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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Bowdoin Field has been the home of the Berry College Vikings baseball program since its inception in 1988. Over the last three decades it has gone through a series of renovations to improve both the quality of the baseball on the field and enhance the fan experience for the student body and the visitors from the opposition. The earliest set of improvements were devoted towards such basic issues as improving drainage, creating a better playing surface to lessen bad hops with lights being added in 2007 to allow for night baseball.
The second phase of updates has focused on the fan experience. This includes the construction of a press box building located directly behind the backstop. In addition to providing a place for the media to work out of, this building also houses the concession stand and restroom facilities on its first floor. The most recent upgrades were to the seating area of the field. This included the replacement of the original wooden bleachers with aluminum bleachers and expansion of the seating capacity to 600. The dimensions of the field are 330 feet to down both of the lines and 400 feet to dead center.
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 concession stand serving Bowdoin Field is at the base of the press box building. It features the typical baseball fare you would expect, including popcorn ($1), hot dogs ($2.50), nachos ($3), candy ($1), canned soda ($2), bottled water ($2), peanuts (.50) and pickles ($1).
Since 2010 Berry has been involved in a fundraising campaign, with a focus to enhancing the school's athletic facilities over a multi-year period. This campaign has been extremely successful in creating a much improved atmosphere for all of the school's sports programs. It has resulted in the school's first on-campus football stadium, Valhalla, which in turn has brought alumni back to campus.
In conjunction with the expanded facilities, a new branding program featuring new graphics was introduced. This is very apparent at Bowdoin Field as the school colors of dark purple, silver and white are prevalent on the dugouts, the wind screens on the outfield fences and on the press box. A more modern Viking mascot character has also been added to the branding program. The awareness of the Vikings sports programs has never been higher and the attendance at campus sports activities has increased across the board.
The neighborhood for any building having to do with Berry College is the Berry College campus itself. At more than 27,000 acres, Berry College is the largest college campus in the world. Only a small fraction of the acreage is academic campus, as Berry's heritage is that of a self-sustaining model. Much of the property is devoted to farming, dairy facilities and mill facilities which are serviced by the Berry students through its Work Experience program. Rather than scholarships, the school has established programs where students earn their college education. This allows the school to keep its operating expenses down and maintenance costs low. More than 1,800 Berry students take part in the Work Experience program.
Bowdoin Field is located in a prime location on the school campus, as it is adjacent to what is known as the Ford campus. When the school was just beginning to establish its academic campus, automaker and philanthropist John Rockefeller funded the original Gothic style campus. This campus includes the first administration building, several academic buildings and the college chapel. It is the most scenic section of the Berry campus and provides a beautiful backdrop to Bowdoin Field. The modern academic campus is ˝ mile south of the Ford campus and the playing fields.
The Berry campus is located 6 miles north of the city of Rome. Due to the self-sufficient nature of Berry College, there are no restaurants, hotels or other businesses located adjacent to the school. Rome offers a wide variety of lodging options including local franchises of Holiday Inn Express, Country Inn and Suites, La Quinta and Days Inn. Popular restaurants within two miles of Berry include Bella Roma, Fuddruckers and the Harvest Moon Café. The Brewhouse Music and Grill is a popular nightspot for Berry students.
Because of the isolated nature of the Berry campus, the students are very supportive of on campus activities. Many students do not have automobiles, so walking and biking are the primary modes of transportation. Bowdoin Field is readily accessible to the school's dorms and student center. A Berry fan is not hard to identify as they usually are clad in the purple and silver colors of the school. They also tend to favor the horned headdress of the original Vikings over a baseball cap. During a Vikings rally it is not unusual to hear the unmistakable sound of a Viking battle horn.
The Vikings play in the Division III Southern Athletic Conference, which is made up of eight small southern schools that are within a 3 hour driving radius of each other. This includes Rhodes College, Centre College, Birmingham Southern, Sewanee / The University of the South, Oglethorpe University and Millsaps College. Due to their close proximity there is usually a good turnout from the opposing team. Berry students are very welcoming to visitors, as the school has a very strict code of conduct.
There is an old saying of "all roads lead to Rome" and in this case Berry as well. Unfortunately the roads leading to Rome require several turns and are not immediately adjacent to an interstate (the Rome exit from I-75 is more than 30 miles from the town) Berry's campus is located 72 miles north of Atlanta and 75 miles southwest of Chattanooga. The good news is that once you exit the interstate you will encounter very little traffic and a quite scenic drive. As you approach Rome you will want to take the Rome Bypass (Hwy 1) which will cut several miles off your drive and bring you right to the Berry Campus at the Martha Berry Highway (Highway 27) intersection. Once on campus turn right at the traffic circle towards the Gothic looking buildings in the distance. Bowdoin Field will be just to the right of these buildings. Parking is free throughout the Berry campus.
Attending a Vikings game will cost virtually nothing except the gas to get there. There is no admission charge for baseball games, the parking is free and the concessions are quite reasonably priced. In addition to enjoying the game, take time to walk through the beautiful Ford campus adjoining the field.
The 27,000 acre Berry campus offers a wonderful opportunity for recreational activities both before and after the ballgame. There are more than 80 miles of trails winding throughout the rural campus for both biking and hiking. Be sure to bring your camera as well, as more than 1,500 deer and other wildlife share the campus with the students.
State Mutual Stadium, home of the Class A Rome Braves, is located just 2 miles from Berry on the Rome Bypass. The Braves season gets underway in April, so it is possible to plan a doubleheader of an afternoon game at Berry and a night game at State Mutual Stadium. The school and the minor league team work together to make this happen frequently in the spring.
William R. Bowdoin Field is a nice baseball park with a nice bit of atmosphere, as well as good fans. It is worth a short trip to check it out.
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