The Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League play their home games at the 4,200-seat UCMC Stadium located off I-71/75 in Florence, Kentucky. The ballpark opened in 2004 during the team’s second season (Foundation Field in Hamilton, Ohio, served as the teams’ temporary home the year before) and has been offering fans of the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky area an alternative to Major League Baseball.
The ballpark features a spacious concourse which does not wrap around the stadium, and fold down chair seating that are colored red, blue, and yellow (which were the same color combination used at the former home of the Cincinnati Reds’ Riverfront Stadium). In an area dominated by the Reds, can the Freedom be successful at the gate in one of the country’s more historic baseball cities?
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The quality of food at the ballpark is first rate and there are a few local delicacies that fans should be sure to enjoy during a visit. The signature Cincinnati Coney is only $1.50 and is a bargain. Do they taste better than Gold Star or Skyline? I will stay out of that discussion, since I have made a few enemies in the past when asking that very same question.
You can also enjoy the Freedom Nachos which feature that same Cincinnati style chili on top of cream cheese, Fritos and shredded cheddar cheese for $7. My only suggestion would be to shred the cheese a bit finer, since anyone familiar with this unique chili knows that is how it is properly done.
You can also sink your teeth into brats, foot long hot dogs, metts, hot metts, steak and angus burgers, grilled chicken, and short rib sandwich baskets in the $7 range with a side of chips and suggestion of a beer pairing. If this sounds too pretentious, do not worry, all of the ballpark favorites are here including nachos, popcorn, hot dogs and peanuts (you will get a free drink if you bring back the peanut shells), tacos, burritos, churros, homemade ice cream and Kona ice.
That is quite an impressive menu that more than satisfied me during my visit and should do the same for the masses who attend games during the spring and summer months.
As for beer, prices for a 20 ounce glass are $4.75 and feature Miller Light and local stalwarts Hudy Delight, Hudepohl Lager, and Christian Moerlein (one of my top five favorite beers) on a unique bottom feeder tap. You can also find a St. Louis favorite Schlafly on draught down the right field line of the concourse. The park features a unique concept of serving beer that one day might become the norm at most ballparks. A bottom feeder system pours the beer from the bottom of your glass to the foamy top.
The ballpark is set up to be very kid friendly. Their kid zone could entertain the little ones for hours with a jungle gym, bouncy house ($5 extra) and pitch and strike zones. They even have playground rubber mulch to protect any bumps or bruises.
The concourse is wide and open with concessions located in specific price points. The souvenir shop is ample for the team and features Freedom caps for $18 (a bargain compared to other teams) and a few creative t-shirts. There is also a concert stage in the left field area that features concerts and other events. The staff for the Freedom most likely will bend over backwards to appease certain vendors and crowds at the stadium.
Florence is a suburb of Cincinnati and is surrounded by other small Kentucky towns. The stadium is located off of 1-71/75 and near chain restaurants, the Florence Mall retail outlets, and residential homes. Downtown Cincinnati is located 12 miles to the north and so is Newport on the Levee, where there is a little more action.
I enjoy traveling north into Cincinnati and having dinner at BrewRiver GastroPub (2062 Riverside Dr) or the equally delicious Pompilios (600 Washington Ave.) in Newport, Kentucky, for Italian cuisine.
If you want traditional double decker sandwiches, the Sub Station II across the street from the ballpark in Florence offers up a few tasty combinations. You also may be able to locate many famous area chili parlors with both Gold Star and Skyline located in various locations in the metropolitan area.
The Freedom have been averaging close to 2,500 fans per game during the 2013 season. With the tasty food options, cheap tickets, free parking, and easy access this is a gem of a ballpark experience that residents in the Cincinnati area should be visiting in greater numbers.
University of Cincinnati Medical Center Stadium is adjacent to I-71/75 and visible from both north and south bound lanes of the interstate. A quick exit and a right turn on Freedom Lane will place you inside the stadium's parking lot. There is no need to pull out your wallet or reach into your purse, since parking is free and that is the way it should be across all ballparks.
Ticket prices range from $10-$14 for home games. Could they be a little less? Perhaps, but with free parking and favorable food price points, I can live with paying $10 for a ticket. The Freedom also provide a few promotions that include Thirsty Thursdays, Guaranteed Winning Wednesdays (if the team loses, fans can come back for free), Firework Fridays, and Family Fun Sundays.
The team scores extra points for free parking, the value menu, and serving Hudy Delight, Christian Moerlein and Hudepohl Amber.
In 2003 I applied for a position with the Florence Freedom; unfortunately, I did not get the call back to join the team. I feel as if I have come full circle attending a game at UCMC Stadium. The Freedom employ some of the simplest pleasures that I enjoy about minor league visits; free parking, great food, low prices and entertainment for both the kids and the adults. I am not sure how anyone could not find something to enjoy here at the stadium. I will grab a grilled hot mett and ponder it a little more.
This ballpark is currently called "Home of the Florence Freedom." It used to be Champion Windows Field, until the naming rights agreement ran out and they haven't yet found a company to pony-up the green backs to be awarded naming rights. No matter what it is called, fans will find a really laid-back customer-friendly minor league baseball experience in a field that looks bigger than the 4,500 official capacity.
It is a 100 percent FieldTurf field. The dirt areas or what is the dirt areas on a grass field are simply turf painted brown. It is makes it so games can be played unless it is raining heavily during the game.
7718 US Highway 42
Florence, KY 41042
Florence, KY 41042
2062 Riverside Dr
Cincinnati, OH 45202
600 Washington Ave
Newport, KY 41071
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