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Official Review by Harrison Huntley, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
During a wild period of conference realignment, many smaller schools saw an opportunity to take a big step to relevancy. Some schools, like USF, started large-scale renovations of their athletic facilities in an attempt to move to a bigger conference. Since baseball is so popular in Florida, a baseball stadium should be one of the most important athletic facilities to this school. Overall, USF did a great job with their stadium. The atmosphere combined with the location make for a great experience.
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".
I'm very impressed with the concessions at this stadium. The traditional items are available at a reasonable price, along with some local foods. A cheeseburger costs only $5, and a hot dog only $4. If you're looking for something a little different, try a Cuban sandwich with plantain chips. Coke products are served for $4, but $8 with free refills the whole game. There is also $7 draft beer (which is unusual for a college stadium).
Chances are if you're watching a game at USF, it's spring in Florida, which means the weather should be near perfect. I attended on a warm Sunday afternoon with a perfect blue sky overhead. The palm and palmetto trees lining the outfield provide some scenery to complete the near perfect baseball atmosphere.
All the seats are the same green stadium seats, just as you would find at your favorite professional park. The seats are just high enough to provide a good view of the whole field, making it feel more professional. No matter where you sit, you can relax in the shade from the stadium's cover. The cover spans the entire seating area, making it easy for fans to escape the Florida sun.
This park doesn't come with any bells and whistles, but baseball is the kind of event that doesn't necessarily need that. As long as your park feels somewhat professional and has nice scenery, there's not always a need.
USF Baseball Stadium is part of an athletic complex which is home to just about every sport the university offers. Its closest neighbor is USF Softball Stadium, which shares the concourse with the baseball stadium.
Of course, an athletic complex usually doesn't make the best neighborhood, unless you're going for a multi-sport doubleheader. Within a short drive are a number of malls with restaurants, bars, and shops. Just around the corner is University Mall with just about everything you could ask for.
One of the local landmarks is the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), which is one of the best museums in the area. There's also the Busch Gardens theme park just a few minutes down the road. Adding in downtown Tampa-St.Petersburg and their beaches makes the location one of the better ones I've seen.
These may not be the rowdiest fans I've ever seen, but they certainly aren't bad. For the few that came out for this Sunday afternoon game, they made quite a bit of noise. Many of them are probably family and friends of the players, but they are a quality loyal fan base. As the team grows in popularity, I expect this fan base to grow exponentially.
Other than traffic, there's nothing to complain about on the way to USF Baseball Stadium. USF is located between I-75 and I-275, and the roads between the two tend to get backed up easily. The roads are easy to find, and there's free parking directly across the street from the stadium.
A game at USF Baseball Stadium may be the best value in the Tampa Bay area. General admission tickets are $5 and include free parking, free programs, leaving food as your only other expense. A ticket, hot dog, and a soda will cost you just $13. Even compared to minor league teams, that's an incredible value.
A big part of the major renovations is the video board in right field. It's a luxury that even some power conference teams don't have and is definitely worth mentioning.
I cannot say enough about the shade at this ballpark. Having been to a number of spring training and collegiate fields in Florida, this is by far the coolest park. Whoever designed this park to leave almost every fan in the shade did a great job.
Every run scored by USF is followed by the playing of the school's fight song. I actually prefer this to the usual mix of popular "hype" songs, as it feels more personal.
Most of the other stadium music features older songs. It's nice to hear something outside of Top 40 at a sporting event, especially one like baseball that is more relaxing.
Many probably overlook USF Baseball Stadium, since it's small, simple, or not home to a famous baseball team. From my experience there, I would encourage you not to do the same. This ballpark provides the perfect setting to relax on a weekend afternoon. No, it doesn't offer the same kind of entertainment you would find at a minor league ballpark, but at the same time, it doesn't try to. USF seems content to have a simple atmosphere that doesn't distract from the game and in my opinion, it should stay that way.
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