF, there is little distinguish it. That said, this is a nice enough ballpark to catch a game in. Seats are close to the field, concessions are good (especially the pretzels), and the atmosphere is lively. My only complaints are that the atmosphere is a bit loud at times and also that the concession stands have very long lines when there is a big crowd on hand. For my full review, check out my website : www.ballparkreviews.com
But I'm a little biased... :) My hometown team.
400 N George St
York, PA 17401
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York, PA 17403
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