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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Alabama State University is one of the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the country, as it was founded in 1867. Today, it is a member of the Alabama University system and has a student body of more than 12,000 students. The 172 acre campus is located in the downtown area of Montgomery Alabama, just off of I-85. The major academic offerings include Business Administration, Education, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts, Mathematics and Technology, Visual and Performing Arts, and Aerospace Studies.
The athletic teams of the university are known as the Hornets, and they compete in the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference). SWAC schools include Grambling, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Prairie View A&M, Southern, Mississippi Valley State University and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In addition to its conference opponents, Alabama State plays many traditionally strong NCAA baseball programs such as Louisville, Cal State-Fullerton, Florida State and Auburn The Hornets baseball program is headquartered at the Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex. The 3.9 million dollar facility is one of the newest in the SWAC, as it opened in 2012. The facility holds 600 people, but additional space is available on berms in the outfield.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Wheeler-Watkins Complex has one concession stand, which is sufficient for the crowd size. There is a small selection of beverages: soda ($3) water ($2.50) and food: hot dogs ($3) and candy ($2). One nice freebie being distributed by the concession workers is a game program with both lineups and season schedule in it.
The crowd was very into the game we attended, as it was the first in-conference game of the season and a doubleheader. The PA announcer announces players coming to bat without lots of theme music. He lets the game be the center of attention. The stadium is on campus, so expect a good turnout from Greek organizations and friends of the players. The students follow a strict code of conduct at ASU, with plenty of cheering, but no trash talking, which is very impressive.
Wheeler-Watkins is an on-campus sports facility, so the area immediately adjoining it is made of dorms and academic buildings. On the north side of I-85, the neighborhood is predominantly residential. Due to its close proximity to downtown, ASU is near some of Montgomery's best restaurants, nightlife and shopping. Among the restaurants that are popular with locals are Central, which features a farm-to-table experience, Martha's Place which offers southern comfort food and Alabama's legendary Dreamland BBQ. Craft beer enthusiasts will enjoy the selection found at the Railyard Brewery. The entertainment district in Montgomery is called The Alley, and it features a wide variety of bars, restaurants and music venues.
The fans at ASU games are very knowledgeable about the players, as it is a relatively small school. They wear the black and gold colors very proudly, and really get into the games. Another sizable segment of the fan base is the parents of the players from both teams. They show great camaraderie throughout the game, applauding the opposition when a terrific play is made in the field. The loyalty of the fans is very impressive, they stay to the end, even in less than pleasant weather conditions or a blowout of a game.
Alabama State University has excellent access, as it is located directly off I-85 at the Union Street exit (#1). The Hornets' football stadium, the New ASU Stadium, is clearly visible on the south side of I-85. Once you are on campus, the signage leading to the athletic complex is excellent, and free parking is directly adjacent to Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex.
Tickets are $5, and the seats are all chairbacks and are located very close to the action directly behind home plate. There literally is not a bad seat in the house. Parking is free in the athletic complex parking lot adjacent to the field, and concession prices are very reasonable. The free game programs are a nice touch, especially for visitors who may be unfamiliar with the players.
Montgomery is not a large city population-wise, but it is the state capital, and has many extras to offer visitors. The State Capitol complex offers tours on a daily basis (weekdays only), and they are very popular. Two historical sites you will want to visit represent two important aspects of the civil rights issue. These are the historic First Capital of the Confederacy and the Civil Rights Museum, which is filled with information on Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Finally, the Alabama River flows through town and is host to the Alabama River Jam festival each spring. The Riverfront is also home to Riverwalk Stadium, home to the Montgomery Biscuits Minor League Baseball club.
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