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Official Review by Jason Bullock, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Diamond is home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The Squirrels play in the Western Division of the Eastern League and have called Richmond home since the 2010 season. Before relocating, they were known as the Connecticut Defenders. The stadium is shared with the Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team, whose campus is located in downtown Richmond.
The stadium was opened in 1985 and has capacity for over 12,000, however for Squirrels games they cover the top rows of the upper deck with advertising, reducing capacity to 9,500.
Prior to 2009, The Diamond was home to the Richmond Braves, the AAA club for the Atlanta Braves. The age and condition of the stadium and field and the inability to reach an agreement on a new stadium resulted in the R-Braves relocating to Gwinnett, GA to a new ballpark. This was a disappointment for the loyal fan base, as Richmond was the last stop before the big leagues for many of the Atlanta Braves stars of the last few decades including Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and David Justice.
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 Diamond offers your standard fare for ballparks, along with a few extras. The most popular items - 6 oz. hamburger ($5.25), cheeseburger ($5.50), hot dogs ($2 - $3 for a 'Jumbo'), grilled chicken ($5.25) and chicken tenders ($4.50) - are available, but so are turkey burgers ($5.50), which I found to be very good and it didn't taste like it had been sitting around in a warmer for hours waiting for me to buy it. Meatball sandwiches ($5) appeared to be a popular item, as I saw many in my section munching on one.
Along with popcorn, peanuts, fries and nachos, The Diamond also offers fried acorns (aka Hush Puppies), fried pickles and onion rings as sides for your meal. I tried the fried pickles ($4), and while they were tasty, the serving size is 3 small spears - not a value in my book.
Sodas are available in 3 sizes ($3-$5) and are Coca-Cola products. Beer is $5.50 for 14 oz. and $9 for a 32 oz - Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Yuengling and Shock Top are all on tap.
There are some stand-alone vendors in the concourse selling Dippin' Dots, BBQ sandwiches, kettle corn, roasted nuts and assorted beverages. The main concession stands takes all major credit cards, however bring cash for the stand-alone vendors. There is an ATM located behind home plate in the main concourse if you find yourself needing cash.
If you're still hungry after all of that, you can top off with a funnel cake, ice cream in a rally helmet or a root beer float - $4 for each.
Upon entering the main plaza of the stadium, a stage is set up that has entertainment nightly. The game I attended there was a band playing rock music and it added some positive energy to the crowd that got to the game early. The Diamond is not quite 30 years old and hasn't aged well, and having some excitement and noise upon entering the stadium helped me forget that.
Nutzy, the team mascot, can be seen throughout the stadium before and during the game and is approachable and interactive with the fans. Kids always love the mascots and this one is no exception.
Seating is comfortable and the lower level sections come with drink holders. As I sat in my seat, I noticed that many of the vendors had on different costumes. There was a court jester, an elf and Fred Flintstone to name a few. I appreciate vendors that bring personality to their job and was looking forward to seeing them perform. Unfortunately, the costume was the extent of their personality, as most seemed like they did not even want to be there. In fact, most of the stadium staff - with the exception of the usher in my section and the young lady at concessions - did not seem that enthused.
If you are going with a large group, there are a couple of options - you can rent one of 15 suites for 12 people, or one of two party decks for 24. Both party decks were in use at the game I attended and the fans seemed to be enjoying themselves in their own private section. There is also a 'Cupid Section' for parties of two that provides a loveseat and a pair of souvenir cushions.
The team tries very hard to keep the fans entertained between innings, sometimes too hard. It seems like every half inning there is another gimmick to try to get the crowd riled up. T-shirt tosses are always fun and one of the more entertaining activities are the 'Drag Queens' - the ground crew comes out dressed as maids to rake the field. Some of the others, like sumo wrestling and 'Let's Make a Deal', are boring and made me feel like I was at a carnival.
The area around the stadium is mostly industrial. There are a couple of small restaurants within walking distance, but nothing that would stand out as a 'must-see'. If you are looking for food or drink before the game, I would recommend driving the 2 miles to Carytown (directly south from the stadium) and visiting the Galaxy Diner or Carytown Burgers and Fries. After the game, you can head down Main St to Home Team Grill, which is rated "One of the Best 101 Sports Bars in the U.S." by CNN - and a personal favorite of mine.
While I didn't feel the same passion for this team that I used to see in the past when the R-Braves played here, the fans still love their home team - it just takes them awhile to get going. The first half of the game, most in attendance seemed more concerned about eating dinner or catching up on the day's events with whomever was sitting close to them.
As the game moved past the 5th inning, the crowd got more involved and did not need to be prompted by the scoreboard announcer or music as to when to cheer (or boo). Being a scoreless game, every at-bat was important and the crowd was really into the game and by the 11th inning, I was surprised to see over half of the fans were still there to support the Squirrels.
One interesting observation I noted was that very few fans had team apparel on, and quite a few were wearing their nostalgic R-Braves hats and t-shirts. There is a souvenir/apparel shop at the stadium and it would be great to see more fans representing the home team.
The Diamond is located right off of I-95, just north of downtown Richmond. It's easily accessible from any direction that you may be traveling from. There is ample parking on-site and it will cost $3, which I found to be very reasonable.
Restrooms are located behind 1st and 3rd base on both the upper and lower levels and are what you would expect from an older stadium. Lines are never an issue on a night where the stadium is about half full. There are no 'family bathrooms' or changing stations for the little ones.
Ticket prices range from $7-$11. Combine that with the small parking fee and the fairly priced food, this is one of the better experiences for the dollar that I have had at a minor league ballpark.
Food is served at concessions all the way through the end of the game. Not a big deal for most, but during a marathon game like this one, it was nice to know I could get something to drink or eat if needed.
Fireworks at the end of the game - always cool, no matter how old you are.
The Diamond won't 'wow' you, but if you are a fan of the game and don't need all the modern amenities of new stadiums, it's a good investment of three hours on a nice summer evening.
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3109 W Cary St
Richmond, VA 23221
3500 1/2 W Cary St
Richmond, VA 23221
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