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Official Review by Jimmy Knight, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field was opened in 1993 and is named for J.A. Ike Tomlinson who was a baseball coach and athletic director at the school from 1944 to 1976 and George and Skeeter Kell who both played for Arkansas State and went on to play in the Major Leagues.
The bleachers behind home plate have a reserved seating area and benched general admission area. Both have excellent sight lines and are right on top of the playing field.
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".
Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field's concession stand is in a great location centered under the bleachers. The area is very clean and appears brand new. The restrooms are also in this area, once again complimenting the central position. All of the usual suspects can be found on the menu including burgers, hot dogs, soft drinks and candy. The most impressive part is the service. Those behind the counter are very friendly and welcoming. As with most outdoor programs in the late winter/early spring 2014, they have been riddled with cold weather, but the hot chocolate and the heaters were a big hit and an evening saver for me.
There is a lot of pride in the Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field grandstands for the Red Wolves baseball team. You can always hear constant chatter praising the previous play, encouraging the players or obligatory heckling of the umpires. The atmosphere is a definite reason to see a ball game as the intensity spills over from the college kids in the dugout to the fans in the stands.
As fans, our seats are close enough to the action that we can hear the player's interaction with each other as well as razzing between the coaches and umpires. That conflict, especially for the home squad, fuels the players and fires up the fans. I felt like I was in the middle of the action from beginning to end.
The neighborhood does not help or hurt the baseball experience. The athletic complexes, including Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field, are set on the edge of campus; the other side is a major thoroughfare with empty fields along the road. Within a couple of miles is a set of chain restaurants that can be used for 'pre-gaming' but nothing within walking distance. Campus housing is nearby, but it appears most fans drive the short distance on campus to the games.
The Red Wolves have an ardent and loyal fan base. They might not have the size of a fan base as they want at this time, but if they keep beating their regional opponents such as the University of Memphis (twice in 2014) and Arkansas-Little Rock (three times) the numbers will continue to grow.
Whether you sit in the grandstands behind the plate or along the fence line past the dugouts, you will find a fan drawn into the competition that is encouraging on the players.
There are two deck areas on both sides of home plate behind the reserved seating adjacent to the dugouts. On these decks are open areas and picnic tables. This is a prime location to sit and listen to the chatter from the dugouts as well as to have a great view of the game. If your nerves get wrecked easily in competition or you just enjoy pacing in cold weather, this is a great spot for you to stretch your legs and move about.
Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field is right off Highway 49 in Jonesboro which itself is less than three miles from Highway 63. Highway 63 is the primary access into and out of Jonesboro. When driving up or down Highway 49, you would not be able to miss Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field as it is nestled right up to the road. After turning onto campus you are immediately upon the stadium and the parking area.
As I pulled up to the stadium parking lot, I noticed the ticket stand at the entrance of the park. Surprisingly, although there were plenty of cars already there, there were a couple of easy parking spots right up front near this ticket stand. Fortunately, my better judgment prevailed as I noticed this was prime foul ball territory. Thus, I restarted my vehicle and relocated to another spot, this time farther away.
Beyond the parking situation, everything else is very simple and fairly cheap. The proximity to the game is the best attribute of Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field and makes the ticket price worth while.
If a fan is looking for a different view for the game or just a different environment, then they have to check out Barton's Baseball Deck along the right field line. Constructed off of a donation from the Barton's Lumber Company, this deck has a premium set-up for watching and enjoying a baseball game. The Barton's Baseball Deck has a great decorative entrance with slightly raised floors, multiple tables and grills to cook at. The game I attended had an ongoing Barbeque Contest throughout the game. It is $7 to sit there or $1 entry if you already have a game ticket and want to come in. This is a 'must try' for those attending the games.
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