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Official Review by Kirsten Richards, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Canberra is far and away the smallest of the cities hosting an Australian Baseball League team. The Fort at Narrabundah is small and intimate and the fans passionately support their team. The ground received a $2 million renovation in the lead-up to the 2010/11 season that included an upgraded playing surface, HD quality lights, and some more seating.
The Canberra Cavalry have been strong performers over the last couple of years of competition, with the highlight being their 2012/13 season championship, followed up by not only an Australian team’s first win in the Asia Series, but by winning that championship as well.
The Narrabundah Baseball Complex has a second field with lights and a third full diamond without lights. All of Canberra Baseball’s under 8s and 10s are played at the complex, social league is played around the complex, and weeknight A-grade game is played on diamond two.
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 Fort has a kiosk and a bar on the third base line next to the player change rooms. Regular kiosk food such as hot dogs, nachos, hot chips, hamburgers, wings and combos are available for $3-$10. The bar stocks beer, wine, and pre-mixed drinks for $7-$10.
There is a coffee van and an ice cream van. Coffee prices are in line with café prices for the area, at about $4.50. The ice cream van has a range of interesting flavours with tubs coming in at around $6.
Outside food and drink (with the exception of water and specific dietary requirements) are not permitted into the ballpark. All concessions are cash only. There is an ATM outside the ballpark, but it will be simpler to ensure that you have sufficient cash before you get there.
Entry to the ballpark is through a single gate on the third base/left field side. The ticket window is just outside the gate with the starting line-ups nearby on an easily visible large whiteboard. As you enter the ground, the bar, kiosk and player locker rooms are on the right, the field is on the left.
The main stand is fully undercover and there are metal stands to the right and left of this. There is another set of bleachers on the third base line along with The Grove, an exclusive wine bar area. The bleachers along the first base line are informally known as "The Steve Kent stand" after one of the Cavalry's home grown pitchers.
Directly behind the home plate is the 'Elite Club,' a small full-service area. Just to the right of this are 'the best seats in the house,' which are raffled off and occupied by the winners from 3rd innings.
The player change rooms and bathrooms are not connected to the dugouts, so it is pretty common to see the players crossing backwards and forwards across the grassed area to reach these facilities. The view of the field is blocked from behind the dugouts, so the pathway is reasonably clear.
Canberra fans are consistently loud. From the beginning of the game with the crowd cheerfully belting out the national anthem, right through to singing along with the winning "I want to be in the Cavalry" theme-song, the Canberra crowd is engaged and vocal. It is easy to get swept along and support the home team.
The ball ground itself is very pretty, with a number of large trees in the area. The tree-lined gully that runs behind the stands on the first base side is known as Snake Gully. The name is partially in honour of the tiger snakes that had to be shepherded from the field and as a call-back to the Dad and Dave stories.
The Cavalry's mascot 'Sarge' is one of the more active in the league and does plenty of crowd engagement and has a cute little jeep that gets plenty of action across the course of the game.
The Canberra Cavalry also have a tradition of singing Sweet Caroline in the 8th and using the time to recognise the work of the scorers.
Narrabundah Baseball Complex is in suburbia, but there is a Best Western and an Ibis within easy walking distance of the field and a large golf course very nearby. Knuckles German Restaurant is also very close and is open for lunch and dinner.
A 15 minute drive to the main shopping area of Canberra and the inner-city suburb of Braddon provides many more choices for food and beverages.
Canberra is a beautiful city of wide, tree-lined boulevards and large public spaces and monuments. It is one of the few cities planned specifically to be the capital of a country. Visitors to Canberra have the opportunity to see the National Museums and Centres for nearly every kind of art and science and with planning, potentially a number of national festivals as well. The Canberra Visitors Centre is extremely helpful in planning activities and adventures in the Canberra area.
Route 100 is a free hop-on/hop-off bus service that visits the major monuments, museums and public buildings (including Parliament House) of Canberra.
The Canberra Cavalry fans are cheerful, outgoing, involved, know their baseball and are very, very friendly.
The Cavalry also assist in organising Cavalry fans attendance at other ballparks in the league, which is a nice touch.
You'd be very hard pressed to have a bad time at a Cavalry game.
Canberra is small enough that driving outside peak hour is a quick and easy way to get to the ballpark and parking is cheap - gold coin donation ($1 or $2).
Taxis are quite expensive in Canberra and it could easily cost more than $20 to get to the ballpark from the downtown area.
While buses to the ballpark exist and run reasonably frequently, they do stop quite early in the evening. If relying on public transport, there is a good chance you would need to leave an evening game before it finished to catch the last bus back to the city.
The bathrooms are behind and under the main stand and are small and clean. Wheelchair seating is at ground level.
While Canberra is a small stadium with no specific attractions, there is a very strong Cavalry identity which makes is an absolute pleasure to attend a game here.
Tickets are in the order of $5-$20 depending on group bookings and promotional schedule, with tickets for the fully catered special areas running more expensive, but around the league average.
Team merchandise is based around clothing and caps. Small portable items are not really a feature of the ABL.
The welcome from Canberra fans is exceptionally warm and the crowd are one of the most active and engaged in the league.
The merchandise van behind the third base bleachers carries the game on TV, which is very welcome and unusual in the league.
Member Review by megminard on Dec 31, 2013
The Canberra Cavalry are the 2013 ABL (Australian Baseball League) Champions as well as the 2013 Asia Series Champions. They play in “The Fort” at Narrabundah Ballpark.
The Fort was renovated in 2010 for the Canberra Cavalry with a $2 million upgrade funded by the Australian Capital Territory Government. The renovation included some seating, HD quality lights, and a new playing surface.
The naming of The Fort transpired in the first year of play relating to the team name, the Cavalry. It was the home Fortress where the team rarely lost. And, it was obviously a good match, keeping up with the military theme...and the name just stuck.
The Narrabundah Baseball Complex has a second field with lights and a third full diamond without lights. All of Canberra Baseball’s under 8s and 10s are played at the complex, social league is played around the complex, and weeknight A grade is played on diamond two.
All dollar amounts listed in this review are Australian dollar value (AUD).
Member Review by uita71 on Jan 05, 2014
I was frankly expecting a little more when I went to Narrabundah. They have good fans and they shocked the baseball world in November by winning the 2013 Asia Series, so I was expecting a spirited environment fully clad in orange & black cheering on the team. What I found was a smaller day game crowd with probably the least amount of fan gear in the stands. The primary seating behind home plate was nice and comfortable; the views were very nice, and the scoreboard was easy to read with the red numbers.
I was told that the crowds are a lot more spirited and that I went on a bad day which might be true. I would put this facility on the back end of must visit ABL ballparks.
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