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  • PNC Park - Pittsburgh Pirates

    Photos by Dave Cottenie and Patricia Beninato Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57 PNC Park 115 Federal St Pittsburgh, PA 15212 Pittsburgh Pirates website PNC Park website Year Opened: 2001 Capacity: 38,747 The Bucs Play Here The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the oldest franchises in major league baseball, as they were founded in 1881 as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. It is unique among the MLB teams in that it has never moved away from its city of origin. The Pirates played in the first World Series in 1903. They lost that one but have gone on to win five World Series and nine National League Championships in the years that have followed.   The home of the Pittsburgh Pirates is PNC Park. It is located on the North Shore section of Pittsburgh, across the Allegheny River from Downtown Pittsburgh and the Golden Triangle. The stadium opened in 2001 and has a capacity of 38,747. It is the fifth home of the franchise since its founding 137 years ago. It replaced the multipurpose Three River Stadium, marking a decided departure from the utilitarian design of its’ predecessor. PNC Park was designed by HOK, a firm noted for its engineering and architectural skills in sports facilities. It features a stone and steel exterior, reminiscent of ballpark design in the 1930s. Many locals say it reminds them of the old Forbes Field of a bygone era. The field dimensions are 320’ to right field, 410’ to left center and 399’ to dead center. The field features natural turf. Food & Beverage 5 Pittsburgh is known as a foodie town, probably due to the many ethnic groups that make up its population. While it will always offer traditional baseball foods like any MLB stadium, visiting fans will be shortchanging themselves if they do not try out the many local specialties unique to the Steel City. The concessions program at PNC Park proudly features a strong set of dishes that will leave visitors wishing their hometown ballparks would add them to their menus. The centrally located Tastes of Pittsburgh concourse offers the greatest diversity of stadium food. This includes the legendary Primanti Brothers deli sandwiches, Mrs. T’s Pierogies, Quaker Steak and Lube, Augustine’s Pizza, and Manny’s BBQ. Primanti Brothers sandwiches have been a Steel Town favorite since the 1930’s. The mile-high sandwiches feature deli-style meats, cole slaw, and French fries between two specially baked buns. Pierogies are a Polish creation, with a dough dumpling filled with ingredients like potatoes, cheese, and onions. Other foods available in separate areas of the ballpark include Cannonball Burgers, Chicken on the Hill, Deli Dogs, and Coop de Ville. Every Thursday is $1 Hot Dog Night. Pittsburgh is also known as a great beer town, with hundreds of craft brews created locally. Many of these brews are available at the Fat Head’s Bullpen Bar just beyond the centerfield wall. PNC Park also features a wide selection of beers in its convenience store outlets, The Market, scattered throughout the park. PNC Park is one of the few major league ballparks that allows outside food to be brought in. There are size limits in place, and drinks must be in a sealed clear plastic container. No alcohol or sodas can be brought into the park. Atmosphere 5 Coors Field may have the Rocky Mountains and Oracle Park may have San Francisco Bay, but no stadium shows off its hometown better than PNC Park. It offers spectacular views of downtown Pittsburgh over the outfield walls. The ballpark takes everything that could be a negative and turns it into a positive. The riverside location presents some challenges, but the park embraces it. PNC is not a big ballpark as far as capacity. However, this means that it offers a much more intimate feel to the venue, resulting in even the highest seat in the stadium being no more than 88 feet from the field. PNC Park does an excellent job of creating a deep sense of the history of the franchise. There are statues devoted to Pirate icons Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Bill Mazeroski outside of the stadium. Additionally, the retired Pirate numbers are featured in a display near the Center Field gate, and large baseballs along the riverwalk salute Pirate players who have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Pirates did not integrate until the rest of the MLB in the late 1950’s. However, Pittsburgh was home to two of the most successful franchises in the Negro Leagues… the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. The Pirates have included a display featuring the history of the two teams at the Left Field entrance gate to PNC Park. Neighborhood 4 PNC Park’s site was chosen to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s many downtown attractions. The immediate area surrounding the park is known as the North Shore, as it is on the north shoreline of the Allegheny River. Visitors to this side of the river have plenty of options for dining, entertainment, exercise, and culture. Attractions within walking distance of PNC Park include the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Science Center, the Riverwalk, and Acrisure Stadium... the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dining and drinking establishments on the North Shore include Burgertory and Mike’s Beer Bar, which carries more than 80 craft beers on tap. Lying just across the Allegheny River from PNC Park is Downtown Pittsburgh and the Golden Triangle. The two sides of the river are linked by the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which becomes a pedestrian-only thoroughfare on gamedays. This makes it extremely easy to visit the downtown area before or after a Pirates game. Downtown attractions within easy walking distance of PNC Park include the Heinz Hall for Performing Arts, the Fort Pitt Museum, and The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center (which offers several exhibits about the history of baseball in the Pittsburgh area). Fans 4 The Pirates have one of the most dedicated fan bases in the MLB. They still turn out in large numbers and support the team despite one of the longest absences from the playoffs in the MLB. The fans understand that the team is in one of the smallest markets in either league and operates with limited financial resources. However, they are proud that their team has made the investment in the ballpark that has it winning accolades from all areas of the country as ‘the best ballpark in the MLB.”   The fans often bring their out-of-town friends to games, as win or lose, the ballpark shows the best their hometown has to offer. The terrific local cuisine served at the park, the many attractions close by, the iconic views of the Pittsburgh skyline over the outfield walls, and even the unique ways of getting to the park make PNC Park a matter of civic pride for the fans as well as the team. Access 5 Unlike many ballparks located in a large urban area, PNC Park offers a variety of options for fans to get to the Pirate games. Persons coming from the north can take I-279 South and take exits 2B or 1B to lots on the North Shore. Other travelers coming south on Rte. 28 South can exit at East Ohio Street to reach the parking lots. PNC Park is also located within a mile of both I-376 and I-579. Fans coming from the south should park in one of several lots in Downtown Pittsburgh. Fans can then cross the Alleghany River via the Andy Warhol Bridge to PNC Park. The Waze App will advise you on the best route to take to the stadium on gameday. The PRT light rail system runs free shuttle service from Downtown Pittsburgh/Golden Triangle stations to the North Side Station located just outside of the Home Plate gate at PNC Park. The Clemente Bridge between Downtown Pittsburgh and the North Shore is pedestrian-only use on gamedays. The most unique way of traveling to PNC Park is via the Gateway Clipper water shuttles. The shuttles ferry fans from the Station Square Complex on the Monongahela River to PNC Park on the Allegheny River. This journey also includes a short portion of the Ohio River. The cost for the Gateway Clipper option is $15 roundtrip. Gates at PNC Park open 90 minutes before the first pitch for Friday night and weekend games. They open 60 minutes before games on Mondays and Thursdays. Return on Investment 4 The light rail system stations serving the Golden Triangle Stations and the North Side “T” Station provide free rides to and from the park on gamedays. Fans can use the MLB Ballpark app to locate and prepurchase their parking before heading to the games. Parking on the North Shore typically costs $15 -$25. However, fans arriving early may be able to park at the Carnegie Science Center lot for just $10. Parking in downtown Pittsburgh typically goes for $10-15. The Pirates use a dynamic pricing model for tickets. Weekday tickets start at $25, while Friday night tickets start at $26. Saturday tickets start at $27, and Sunday afternoon games start at $25. Some series will reflect higher beginning prices, especially games involving the Phillies and other division rivals. Standing Room Only tickets are sold for $10 once the seating reaches capacity. PNC operates as a cashless facility. Extras 5 One extra goes to having the backdrop of the Downtown Pittsburgh skyline just beyond the outfield walls. Unlike every other MLB ballpark, the home team dugout at PNC Park is on the third base side of the field. The Pirates get to enjoy the views of the Downtown Pittsburgh skyline. PNC is always looking for ways to improve the ballpark and the gameday experience for the Pirate fans. A new videoboard has been installed recently that is twice the size of its predecessor. It has been erected behind the left field wall, leaving the view of Downtown Pittsburgh unobstructed. In addition, self-ordering kiosks have been installed at PNC Pops Plaza that allows you to place your order from multiple concession stands in one transaction. This speeds up the concession lines, allowing fans to get back to their seats quickly so they do not miss much game action. The Bucco Brigade oversees all in-game entertainment. They coordinate the activities of the team mascot, the Pirate Parrot, as well as T-shirt tosses, hot dog shoots, and baseball quizzes during breaks in the action. They also manage the Pirate Pierogies character race in the middle of the fifth inning. There are several group seating areas within PNC Park. They include the Rooftop underneath the videoboard in left field, the Porch in center field, the Left Field Lounge, and the Azul Lounge on the third base side of the field. There are 69 PNC Luxury Suites around the infield portion of the field. There is an excellent privately managed Roberto Clemente Museum located just across the Clemente Bridge from PNC Park. Visits/tours must be prearranged by contacting the museum at www.robertoclementemuseum.com . Final Thoughts For any fan of baseball, a trip to see the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park is an absolute must. With some improved play on the field this season, hopefully more fans will embrace the experience and flood the park on the banks of the Allegheny.

  • Chuck Stevens Baseball Field - Koa Sports Green Wave

    Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 1.71 Chuck Stevens Baseball Field 11300 Gainsborough Rd Potomac, MD 20854 Koa Sports Green Wave website Ride the Green Wave The Maryland Collegiate Baseball League is a summer collegiate baseball league based in Maryland, in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area. Most players come from local colleges or are otherwise based locally. The Koa Sports Green Wave is based in Montgomery County, just outside DC. They play their day games at Chuck Stevens Field at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, and their night games at Wheaton Regional Park, as Chuck Stevens Field does not have lights. This review will focus on Chuck Stevens Field. Food & Beverage 0 There is no food or drink for sale at Green Wave games. Fans can bring their own. Atmosphere 1 There are several places at Chuck Stevens Field to watch a game from, but none are particularly good. There is a small set of bleachers behind home plate, but your views of the left field corner from here will be obstructed by the dugout. Bleachers are also located further up the left field line but it is difficult to see home plate from here. In either case, you will be caught through a thick metal fence rather than netting. Some fans also choose to bring their own chairs and sit closer to the fence, often with umbrellas to stay cool. It offers marginally better views but can obstruct other fans' views. Some fans also choose to sit in the outfield, as there is a gap in the fence down the foul line, so this offers an unobstructed view. However, there are no seats here, so you will need to either bring your own or stand. A scoreboard is located in the outfield but is non-functional, so you are on your own to figure out the count and score. Music is played during breaks in the action, but there are no announcements like starting lineups or player introductions. This is an extremely barebones experience, to say the least. Neighborhood 3 Winston Churchill High School is located in a mainly residential neighborhood, so there is not much in the immediate vicinity. However, the Cabin John Village shopping center is located a short drive away and offers many options. Gregorio's Trattoria is a locally popular Italian restaurant and is probably your best option here. Fans 2 The Green Wave only draws a few dozen fans a game, and most of them are friends or family of the players. They do seem to be pretty knowledgeable about the team and the league, which is a plus. Access 2 There is a small lot at Winston Churchill High School next to the football stadium, and a larger one closer to the school. Another lot is located closer to the baseball field but is blocked off by vehicle traffic. It is open to pedestrians, and you will need to walk through it past the tennis courts to get to the stadium. Then you will walk along a gravel path and down a grass hill. It is not easy to get to the field. There are no restrooms at the field itself, but there are some in the football stadium, about a five-minute walk away right next to the entrance. They are of a sufficient size for the crowds. Return on Investment 3 There is no cost to attend a Green Wave game. However, there isn't enough here to earn more than an average value. Extras 1 Look for the plaque honoring the field's namesake, longtime Winston Churchill High School coach Chuck Stevens. Final Thoughts A Koa Sports Green Wave game is an extremely basic experience. True baseball diehards and purists and completions who want to visit as many stadiums as possible may want to check this out, but if you're not in one of those groups, this may not be the ballpark for you.

  • Heritage Financial Park – Hudson Valley Renegades

    Photos by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29 Heritage Financial Park 1500 Route 9D Wappingers Falls, NY 12590 Hudson Valley Renegades website Heritage Financial Park website Year Opened: 1994 Capacity: 5,400 Yankee Baseball, Hudson Valley Style The quaint confines, nicknamed the “Dutch” by locals, obtained naming rights in March 2023 and was rebranded as Heritage Financial Park. The facility, located in Wappingers Falls, New York, became the NY Yankees High A affiliate in 2021 after being tied to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Renegades play in the High A South Atlantic League. Catcher Austin Wells and shortstop Anthony Volpe of the Yankees played at Hudson Valley and two more former Renegades (Jasson Dominguez and Oswald Peraza) are expected to join the Yankees later this season after rehabbing from injuries. The season runs from April 5 to September 8.  Saturday games typically start at 5:05 and Sundays begin at 2:05. Monday is dark with only two games scheduled all season. Gates open one hour before game time. The facility also hosts corporate events, weddings, fundraisers, and concerts.   The field received a major upgrade with new field turf being installed in the offseason.  The turf is the same quality as what is used in major league stadiums.  Other stadium upgrades for 2024 include: a new, state-of-the-art home clubhouse, and alongside the clubhouse there are new group spaces and seating options available. There is a new upper deck group area, outfield seating, and drink rail seating in left field, and a beautiful new group space that is available to rent out for events.  There are also newer and larger bathrooms.  The enhancements allowed capacity to increase to 5,400 up from 4,494.  HV averaged 2,870 in 2023. Food & Beverage 3 The food choices are somewhat limited but at the same time, there are more alternatives than some minor league venues.  There is a Mexican food stand with tacos and nachos.  The loaded helmet nachos are $13.50 and tacos (chicken, beef, or bean) are $4 each or 3 for $10.  Premium beers are $13 (25 oz.), Bud is $11 and cocktails are $9.50. There are of course ballpark staples such as hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, peanuts, and french fries. Pepsi products are the beverage of choice. Atmosphere 3 The park has a friendly vibe with plenty of people working and eager to greet. The stadium's main entrance is behind home plate and an entrance for season ticket holders is on the first base side. As you enter the stadium the concourse divides the lower and upper sections of seats.  There are nine rows of seats directly behind the plate in the 100s and 12 rows in the 200s. The music and announcements are not too loud and the between-inning contests are popular. The Renegades employ the same four-bell chimes (Westminster Quarters) heard at Yankee Stadium for years when the Bronx Bombers score.  The HV mascots are a family of raccoons with Rascal and Rosey the leaders of the pack. Neighborhood 3 There are places to hang out before or after the game a short drive from the stadium. There are a few restaurants on 9D as you approach the venue from the south. There is a pizza place (Leo’s Italian Restaurant) a Chinese place and a salad place (Green Bowl) in the mall across the street.  For local craft beers, there is Two Way Brewing and Hudson Valley Brewing (Thursday-Monday) which are located just south of the stadium in Beacon. 21 Burgers and Wings in Wappingers Falls is a good local sports bar. Sloop Brewing @ the Factory in Hopewell Junction is a popular location and only a 15-minute drive east of the stadium. Fans 3 The stadium gets a good mix of older, young people and families. There is a hearty group of season ticket holders who attend the majority of games. In May, the Renegades set an attendance record during a rare “weekday game”. Thirty years after the Renegades first played in Dutchess Stadium, 5,619 students, faculty, and staff from several area schools showed up on a partially rainy “Education Day” to watch the Renegades play the Jersey Shore Blue Claws. The Renegades Team Store can be accessed via the Renegades Offices, located between the main gates & the Renegades Box Office. On game days, the Renegades Team Store is only accessible to fans inside the ballpark through the entrance next to the 3rd Base Concession Stand & across from the Family Restroom. Access 4 The stadium itself is situated in Wappingers Falls, a village of about 6,064. The drive to Heritage Financial Park from New York City is serene and scenic, especially along Route 9 or 9D. The historic Hudson River is nearby and the ballpark is just off I-84 and minutes from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. The Taconic Parkway is also close by and with all of the parkway/highway access it is easy to make a Stadium Journey from upstate New York, Putnam and Westchester Counties, Connecticut, and Orange County on the west side of the Hudson. It is an hour’s drive from White Plains, only 40 minutes from Danbury, Connecticut, and 60 miles from Yankee Stadium. Return on Investment 4 General Admission tickets along the right and left field lines for weekend games are just $10.50.  Field-level, cushioned seats are $26. On our recent visit, a few of the cushioned seats were torn. Food prices are standard for the minor league but a bargain compared to the big leagues. Parking is $10 ($7 for pre-purchase). Extras 3 One point is for a host of promotions.  Renegades has 15 fireworks shows including most Friday nights, and two on Saturday nights and runs several other enticing promotions including Sunday Family Funday which includes fun for the whole family at the ballpark including the dog. Face painters and balloon artists will be on hand.  The other fantastic promotion is the Renegades/Yankee combo. Fans who purchase tickets online for any Sunday game excluding Father’s Day include a 2024 Renegades Hat and also a ticket to the Sunday, September 29th Yankee season finale at 3:05 pm against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Point two is for the Renegades Family 4-Pack: 4 Tickets, 4 Renegades Hats, and 4 Meal Vouchers for $99. The third point is for the new club in left field and drink rail seats and the new turf. Final Thoughts Heritage Financial Park is a solid venue to take in minor league baseball.  The scenery is picturesque, the ballpark is cozy and the new improvements make it even more worthy of a stadium journey. And there’s always a chance to witness a future NY Yankee.

  • Franklin Field - Milwaukee Milkmen

    Photos by Marc Viquez Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29 Franklin Field 7035 S. Ballpark Dr. Franklin, WI 53132 Milwaukee Milkmen website Franklin Field website Year Opened: 2019 Capacity: 4,000 Milk & Baseball in Milwaukee Franklin Field opened in 2019 on the site of the former Crystal Ridge Landfill in Franklin, Wisconsin, in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. It is home to the Milwaukee Milkmen of the American Association. Known as Routine Field during its inaugural season, but after a legal dispute about naming rights left the baseball stadium with a temporary moniker of Milkmen Stadium before settling on Franklin Field in 2020. The stadium blends in well inside The Ballpark Commons, a mixed-use development, home to live, work, and play areas that will include a beer garden, taco restaurant, brew pub, apartments, senior living housing, a hotel, an indoor sports complex, and a performance and wellness village. The Rock Sports Complex features six baseball fields and is home to 2,000 baseball games annually inside the Ballpark Commons. The stadium adds its name to big, bold, and distinctive facilities to the American Association and Wisconsin Brewing Company Park  in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and Impact Field  about an hour south in Rosemont, Illinois. All ballparks are spacious, detailed for large social areas, and are alternatives to major league baseball in the metropolitan area. Food & Beverage 3 A main area for food and drink is behind the backstop which offers an array of options for the customers at the game. The food stand is called the Burger Company and sells burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken tenders, brats, nachos, fries, and cheese curds. The unique options are truffle parmesan fries, milkshakes, and milk and cookies. The Barcadi Bar offers alcoholic beverages from beers, hard seltzer, vodka, whiskey, tequila, and brandy. A few of the can and draft varieties include products from MillerCoors, Vizzy, High Noon, Happy Thursday, Terrapin, and Angry Orchard. The ballparks offer additional portable stands throughout the concourse that sell popcorn, grilled corn, and cupcakes. A Mexican food truck is set up near the main entrance. A few more stands are visible but were closed during our visit. Atmosphere 3 The 4,000-seat ballpark offers areas of seating for fans on the wraparound concourse. The Leinenkugel Hop Yard is an impressive two-level area on the third base side of the venue that incorporates repurposed shipping containers, and the semi-private cabana seats behind the seating bowl of the concourse offer lounge seating and service. Visitors enter Franklin Field from the outfield entrance in the left-field corner. They’re welcomed by the Leinenkugel Hop Yard area and the team’s official gift shop as they make their way to the main concourse. Visitors can buy an all-you-can-eat-and-drink ticket to the Hop Yard and choose from an array of local beers and food while enjoying the game from various viewpoints of the enclosed area. The colors of black and white are evident throughout the building, which also extends to the advertisements on the outfield walls. The game day staff members are dressed as milkmen with black bow ties, offering services at portable stands and the main concession area behind the backstop. The seating bowl offers plastic theater-style chairs in the colors of gray and yellow that add a welcome change in look not commonly found at other professional ballparks. On the top of the concourse is private cabana-style seating for groups. A video scoreboard is above the grass berm seating in left field, known as the pasture. The words “popcorn” can be heard over the sound system whenever there's a foul ball. The club offers a free bag of popcorn with every foul ball returned. There is still more grass seating down the first baseline that also features trees that add to the natural beauty of the surrounding area of the neighborhood. In the distance behind the left field wall is a large grassy hill that blends in with the large open areas in the outfield of the stadium. There are plenty of promotions: cow racing, cookie tossing, dizzy bat race, and frozen t-shirt contests. Bo-Vine is the team’s official mascot and can be seen during many of these promotions and in the stands during the game. Neighborhood 3 Franklin Field is inside the Ballpark Commons, a mixed-use development that will be home to live, work, and play areas that will include a beer garden, taco restaurant, brew pub, apartments, senior living housing, a hotel, an indoor sports complex, and a performance and wellness village. Luxe Golf Bays rises above the ballpark down the left field line and is connected to the Dog Haus and Brick Pizzeria & Ristorante. The Dog Haus offers burgers, hot dogs, and sausages with a variety of toppings, along with an impressive menu of draft beers. Brick features Neapolitan pizza and calzones baked in wood-fired ovens. There is also an open-air plaza that is perfect for families to eat and play. Across the street is Coffee Blend Cocktails that will satisfy your sweet tooth. However, a trip up north to Milwaukee is where you will find more attractions, including tours of the Fiserv Forum , the Milwaukee Arts Museum, the Harley-Davidson Museum, and the Miller and Pabst Breweries. The Milwaukee Waterfront is also worth visiting on a nice summer day. The Historic Third Ward is home to restaurants with sidewalk tables, scenic river walks, the Milwaukee Public Market, shops, and the National Bobblehead Museum and Hall of Fame. There is also a collection of local breweries in town: Good City Brewing, MobCraft Beer Brewery, Third Space Brewery, Lakefront Brewery, Sprecher Brewery, and Great Lakes Distillery. Fans 3 There is a good showing of fans who are there for an affordable night out at the ballpark and a few taking a curiosity in the new independent club in town. Fans are keeping score from their seats, many are mingling with friends, and folks are enjoying the new car smell of the ballpark. Access 4 Franklin Field is located 15 miles south of downtown Milwaukee off of S.R. 36 and near the interstates of 94 and 43. General Mitchell International Airport is less than 10 minutes to the east. The best option is by car to a Milkmen's game. The stadium is wide open, and the concourse wraps around the seating bowl. It can become a little congested near the concession stands, but the rest of the stadium offers plenty of room to move around and vantage points for photos from visitors. Return on Investment 4 The Milkmen tickets start at $11 for their version of grass berm seats dubbed “The Pastures” and bleacher and terrace seating sell for $14. Other ticket prices include the Dugout Seats for $18 and Scout seats for $20. The Leinenkugel Hop Yard includes an All-You-Can-Eat area until the 7th inning. Merchandise ranges from shirts for $22 to ball caps for $30, concession items are as low as $4 for a locally made hot dog to $8 for a fried chicken sandwich, and the parking is free of charge. There are daily themes at the games: Thirsty Thursdays, where beer is a buck, Buy-One-Get-One-Free ticket nights, Freinds & Family Deals, and Mexican Fiesta, where the Milkmen become the Lecheros de Milwaukee and wear specialty jerseys. It is incorporated with additional tables, stands, and in-between innings of entertainment. Extras 3 The Milkmen earn a few extra points for creating an atmosphere that blends well with is "America's Dairyland" theme. The team and ballpark's colors of black and white are distinctive throughout the venue. The Ballpark Commons is an active area with restaurants, stores, and golf bays that can create full-day activities for fans at the game. The stadium earns a final point for free parking. Final Thoughts Franklin Field is not your ordinary baseball stadium. It blends in well with the neighborhood, and it will only be challenged by the imagination of its architects. The enthusiasm by the game day staff dressed as milkmen, and the numerous dairyland themes make for an alternative to watching professional baseball in Milwaukee. ------ Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter   and his YouTube channel .  Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com

  • Cardinale Stadium – Monterey Bay FC

    Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14 Cardinale Stadium 4441 2nd Ave Seaside, CA 93955 Monterey Bay FC website Cardinale Stadium website Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 6,000 Soccer in the Bay The Monterey area is known for its great weather and beautiful scenery, but perhaps what is missing most is a true professional sports franchise – until 2021, soccer fans here had to look north to San Jose  for the closest place to quench their thirst for sports. Now, thanks to Monterey Bay FC, this need has finally been met. The team plays at Cardinale Stadium, on the famed campus of Cal State Monterey Bay, featuring views of the ocean from the grandstand and a hearty mix of local food vendors to satisfy cravings while at the game. All things considered, this may be the hidden gem of California’s bustling soccer scene.   Food & Beverage   4 To go hungry at Cardinale Stadium is to be blind – everything you could imagine, from typical stadium fare to food from local businesses, can be found here. Favorites like elite cups ($10), baked potatoes ($13), baked pasta ($20), mac ‘n cheese ($15-$20), cheesesteaks ($20), chicken wraps ($20), specialty corn dogs ($9-$14), calamari ($20), and so much more can be found at the various vendors. Drinks are easy to find too, with Alvarado Brewing as the main attraction for local beer. If you can’t find anything to eat or drink here, you’re simply not looking hard enough.   Atmosphere   4 The game day vibe at MBFC games is unmatched; the grandstands are filled for each game, and a family-friendly atmosphere permeates throughout. Pre-game fan activities include a kids’ zone outside the main gates, giving the youngest fans a chance to have fun before the match kicks off. Sponsor activations are also plentiful, with giveaways prevalent at most games. Theme nights are also popular here, with the likes of Star Wars night and others on the schedule. The stadium itself is simple enough, and features grandstands with backed benches for seating. The middle sections on the home side feature individual seats, and the end zone supporters’ section is the place to be for the team’s rowdiest fans. Vista views of the Pacific Ocean greet fans to the west of the stadium, while coastal pines provide shade to fans on the north side of the western end of the facility. With the stadium’s color scheme matching that of the team, and logo merchandise available at several locations, it’s easy to see what makes this such a sought-after experience for local sports fans.   Neighborhood   5 Monterey is like much of the rest of coastal California; beautiful and relaxing. Boasting the weather and scenery of the Bay Area, but with the small-town feel of more inland locations, Monterey features a regional airport, numerous locations to stay at, and a wide variety of places to eat. In addition, the world-famous Monterey Aquarium is just minutes from CSU-MB, as are Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. The locals are kind and courteous, always willing to give you directions and recommendations on where to go, and no matter what time of the year you are going, there is always some form of festival or celebration going on, such as Italian Fest, Jazz Fest, or Octoberfest. For great food, check out Gusto’s Handcrafted Pasta & Pizza, or Hula’s Island Grill. Hotels are plentiful here, including the Hilton Garden Inn Monterey and Hotel Pacific. The stadium’s immediate location, the town of Seaside, also features numerous restaurants and hotels.   Fans   4 The fans in Monterey are loyal and diehard. Best of all, they’re incredibly family-friendly, with many young fans making up those who are in attendance – this makes for an enjoyable atmosphere. Most of the games feature full or nearly sold-out games, and the chants from the supporters’ section don’t stop from the first kick until the final whistle.   Access   5 Parking is plentiful on-site for $20 – these lots offer easy in-and-out access to fans attending games at Cardinale Stadium, making for a seamless experience on game day. To get to the stadium, you just need to take the Lightfighter Drive exit from Highway 1; from there, you’re practically dropped off right next to the parking lot entrance.   Return on Investment   4 Tickets start at just $22 for MBFC games at Cardinale Stadium, which is a steal for professional soccer, and with the incredible atmosphere and stellar weather, you’re in for great value. Add in parking on par with many other events at $20, and you’re right on target for what you’d expect to spend at any other sporting event. The prices for concessions can be a bit high, however, and that is likely to be what puts the biggest dent in your wallet, but with the quality of the food included, you’re sure to see value there as well.   Extras   3 The stadium features various seating options – from the supporter section in the far end zone to the sideline premium VIP seats, you have multiple options to pick from. You also can see vista views of the ocean from the stadium and entrance area, which makes for something unique among sports facilities. Finally, with MBFC games being held on CSU Monterey Bay’s campus, you’re also among the rest of the school’s athletic fields, meaning you can easily schedule your trip to also include some college baseball or softball nearby.   Final Thoughts You may not think of Monterey as a soccer mecca, but the fans here are sure to impress even the most diehard soccer fans around. For a professional team in a relatively small city in America, the setup at Cardinale Stadium is well worth a visit for anyone looking for a day of sports when visiting the California coastline.

  • Historic LaGrave Field to be Razed

    A historic ballpark in Fort Worth, Texas, will be torn down in the coming months. The Tarrant Regional Water District Board of Directors (TRWD) voted Tuesday night to demolish the LaGrave Field after deeming it a public safety hazard. The TRWD took control of the site in 2019 and had a contract with the Save LaGrave Foundation in the hopes of restoring the former home of the Fort Worth Cats, but ended the agreement with the foundation a year later. Since then, the TRWD has spent $200,000 annually on the property. The current LaGrave Field opened in 2002 as the home of the newly formed Cats of the Central Baseball League. The original dugouts were repurposed as suites for up to 10 people, the original home plate was left intact, and a replica of the covered bleachers was constructed behind the right field walls. The Cats would cease operations after the 2014 season. The original stadium opened in 1926 to replace the all-wooden Panther Park that opened in 1911. The Ft. Worth Panthers (Cats) had won 7 straight Texas League pennants, and fans flocked the ballpark by the thousands. A modern facility was built for the newfound interest in the team. The concrete and steel structure had seating for 12,000 and offered a view of the nearby Trinity River and kept the Panther Park name. One of the people instrumental in the success of the Cats was minority stockholder and business manager Paul LaGrave. Little did he know that the stadium would bear his name after his untimely death at age 44 in January 1929. The grandstands were destroyed on May 15, 1949 by fire. Fans would continue to watch baseball by bringing foldable chairs and finding seats on the first and third base bleachers. However, the following season, the stadium was rebuilt. The Cats would continue to play until 1958, returning for one final season in 1964. Parts of the old ballpark would be sold off and transported throughout the state. St. Mary’s University and Marble High School purchased parts of the bleachers and light standards. A few floodlights were sent to the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. LaGrave Field was hoping to restore the city’s professional baseball history that began in 1884, but after sitting in squalid conditions and being home to vandalism and vagrants for almost a decade, the decision to raze it puts an end to its future as a home to a professional team. The stadium sits on close to 350 acres of prime real estate and is part of the future Panther Island economic development. Several plans include a mixed-use waterfront district, possibly including apartments, businesses, and hotels or a waterfront destination. ------ Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter   and his YouTube channel .  Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com

  • Frank Mann Field - Alexandria Aces

    Photo by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43 Frank Mann Field 3700 Commonwealth Ave Alexandria, VA 22305 Alexandria Aces website Frank Mann Field website Year Opened: 1978 Capacity: Acing It In Alexandria Frank Mann Field is home to the Alexandria Aces of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. The CRCBL is a summer collegiate wood bat league featuring six teams in the Washington, D.C. area. It formerly contained as many as 12 teams, but has decreased in size in recent years. Three of the teams are based in Maryland, two in Virginia, and one in the District of Columbia itself. The stadium was built in 1978 and hosts the Bishop Ireton High School team as well as several youth teams in addition to the Aces. It is named after former Alexandria mayor Frank Mann. Prior to hosting the Aces, it was the home of the Alexandria Dukes of the Carolina League from 1978 to 1983. The Dukes later relocated down I-95 to Woodbridge, and after adopting several other names, became known as the Potomac Nationals . Following the 2019 season, the P-Nats moved again and became the Fredericksburg Nationals . In addition to the subpar facilities, the Dukes were reportedly concerned about the prohibition on alcohol sales due to the stadium being located next to a school. Food & Beverage 2 The food selection at Frank Mann Field is nothing special, but you will certainly not go hungry here either Concessions are sold out of a tent behind home plate, and the only meal options are freshly grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. There are also a wide variety of snacks, plus soft drinks and bottled water. As Frank Mann Field is located on school grounds, alcohol is not available for sale. Prices are reasonable, with nothing costing more than a few dollars, and payment can be made with cash, PayPal, or Venmo. Atmosphere 2 This is truly baseball at its basics. There are only a handful of metal bleachers seating maybe a few hundred fans. All seats are separated from the field not by netting but by a chain link fence that can make it difficult to see the action. There is a scoreboard in left-center field that shows the line score and count and the team plays music in between innings, but there really isn’t that much else here. A 50-50 raffle offers fans the chance to win a cash prize while raising money for the team, but that is about it. For baseball purists, this will be a fun experience, but those who enjoy the between inning distractions will be out of luck. Neighborhood 5 Frank Mann Field is located in Alexandria, just across the Potomac River from the District of Columbia. Although there is not much within walking distance of the stadium, those willing to drive around Alexandria will find quite a bit. The Old Town neighborhood a couple miles south is one of the nicest parts of the entire metropolitan area. Visitors will find riverfront views and streets lined with restaurants, shops, and more. As Alexandria is a very diverse area, you will find ethnic food of just about every nationality, whether it’s Bolivian, Salvadoran, or Italian. Il Porto Ristorante has fantastic Italian food and is conveniently located just up King Street from Pop’s Old Fashion Ice Cream, where you can finish off your meal with homemade ice cream. Hotels are ample in supply as well – check out the Old Town or Crystal City areas. Fans 3 The Aces draw a decent crowd of a couple hundred fans per game. While the bleachers won't be full, the crowd here is about what you see at most venues in the league, maybe a little bit higher. The crowd is a mix of longer-time fans and young families, and kids can be seen scurrying around the seating area during the game. You'll hear some cheering after big plays, but this crowd generally doesn't get too involved. Access 4 Frank Mann Field is located just off Commonwealth Avenue in the City of Alexandria. Parking is free in a lot adjacent to the stadium, with additional spaces being available beyond the outfield fence. Do not park on the street or you will be towed. Be careful about parking too close to the entrance, as you will be in foul ball territory. All Aces games start at 6:30 PM, which means you will likely be dealing with rush hour traffic to get to a game if you come on a weeknight. D.C. traffic is some of the worst in the country, so be sure to allow a lot of extra time. It’s not quite as bad in the summer as during the rest of the year, but that isn’t saying much. The recently opened Potomac Yard station on Metro's Blue and Yellow Lines is about a 20 minute walk from the stadium. Return on Investment 5 Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for children. Concessions are incredibly affordable as well. This makes an Aces game a great value. Extras 3 There is a tent near the entrance selling team merchandise. There is a table near the entrance offering not just free roster cards (for the Aces only, not their opponent) but free copies of a local newspaper's special edition about the Aces' season. A dubiously named dunk tank down the right field line provides fans with the opportunity to throw balls at a bucket of water to make it dump its contents on the person below. This is quite popular with kids and others looking to cool off during the game. Final Thoughts Although not well-known in the Alexandria area, an Aces game can be an enjoyable way to spend a summer night watching baseball. It is affordable fun in a great city, and it is a shame that more people don't know about the team.

  • In Tribute to Negro Leagues, Professional Baseball Returns to Rickwood Field

    Photo by David Welch, Stadium Journey On June 20, 2023, Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred announced that MLB would be coming to Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field for a regular season matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants . The latter team’s involvement in the game pays tribute to Giants legend Willie Mays, who grew up just four miles from Rickwood. Willie Mays not only grew up in Birmingham's surrounding neighborhoods but also made his professional baseball debut at Rickwood Field. At age 17, Mays played for the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern League. In 2024, a year after MLB announced the matchup, the Giants  will play at the same stadium, honoring Mays' legacy and that of the Negro League’s players. Older than both Boston’s Fenway Park (1912) and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (1914), Rickwood Field opened in 1910 and is currently the oldest baseball stadium to currently host professional baseball . Ironically, the first game was played between the Birmingham Barons and the Montgomery Climbers – these same two cities will be represented 114 years later for a Southern League (AA) matchup between the Birmingham Barons  and the Montgomery Biscuits . The four-day recognition of Willie Mays and the Negro Leagues aims to shed light on a league that remained in the shadows for far too long; the events begin Monday evening with a screening of the HBO documentary, Say Hey, Willie Mays! Tuesday will feature events across Birmingham, including a 24-foot-tall Topps card of Willie Mays  displayed outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – the card was created by former Birmingham Baron  and MLBer Micah Johnson and is part of a six-card set honoring the heroes of the Negro Leagues, which will be on display from Tuesday through Thursday with special guests in attendance. Regions Field, the current home of the Barons, will also host MLB’s Play Ball  youth initiative. The day will conclude with “MiLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues ”, as the Barons and Biscuits  play as the Birmingham Black Barons and the Montgomery Gray Sox , respectively, representing the teams from the 1920 Negro Southern League season. This will mark the first minor league game at Rickwood Field since 2018 when the Barons hosted the Chattanooga Lookouts . Much of Wednesday’s events will focus on the Birmingham community, including visits to Children’s of Birmingham, a reception for former Negro League players and their families, and the dedication of a Willie Mays mural  at 1801 1st Street South. The day concludes with “Barnstorming Birmingham”, a celebrity softball game at Rickwood Field featuring former major leaguers CC Sabathia and Ryan Howard, along with native Alabamans Jameis Winston, Terrell Owens, University of Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, and others. Thursday will feature the main event of the week, “ MLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues ”. The teams will represent Black baseball from their cities, with the Cardinals  wearing jerseys representing the Saint Louis Star, and the Giants  donning the jerseys of the San Francisco Sea Lions. Tickets for this game have been limited, with Alabama residents given the first opportunity to purchase tickets, and 26% of the 8,300 tickets reserved for the Birmingham community and youth groups, at no cost. For those unable to secure tickets to Rickwood, watch parties are planned at several locations around the city. MLB partnered with Friends of Rickwood,  dedicated to preserving the park's legacy, and the City of Birmingham to transform Rickwood Field from an aging relic into a historical gem able to host Major League Baseball. Upgrades included expanding the dugouts, adding handicap-accessible seating, upgrading the playing surface with new drainage and sod, installing padding on the outfield walls, and improving the lighting while preserving the iconic light stations. Overall, Rickwood Field has benefited from $7.5 million in upgrades. Baseball history permeates the atmosphere at Rickwood Field – as of the 2023 induction class, more than half of all National Baseball Hall of Famers have graced its grounds. Mays will be a featured player, but Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Satchel Paige, and Jackie Robinson also started their careers in the Negro Leagues before moving to Major League Baseball. Many other stars of the Negro Leagues, such as James “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Rube Foster, Walter “Buck” Leonard, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, Norman “Turkey” Stearnen Taylor, Willie Wells, and Smokey Joe Williams also left their indelible marks on the game, despite never getting the chance to play in the major leagues. At the press conference held at Rickwood Field to officially announce the game, Harold Reynolds, former MLB player, and current MLB Network commentator, shared a text message from Willie Mays. In the message, Mays hoped the spotlight on Rickwood “will be a chance to remember so many really good ball players from the Negro Leagues who played at Rickwood Field, but never got the chance to play in the big leagues”.

  • NASCAR Cup Series debut in Iowa an overwhelming success

    Iowa Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race, the Iowa Corn 350, on Sunday evening and to say it was anything other than a complete success would be an understatement. Fans showed up in droves not only for the Cup race on Sunday, but the stands were packed on Saturday for the Xfinity Series race and there was also a great turnout for the ARCA race on Friday. Last October when Iowa Governor, Kim Reynolds, Cup driver Brad Keselowski, and other NASCAR luminaries made the announcement that a Cup race was coming to the speedway, excitement of NASCAR fans in Iowa and surrounding states soared. Cup Series tickets sold out during the presale. The Xfinity race sold out as well and there weren’t many tickets left for Friday’s slate of Cup practice and an ARCA Menards race. For fans, there were little issues that could be expected for such a large influx of people. Lines to get in could move a little quicker, there could be a few more restrooms, and the logistics of leaving the area with 30,000-plus other people could have been a bit better planned, but all-in-all, it seemed to go very well. From the driver’s perspective, many spoke highly of the track, having run there in ARCA or Xfinity races. In fact, 10 drivers have previously won races at other levels in Iowa. There was some concern about a repave of turns 2 and 4 and the effect it would have on tire wear. The results and effects of the repave weren’t completely conclusive, but many drivers wanted to come back, including Iowa Corn 350 winner Ryan Blaney, whose mother is from Iowa. Blaney told the Des Moines Register , “…Honestly, it exceeded my expectations as far as race-ability. The crowd tonight was awesome. If that doesn’t make you want to come back, I don’t know what will.” There was some doubt whether this time would ever come. Iowa Speedway opened in 2006. Despite rumors of the top level of NASCAR coming to Iowa, nothing ever materialized. The speedway hosted numerous events including the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series along with IndyCar series events. In 2019, the track was purchased by NASCAR and hopes once again surged that a long-awaited Cup race would be possible. Those hopes were quickly dampened by the Covid epidemic. Since Covid, an IndyCar weekend has returned. ARCA Menards Series races came back as well but were not well attended. Attendance wasn’t a problem this weekend. Fans showed up early to take in other activities before the races. At the NASCAR experience area, you could listen to a NASCAR podcast being recorded by driver Corey LaJoie, attend driver Q&A sessions, and get autographs. Drivers made appearances and signed autographs at other sponsors displays throughout the weekend and most fans seemed to leave with at least one item from their favorite driver or team from the numerous merchandise areas. All things considered, the weekend couldn’t have gone much better if you made the trip to Newton, Iowa and Iowa Speedway.. Will the Cup series race return in 2025 and beyond? Time will tell. But for one hot and steamy weekend in June, the “fastest short track on the planet” proved it can be a player on one of auto racing’s biggest stages.

  • Chase Field - Arizona Diamondbacks

    Photos by Chris Green and Meg Minard, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00 Chase Field 401 E Jefferson St Phoenix, AZ 85004 Arizona Diamondbacks website Chase Field website Year Opened: 1998 Capacity: 48,519 Twenty-Five Years of D-Backs Baseball The MLB Arizona Diamondbacks (D-Backs) claimed their one and only World Series Championships over 20 seasons ago. The team has made it to the postseason several times over the years and fans are looking for that to happen again soon. The team is celebrating its 25th season in 2023. The D-Backs play their home games at Chase Field, formerly known as Bank One Ballpark. It is one of eight major league baseball stadiums with a dome or retractab le roof. It’s needed fo r the extremely hot summers in Phoenix, AZ. Chase Field hosted WBC (World Baseball Classic) games in 2006, 2013, and 2023. It serves as a concert hall several times throughout the year. It has held soccer matches , bull-riding contests, Supercross and Monster Jams, and more. The D-Backs put on a good game day operation. To me, there is a vast difference in seeing a game with the roof open vs. the roof closed, so if doable, try attendin g a game in April when the weather isn’ t as hot and the roof is open. Food & Beverage 4 Like most MLB facilities, all varieties of food stands, concessions, bars, snacks, and drink offerings are widely available at Chase Field at traditional high-priced stadiu m prices. New for the 2023 season, the D-Backs are selling visiting team-themed hot dogs (near section 105). For example, when the Phillies come to town, they offer a Philly Dog (Whiz, Philly Steak, and grilled onions) or when the Brewers come to town, lots of cheese and fried cheese curds come with those dogs. A new Gyro stand and BBQ concessions ar e also o pen. Some offerings include: Hungry Hill sangwiches – yes, spelled with a g (sausage, bratwurst, meatball, etc.) $10 - $11, Rey Gloria’s Tamales, Cold Stone Creamery, and Streets of New York Pizza ($11). Vegan burgers and wraps are available at some concessions. Gadzooks (a local Phoenix restaurant known for their enchiladas), a Fry’s Food grab-and-go, and the Still at Cutwater (canned cocktails) are other options. Several stands offer ‘avoiding gluten’ and/or vegan and vegetarian choices. Craft beers include local Phoenix Four Peaks, as well as Elysian, Golden Road, and Cerveza Importada. A Hop Valley stand is on the first level down the first base side. Beer and cocktail stands line the entire concourse. Chase Field provides value items at their Double Header concession stands where a Pepsi, hot dog, corn dog, or popcorn are each just $2.99. That’s quite a deal when all that’s desired is a snack, however, the hot dogs are cold and not tasty. Get the popcorn instead if purchasing a value item. Three restaurants are at Chase Field: Guy Fieri DTPHX Kitchen & Bar @ Caesars Sportsbook (across the main entrance) Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers (left field – open 7 days a week) Draft Room (upstairs in right field – open to the public) The first level of Chase Field has way more concession options than the third level. Outside food is permitted in the stadium as long as it’s in a clear plastic bag. Fans can bring sealed bottles of water in as well. Atmosphere 3 The Diamondbacks provide a decent game day experience where, for the most part, the actual game still seems like the focus of attention. The stadium is a bit dark inside when the roof and panels are closed. It’s much brighter and cheerier when it’s open. That said, it is a relief to have a roof and air conditioning during the hot months of the summer. The stadium has three levels of seating, with the middle level being the club level. Most seats are the comfortable standard green fold-down stadium seats with cup holders and plenty of legroom. The upper third level is rather steep. The lower left and right field seating areas have metal bleachers with backs and cup holders. Nets protect the first level seating areas from sections 111 – 134. Installed in 2019, Shaw B1K synthetic turf expects to reduce water consumption by two million gallons per season. To the naked eye from the third level, it looks quite natural. The scoreboard features clear game information and video replays. Panels on each side of the scoreboard display the lineups for e ach team. Out-of-town scores are also posted on dot matrix boards in the outfield. The scoreboard provides closed captioning for ‘canned’ announcements. The organization runs promotions throughout the season and includes things like bobblehead giveaways, fireworks, ethnic heritage days, etc. The music volume is acceptable. Fans can have conversations with their neighbors without having to yell over the music. A unique feature at Chase Field is the swimming pool in right-center field. A few other stadiums have that now (like the Marlins’ loanDepot Park and the Jacksonvill e Jaguars’ v enue), but Chase Field was the first. Another item to visit when in the park is the History & Championship Exhibit– a museum documenting the Arizona Diamondbacks’ history - its origination, logos, victorious moments, signed autographs, gold gloves, and more. The museum is on the first level center field concourse. Chase Field Swimming Pool, Photo by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Neighborhood 5 Located right in downtown Phoenix, Chase Field is within a few blocks of many restaurants, bars, hotels, and other entertainment. The Arrogant Butcher, Pizzeria Bianco, The Kettle Black Kitchen, Ingo’s Tasty Food, and Majerles’ are just a few blocks away. If you’re just looking for an affordable craft beer before the game, check out the Whining Pig. A Huss Brewing Brewpub is a few blocks from the stadium. Recommended places to stay within walking distance of the stadium include the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, Renaissance Phoenix Downtown, Courtyard by Marriott Phoenix Downtown, or Springhill Suites. Plenty more are in the neighborhood. Since these are right smack downtown, they are pricey. Other hotels near the Valley Metro light rail stations may offer more affordable choices. Attractions near Chase Field include the Arizona Science Center, Wells Fargo Museum, Heritage Square, and St Mary’s Basilica. The WNBA Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers (indoor football) are other sports in the area during baseball season. Fans 3 Diamondback fans provide decent encouragement to the team, albeit in small numbers. However, when popular teams like the Red Sox, Cubs, or Yankees come to town, the stadium gets sold out. Fan attendance generally runs a tad over 50% full and the Diamondbacks are about the middle of the pack in overall MLB attendance. Most fans sport their Diamondback hats and jerseys to games and they are quite welcoming to visiting fans. Access 5 Chase Field is very accessible via automobile as it has close and easy access to I-10 and I-17. Plenty of parking is available for $10 - $22 in nearby garages and lots. The Chase Field Garage at 401 S 4th St is the closest. Parking is cashless at most garage s, but some of the lots are cash-only. Even better than driving, Phoenix’s Metro Light rail system has a stop right near Chase Field’s entrance either at the 3rd St/Washington or the 3rd St/Jefferson stop depending on which direction you are travelling. Light Rail Station at Chase Field, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey If travelling from out of town, Sky Harbor International Airport is the most popular airport in the area. A fan can take the light rail right from the airport to Chase Field. Located in the APS Solar Pavilion by the main entrance, the stadium offers lockers to store luggage or oversized items. Gates open 1 ½ hours before the first pi tch on Sunday - Thursday and two hours before o n Friday and Saturday. Chase Field allows fans to bring in clear stadium bags (12” x 6” x 12”) and small hand-sized clutches. Inside the venue, the concourses are wide (even on the third level) though I expect during a sold-out game even those can get crowded. Only one escalator is available near the main entrance at Jefferson and 4th St. Elevators are on hand to get patrons to the higher seating levels. The stadium is equipped with sev en all-inclusive res trooms which have baby changing tables. Return on Investment 4 Single-game ticket prices range from $19 up to $190 (even more when the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs come to town). Prices vary based on the game day and the opponent. Check third-party sites to see if there are less expensive tickets if attending just one game. The D-Backs have extremely affordable season ticket holder packages and deals (even mini plans) so if living in the area, that is a more affordable option. Concession prices are high but not uncommon for MLB stadiums. They do have the $2.99 deal so that’s a fantastic bonus. Inexpensive parking or a $4 day pass ($2 for seniors) on the light rail makes getting to the ballpark quite reasonable. All in all, attending a game at Chase Field is worth a ny fan's sp orts entertainment budget. Extras 4 Chase Field has several additional items worth noting. Energy Efficient Pavilion – The APS Solar Pavilion provides 14,000+ square feet of shaded entry, plus it generates additional solar power energy. Organ Music - Organist B obby Freeman, located on the third level just near the top of the escalator and kid’s zone, is a joy to listen to at points during the game. Swimming Pool – Chase Field is the first sports venue in North America to provide aquatic delight for its fans. Chase Bank Card Holders – The Taste of Chase concession stand next to the main merchandise shop offers 25% off your purchase if you use a Chase credit or debit card. D-Backs Insider – The organization provides a printed program with team articles, a scorecard, the schedule, advertisements, and stadium features. Final Thoughts Chase Field provides good game day enjoyment and it is easy to reach and traverse. The swimming pool and the retractable roof and panels offer unique elements to the ballpark. A recommendation is to visit early in the season (April) to enjoy a game with the roof open. Phoenix is a vacation destination in early spring and late fall so enjoy a D-Backs game when in town.

  • Marvelous! Brockton Unveils Hagler Statue

    The city of Brockton, Massachusetts refers to itself as “The City of Champions.” This moniker comes from its history of producing boxing champions, most notably Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. On Thursday the city unveiled a statue of Hagler in the shadows of the site of legendary Petronelli Gym, where Hagler famously trained during his fighting days.   The statue, commissioned at a price of $150,000, is located in the new Hagler Park at the corner of Petronelli Way and Hagler Way. Hagler passed away in 2021 at the age of 66. He finished his career with a record of 62-3-2 with 53 knockouts. He was the undisputed Middleweight champion from 1980-87, making 12 title defenses during that time. Hagler was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993. Boxing Illustrated named him the 1980s Fighter of the Decade, and he was named Boxer of the Year twice.   Dozens of people were in attendance at the unveiling, including family members, former opponent Vito Antuofermo and city leaders. “I will say one thing about Marvelous Marvin, he never forgot where he came from,” Mayor Robert Sullivan told the crowd. “So today he is not here physically, but he is here in spirit.”     The statue, which stands about six feet tall, depicts Hagler throwing one of his legendary left jabs. At the base of the statue are replicas of his three championship belts. A dogwood sapling, which should grow to about 12 feet tall, is planted at the park to honor Hagler’s mother, Ida Mae Lang.   Hagler’s statue is the second erected in the city honoring a local boxing champion. In 2012, the World Boxing Council gifted a $250,000, 22 foot-tall statue of Rocky Marciano. This statue, the largest statue of a sporting figure in the world, is located at Rocky Marciano Stadium on the campus of Brockton High School, behind Campanelli Stadium, home of the New England Knockouts and Brockton Rox .

  • Campanelli Stadium - New England Knockouts

    Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86 Campanelli Stadium 1 Feinberg Way Brockton, MA 02301 New England Knockouts website Campanelli Stadium website Year Opened: 2002 Capacity: 4,750 Can the Knockouts Go the Distance?   How many teams can say they had two official nicknames before they even took the field? W hen the Frontier League announced that they were granting a franchise to the city of Brockton, Massachusetts, the team held the standard name the team contest.   The winning entry, the Chowdahheads, was announced in November 2023. After a lukewarm reaction, the team pivoted to a new nickname, the Knockouts, a month later. This name reflects Brockton’s history of producing championship boxers, most notably Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.   It’s difficult to completely tell the story about the New England Knockouts without first mentioning the Brockton Rox. The Rox are the original tenants of Campanelli Stadium, debuting along with the ballpark in 2002. The Rox competed in the Northern and Can-Am Leagues until 2012 when the team downsized to summer college leagues. This move was made not due to a lack of support, but due to mismanagement by the former ownership and city officials. The move to summer college ball was meant to be temporary until the team’s finances were squared away.  2024 will mark the Rox 13th season in the Futures League. The Knockouts and Rox, who are operated by the same ownership group, will share Campanelli Stadium.   Campanelli Stadium is named for Alfred Campanelli, who donated two million dollars to the City of Brockton for a project that would “substantially benefit the people of Brockton.” The city used this money to build the ballpark that would bear his name in 2002.   Food & Beverage 3   There are concession stands on either side of Campanelli Stadium, with only one stand open during Knockouts games. The menu offered does not stray far from ballpark standards, with hot dogs, burgers, sausage and pepper sandwiches, and chicken fingers anchoring the menu. A decent menu of snack items is also available here. An ice cream stand located on the third base side of the ballpark serves up Dippin’ Dots and other snack items.   Pepsi products are featured at Campanelli Stadium, available in both bottles and fountain cups. A decent variety of beer is sold at the concession stands, highlighted by offerings from local brewery Brockton Beer Company.   Atmosphere 3   The Knockouts serve up the standard minor league ballpark experience, anchored by the new video board in left-center field. This scoreboard is put to good use throughout the game with video clips, player stats, fan dance cams, and graphics. Music and sound effects play over the new sound system throughout the game. The goal here is to fill in those empty spaces throughout the game and to keep the fans entertained, which they do in spades.   The PA announcer adds some energy to the proceedings without being too over the top. The team is phasing out the typical between-innings filler with their own shenanigans, including the blazing rubber race and "RBPie" contest. The “foreth” inning chip contest, where a fan competes with a Knockout player to hit a golf ball closer to a flag placed in the outfield, has proven to be a highlight of every game thus far.   Neighborhood 3   Campanelli Stadium is located in the hardscrabble city of Brockton, a city of approximately 106,000 residents located 25 miles south of Boston. Originally named North Bridgewater, the city was later named in honor of Isaac Brock, the British commanding general at the Battle of Queenston Heights, the first major battle of the War of 1812. A couple of trivial facts about Brockton: during the Civil War it was the nation’s largest supplier of shoes, and it is the second windiest city in the United States.   Baseball fans visiting Brockton for a Knockouts game will not find much near the ballpark in terms of dining or lodging options, although Pho89, McMenamy's Seafood and Cheesesteak Charlies are solid choices. Just a few miles away, near Stonehill College, Stoneforge Grill and Brack’s Grill & Tap highlight the options. The Residence Inn here is a quality lodging option.   For fans visiting during the baseball season, there is no shortage of options in the area. As mentioned before, Boston is just 25 miles to the north, and the popular summer attractions of Cape Cod are just 35 miles to the southeast. The historic destinations of Plymouth, MA, and Newport, RI are both within an hour’s drive of Campanelli Stadium.   Fans 1   Local fans have been slow to check out the Knockouts thus far into their inaugural season. After about a dozen games, they rank last in the Frontier League in attendance, with an announced average of just over 500 fans per game. This figure is well behind the other teams in the circuit. Perhaps the Knockouts are just being more honest than the other teams. Less-than-ideal weather and the short run-up to the season hindered efforts, but an opening day crowd of under 1,300 fans still fell far short of expectations.   There is hope on the horizon, as crowds have started to grow with the arrival of warmer weather in Massachusetts. As the team becomes more established, it is hoped that fans will discover the value of a Knockout game. Stadium Journey will revisit this review to update as the season progresses.   Access 3   Campanelli Stadium is located on the campus of Brockton High School about a mile from Route 24, the highway which connects Fall River and much of the Massachusetts South Coast with the Greater Boston area. Interstates 495, 93, and 95 all pass within a short distance of Brockton.   While driving is the primary method to get to the ballpark, the Brockton Area Transit Authority’s  number 3 bus does have a stop at the High School next door. The final bus departs at 9:30 pm, so plan accordingly. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s  Middleboro/Lakeville train brings passengers from downtown Brockton north to Boston (and soon south to Fall River and New Bedford) throughout the day until after midnight.   The Knockouts website advises visiting fans to park in the large lot at Brockton High School. This has proven to be problematic in the early season, as the path from the lot to Campanelli Stadium is unpaved, unlit, overgrown with brush, and strewn with trash. On opening night the path was even blocked by a fence, forcing fans to push their way through this barrier. For now, Stadium Journey advises that fans park in the lots along Feinberg Way behind the stadium. The businesses on this street do not charge for the use of their lots (at least not yet).   Most fans will enter Campanelli Stadium via the main entry plaza, where the ticket offices and team store are located. Additional entrances are located on the third base side of the ballpark and in the deep right field. No matter which entrance you use, you will be required to climb a set of stairs to reach the concourse level. There is an elevator located in the main plaza.   The seating bowl stretches from short left field around to the right field foul pole. An open concourse runs atop the seating bowl. Seating consists of red plastic stadium seats with decent legroom. Sections far down the right field line consist of metal bleachers with backs. All seats feature good views of the field, although there are a pair of strangely placed security cameras atop the first base dugout. A deck in right field provides a unique, if unfinished, spot from which you can take in the action.   Return on Investment 5   The Knockouts are promoting themselves as an affordable alternative to expensive ballparks in nearby Boston and Worcester. Tickets are priced at $8 (outfield reserved), $10 (upper infield) and $13 (lower infield). Waiting until game day to buy your tickets raises all prices by two dollars. In addition, there are ticket and concession specials during all weekday games. Two Dollar Tuesdays and Thirsty Thursdays highlight the options.   Parking is free in the lots near the ballpark, and while prices for some concession items may feel a bit high for this level of baseball, there are many bargains to be found throughout the menu.   Extras 2   Two retired numbers hang on Campanelli Stadium’s outfield wall. Brockton native sons Rocky Marciano (#49) and Marvelous Marvin Hagler (#62) are immortalized with their final victory totals. Behind the ballpark in the entry plaza to Marciano Stadium is a statue of Rocky Marciano. At 20 feet tall, it is noted to be the tallest statue of a sporting figure in the world.   An extra point is awarded to the work done by the city of Brockton and the ownership group to renovate virtually every inch of Campanelli Stadium and once again bring professional baseball to the city, honoring a promise made over a dozen years ago.   Final Thoughts   Can the Knockouts go the distance, or will they be another independent league TKO? Early returns are not promising, but this fight is far from over. While Campanelli Stadium doesn’t do anything new in terms of the facility itself or the game-day experience, this is a worthy addition to the Frontier League roster of ballparks.   Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter  and Instagram  @PuckmanRI.

  • Scotiabank Rink at Iroquois Park Sports Centre - Whitby Warriors

    Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14 Scotiabank Rink @ Iroquois Park Sports Centre 500 Victoria St. W. Whitby, ON L1N 9G4 Whitby Warriors website Iroquois Park Sports Centre website Year Opened:  1974 Capacity:  2,500                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The Warrior Way One of the lacrosse hotbeds in Canada can be found in Whitby, Ontario.  Colloquially known as the ‘Town’ of Whitby, with a population of over 135,000 and located along Highway 401, Whitby lives in the shadow of the giant metropolis of Toronto to the west and the automotive hub of Oshawa to the east.  Organized lacrosse dates back to the sixties and Whitby currently fields teams at the Junior A (OJLL), Junior C and Senior A (MSL) levels.  The Junior A Whitby Warriors were established in 1968 as the Whitby B&R Transporters at the Junior B level.  In 1975, they advanced to the Junior A level as the Whitby Consolidated Builders and were renamed the Whitby Warriors in 1984.  The Warriors boast the third most Minto Cup Championships as Junior A lacrosse National Champions with eight and ten Iroquois Trophy Championships as Ontario Champions.  Some of the Warrior alumni include NLL players Mark Matthews, Chris Corbeil, Zach Greer, Dan Ladoceur and Gavin Prout.  Former NHL players Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk also suited up for the Warriors. Home for the Warriors is the Scotiabank Rink in the Iroquois Park Sports Centre.  Part of a massive sports complex, both indoor and outdoor, what is now the Scotiabank Rink was the original building which opened in 1974.  The rink is a classic, old school arena which has ice in the winter for hockey and is the home of box lacrosse in the summer months.  Food & Beverage 3 The Iroquois Park Sports Centre has one main concession, which supports the multiple indoor facilities which are currently part of the park.  The concession is a typical snack bar type facility which offers a number of typical offerings.  Hot dogs, burgers, fries and poutine, cotton candy, popcorn and chips are all on the menu.  Soda, water, juice, coffee, tea and slushies are the beverage options.  Pepsi products are featured and alcohol is not available. Atmosphere 3 Iroquois Park is a massive sports facility that includes baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, a pool, fitness centre and multiple arenas.  The Iroquois Park Sports Centre refers to the complex that houses the arenas and other indoor facilities, where the main arena built in 1974 was built around.  Grey brick with red siding accents produce the look of the main rink exterior, however, plenty of glass can be found at the entrances and newer areas of the building.  The entry to the Iroquois Park Sports Centre is at the east side and brings fans into a large atrium that links the various parts of the Sports Centre.  The atrium has a number of trophy cases dedicated to a number of clubs and sports, including the Warriors.  The atrium also links to the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame which is surprisingly strong and features a number of items that treasure hunters will enjoy.  Some members of the hall include lacrosse royalty Gavin Prout and Dan Ladoceur, OHL and CHL commissioner David Branch and NHL legends Joe Nieuwendyk and Adam Foote.  The main arena, which is also the original arena, is named the Scotiabank Rink.  Just outside the arena is a team picture and dedicated plaque to the 1958 Whitby Dunlops hockey team that featured Harry Sinden and went to the Olympics.  Inside the Scotiabank Rink the clock immediately turns back and fans are met with the bones of an old school hockey barn that has been upgraded to modern standards.  The Scotiabank Rink  has ice and is used for hockey in the winter months and as a result has a concrete floor playing surface.  The floor runs from west to east and with no logo at the centre of the floor, either the north or south side offers pretty much the same view.  Upgrades are obvious, especially when it comes to the seats, which are modern plastic arena seats on the north and south sides.  There are no seats on the ends.  The east side of the arena is reserved for lacrosse accolades and includes banners from the Senior A (Major Series Lacrosse) Brooklin Lacrosse Club, formerly known as the Redmen.  Minto Cup banners for the 1980, 1984, 1985, 1997, 1999, 2011, and 2013 Warrior teams hang proudly against the wall.  The most recent addition, the 2022 Minto Cup Championship hangs on the protective netting at the end. The gameday production at a Warriors game is very simple.  Warm-ups featured no music and there was no music during the game.  Basically, the only aspects of gameday production included the 50/50 draw and goal and penalty announcements.  If today’s sports are over-produced, the Warriors experience is underproduced. Neighbourhood 3 Iroquois Park is in the Port Whitby neighbourhood, which is south of Downtown.  There are a few spots one might consider for pre or post game food or drinks.  On the Iroquois Park site is BarDown Gastropub.  Other options include the Lake Grill and Town Brewery. For other sporting options, fans could consider the Whitby Warriors Jr. C lacrosse team or Major Series Lacrosse’s Brooklin Lacrosse Club.  The Oshawa Generals  of the OHL and Ontario Tech Ridgebacks hockey  and basketball  are not far away. All of the lustre of Toronto is about an hour’s drive west.  Other tourist attractions in Whitby would include the Whitby Harbour Lighthouse, Lynde House Museum and Whitby Waterfront.  The Holiday Inn Whitby/Oshawa is a close accommodation for fans wishing to stay in the area. Fans 2 It is difficult to assess OJLL fans as attendance figures are not published.  For the most part, Warriors fans seem to fall in the “friends and family” category with maybe a couple hundred in attendance at best.  The Warriors typically play home games on Tuesdays, which is always a tough night for spectator sports.  Fans in attendance are pretty passive, which is not uncommon for Southern Ontario.   Access 4 Iroquois Park is located in the Port Whitby neighbourhood and adjacent to Downtown.  South of Highway 401, it is not that difficult to get to, provided that fans are not having to come through Toronto, which is always a traffic headache.  There is plenty of free onsite parking.  For fans who wish to take public transit, the Whitby GO Transit station is right by the park and services GO Transit and Durham Region Transit .  Fans should consult the GO Transit and Durham Region Transit websites for fares, maps and schedules.  Getting around Iroquois Park Sports Centre is not difficult at all and the washroom facilities are good. Return on Investment 4 OJLL lacrosse provides a solid return on investment.  Whitby Warriors tickets are $12 with discounts for Seniors.  Children under 14 are free to enter also.  Parking is free and concession prices are decent.  The action on the floor is great and provides a glimpse into the future of the National Lacrosse League.  Warriors games are a bit under-produced and a few small adjustments would take the return on investment for the Warriors to the next level. Extras 3 An extra mark for the Iroquois Park Sports Centre as the host of the annual Ontario Lacrosse Festival. An extra mark for Whitby as a lacrosse hotbed. An extra mark for the long term success the Warriors have enjoyed, culminating in 8 Minto Cup Championships. Final Thoughts Inexpensive and fun, a trip to Whitby, Ontario to take in a Whitby Warriors lacrosse game is well worth it.  Whitby is a hotbed of lacrosse and there have been plenty of famous alumni who have pulled on a Warriors jersey.  The Scotiabank Rink @ Iroquois Park Sports Centre is a solid venue that offers fans just about all they would need in a facility and makes the Warrior experience one to remember. Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on YouTube , Twitter , Threads  and Instagram @profan9.

  • McManus Family Field at Carlo Crispino Stadium - Putty Hill Panthers

    Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.57 McManus Family Field at Carlo Crispino Stadium 8102 Lasalle Rd Towson, MD 21286 Putty Hill Panthers website McManus Family Field at Carlo Crispino Stadium website Year Opened: 2008 Capacity: 300 Panthers Pride The Maryland Collegiate Baseball League is a summer collegiate league with players from many colleges but mostly from regional colleges and universities, such as Towson, Maryland, Penn State, UMBC, and Mount St Mary's. The Panthers play at Carlo Crispino Stadium at Calvert Hall College High School. The school is a Catholic high school for boys, located in Towson, Maryland, and was started in 1845. Famous alumni include filmmaker John Waters, A-Team actor Dwight Shultz, and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. The field itself is named for the McManus family. Carlo Crispino was a former Calvert Hall player, and Phillies minor-leaguer, who donated money for the new stadium to be opened in 2008. The stadium has been named by the National Baseball Coaches Association as its field of the year at least twice. Food & Beverage 0 A small permanent stand is located down the first baseline but does not seem open for Panthers games. Atmosphere 3 The stadium is small and compact. This means that the fan noise will be pretty high even with a small crowd. It is also covered making visiting on hot, sunny days a pleasure. There is also a nice picnic area down the right field line. Just be careful entering the stadium as there is no net right as you come up the steps. If one was not paying attention as a player is batting it could end badly. Neighborhood 4 The ballpark is located in the busy Towson area of Baltimore County. Towson University and Goucher College are located nearby. Across the street from the field is a large big-box retail shopping center with various options. Gino's at 8600 Lasalle Road is also very close by. This local legend has some good burgers and chicken options. Try the Gino's Giant. If you wish to venture further, you are in luck as Towson is a semi-urban environment with a very large shopping mall and numerous restaurants in the area. Try the Charles Village Pub in the heart of downtown Towson for good food and drinks. Fans 2 The crowds are similar to a northeastern college baseball stadium. The fans consist of mostly family and friends of the players on both teams. The  Maryland Collegiate Baseball League gets players from colleges throughout the area so that you may have some nice variety in terms of fans at the ballpark. Access 4 Towson is the county seat of Baltimore County and always seems to be in the center of everything. It is at the crossroads of the busy Baltimore Beltway, Jones Falls Expressway, and Harrisburg Expressway. I-95 is also relatively close by. Calvert Hall College High School is also easy to find at the busy intersection of Putty Hill Avenue and Goucher Boulevard. There should be plenty of free parking in the school's lots. If you use the lots off of Lasalle Road, near the baseball stadium, watch out for the signs designating foul territory. Return on Investment 4 Games are free, and so is the parking. The level of college ball on display makes this a great value for fans. Extras 1 Walk the grounds of Calvert Hall to see how they abide by their mission of making their students "men of intellect, men of faith, and men of integrity." Final Thoughts A strong level of baseball for free makes a visit to a Putty Hill Panthers game a good way to spend a few innings.

  • Protective Stadium - Birmingham Stallions

    Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43 Protective Stadium 1020 24th St N Birmingham, AL 35203 Birmingham Stallions website Protective Stadium website Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 47,100 Giddy Up Birmingham Tuscaloosa is not the only city celebrating recent championship victories in Alabama – Birmingham has also enjoyed success with the Birmingham Stallions, who won the United States Football League (USFL) titles in 2022 and 2023, the first two seasons after the league's revival. The 2024 season would see a merger of competing spring football leagues, the USFL and the XFL, to create the United Football League (UFL). Both leagues had vied for spring football supremacy, but rather than compete for viewership, it made more sense for the two leagues to join forces as one. While the UFL game at its core remains consistent with NFL and college football, the league has introduced rules that look to boost opportunities for explosive plays and for teams to score points. Notably, the extra points after touchdowns here do not involve a point-after-kick; instead teams can choose to go for 1 point from the 2-yard line, 2 points from the 5-yard line, or 3 points from the 10-yard line. In addition, instead of onside kick opportunities, the team attempting to retain possession following a score can attempt a 4th-and-12 play from their own 28-yard line. Another unique rule allows the offense to throw two forward passes on a single play, provided the first pass does not cross the line of scrimmage. Though the USFL and XFL disappeared as independent leagues when the merger happened, both leagues live on as conferences within the UFL – each conference is comprised of four surviving teams from their old league, and the teams still play for their old league’s championship trophy, but with the 2 winners facing off in the UFL Championship Game. Food & Beverage   3 Stadium concessions often feel repetitive from one stadium to another – burgers, dogs, chicken fingers, and nachos. At Protective Stadium for Birmingham Stallions games, however, fans can find these standard options but with a bit more variety. Hot dogs are available in several variations, and nachos come with a range of different toppings. But while there's a decent variety of options, nothing really stands out as a must-have concession item that you can't find elsewhere. Soft drinks are from the Coca-Cola family of beverages and alcohol choices are plentiful. Beers from Yuengling, Miller Light, Coors Light, Michelob Ultra, and Modelo are available, along with 2 local craft brews, Cahaba Brewing Company Blonde and Trim Trab Pale Ale. White Claw seltzers, Simply Spiked Lemonade, and several pre-mixed, canned, and hand-mixed cocktails can also be found. Atmosphere   3 Protective Stadium was built above ground level, with the south end open to prominently display the Birmingham skyline. Even though the main scoreboard fills the openness of this end of the stadium, it does not impact the view of downtown. The multi-story press box, featuring two levels of suites and a lower level with premium food and drink access, rises high above the western side of the stadium. Breaks in the action are filled with typical stadium promotions like ad reads, t-shirt tosses, on-field competitions, and various scoreboard features such as dance cams and air guitar contests. Fans seem to be engaged with these interactive promotions and features. An unfortunate part of the game atmosphere is that, during UFL games here, fans are confined to one side of the stadium. While this helps concentrate the energy into one area, it creates a massive void throughout the rest of the stadium, and makes for some uncertainty about where fans can sit and which sections are off limits. Although fans are passionate and can get loud, much of the excitement is lost in the stadium's emptiness – even with an announced attendance of 10,000, for example, it is not enough to compensate for the closed-off east side. In contrast, the D.C. Defenders benefit from using Audi Stadium, home of MLS's D.C. United, which has a capacity of 20,000 and is nearly 70% full each game. Each market must work with the venues available, but smaller venues closer to capacity can significantly enhance the overall game atmosphere. Neighborhood   4 Protective Stadium is part of the larger "eat-stay-play" development called Uptown Birmingham. The development provides all a fan might need without having to leave the area. Uptown consists of 6 to 8 restaurants, the Westin Hotel, a dog park, and pickleball courts; much of this is located under the interstate bridges that pass just feet from the surrounding parking decks. For fans looking for pre or postgame activities, a visit to Top Golf (directly across the street from the northeast gates of the stadium) may be of interest. Or for early kickoffs, an evening visit across town to Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons of the AA - Southern League, could be an option. Fans who have a passion for sports history, especially that of Negro League baseball, will want to make two locations a high priority on any visit to Birmingham: Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball park and one-time home of the Birmingham Black Barons, and the Negro Southern League Museum, which is housed in one of the buildings beyond the left field confines of Regions Field. Admission to both is free. Fans   3 Since the return of the Stallions, originally members of the USFL in the 1980s, attendance in Birmingham has generally been in the top half of the league, though that is still somewhat relative. Nevertheless, the fan support in Birmingham led to Protective Stadium being used as one of the two hub cities for the USFL 2023 season. The most supportive of the fans come from the fan group, “The Horsemen”. This group of fans are stationed behind Birmingham’s bench, leading chants of “DEFENSE” and imploring others to make noise to help encourage the Stallions throughout the game. As the game progresses, fans begin to populate the lower section of the northern end zone, often taking off their shirts and twirling them overhead as rallying rags. What starts as a modest gathering often becomes a sizable crowd by the final minute of the game. During the 2024 season, attendance was somewhat inconsistent. The Stallions ranked fourth in the league for attendance, with over 12,000 fans attending the opening game, and more than 14,000 showing up for the matchup versus the St. Louis Battlehawks, featuring the return of the University of Alabama’s national championship quarterback, A.J. McCarron. For other home games though, attendance fluctuated between 7,000 and just over 10,000 fans. Access   4 Given Protective Stadium’s location in Birmingham, getting there is rather easy. Those driving to town will see Protective Stadium directly off Interstate 20-59. Parking is available around the stadium with garages to the west and south, and lots to the east and north. Limited free street parking is available since games are played on weekends, but securing one of those spots requires arriving very early. Primary access points to Protective Stadium are located at the northeast and south ends of the stadium, with two lesser used entries on the west side of the stadium, in addition to the club entry. Since most parking is concentrated on the southern and western sides, the southern entry point near the Uptown district is most popular. Those coming through the southern entrance across from the Uptown district are funneled onto the multi-tiered switchback ramp to access the main level concourse, which runs above the seating. Seating is limited to the press box side of the stadium only, so this does limit fans’ ability to traverse the entire stadium. Return on Investment   4 Tickets start at $10, with an additional $1 fee, even when purchased directly from the box office. Considering the cost of attending NFL games, the low cost of tickets makes heading to a Stallions game appealing. Where things can get a bit pricy, though, are with parking fees and concessions. These costs are avoidable if you are willing to make a couple of sacrifices: arrive well before the gates open to find the free parking spots, and choose not to purchase food or drinks inside the stadium. Extras   3 A large banner covers one of the upper-level seating areas marking Birmingham’s 2022 and 2023 USFL titles. Also commemorating the Stallions’ championship seasons is a piece of metal work that resembles the USFL trophy, located outside Protective Stadium’s southern entrance. Following pre-game warmups, children ages 5-13 are invited onto the field to high-five the players as they head to the locker room. The transparency of the replay system is a great way to give fans insight into the process of upholding or reversing calls – when a play is challenged, the replay official is shown on the stadium scoreboard, talking though the call in real time, until he renders a decision. Final Thoughts The UFL points to the late merger of the XFL and USFL as a significant challenge for attendance. The uncertainty of which markets would have teams affected their ability to fully promote their product. For those needing their football fix before NFL training camps, the UFL is a decent alternative. The league has potential from a production standpoint to build upon, and for the NFL to take note of, especially with the replay system the UFL has in place. The UFL is also entertaining from a competition standpoint; more than half of the 40 regular-season games in 2024 were decided by one score or less, ensuring competitive and compelling matchups. In all, there is potential for the UFL to continue to grow in Birmingham, as long as the league continues to be a viable product where multiple markets can be successful.

  • Sports Journey: The Sports Venues of the Steel City

    Pittsburgh is one of the smallest U.S. cities in professional sports. However, it has earned the right to call itself the city of Champions. Pittsburgh has won league championships in nearly every sport where the city has a franchise. The city is rather compact, which makes it easy to navigate and get around to multiple sites related to its sports heritage. One of the best places to begin this sports journey is through a visit to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center. The sports museum features two floors of memorabilia and exhibits related to the many teams and individuals linked to the Steel City. The exhibits include the Super Steelers, A Great Day for Hockey, the Immaculate Reception Turns 50, and Friday Night Lights. Baseball has played a major role in the Pittsburgh area since the 1880s. The museum tracks the Pirates team through its history at Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium, and its present home at PNC Park. The Pirates section of the center also includes exhibits about Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Honus Wagner. Pittsburgh also has a great football heritage in the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers. Western Pennsylvania has also been seen as the "Cradle of High School Football", as the region has produced top signal callers including Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino. We begin our sports journey on the North Shore side of the Allegheny River. This area has been home to both the Pirates and the Steelers. They shared the Three Rivers Stadium from 1970-2001. The Steelers also called Three Rivers Stadium home.  It served as the team’s home field during many of their Super Bowl Years. It was in this stadium that both teams won multiple championships. Though the stadium was demolished, both teams have displays about the multi-sport stadium in their new homes. Three Rivers Stadium is also where Tony Dorsett set several NCAA records during his time as a running back for the Pitt Panthers. The North Shore is now home to a pair of major league venues. Acrisure Stadium (formerly known as Heinz Field) opened in 2001. It serves as the home of both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers. During your visit to the home of the Steelers you can visit the FedEx Great Hall on the east side of the stadium and its Hall of Honor. Displays in this area cover the history of the Steelers from their inception in 1933 to the present. It has exhibits covering the top players in the franchise’s existence, the top achievements of the team over the years, and the retired numbers worn by their star players. It has a huge amount of Steelers memorabilia on display in the 10,000-square-foot facility. The second North Shore sports facility is PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2001. It is always mentioned as one of the top baseball stadiums in the MLB. This is due to the proximity of the seats to the field, a terrific food and beverage program, and the dramatic views of Downtown Pittsburgh over its right field wall. Make sure to visit the statues of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, and Honus Wagner that ring the exterior of the ballpark. As we cross over the Allegheny River into Downtown Pittsburgh we come to the Clemente Museum. Roberto Clemente was a sports icon. He was a Hall of Fame outfielder, a terrific hitter, and a great humanitarian. He lost his life in a plane crash while delivering much-needed supplies to his native Nicaragua when it was struck by an earthquake. The museum is privately run, and tours are only given by appointment. Our next stop is also located in downtown Pittsburgh, as we visit the PPG Paints Arena, home of the NHL Penguins. Once inside you can check out the displays saluting Penguin greats, including Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, and Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins have won five Stanley Cups over the years, so make sure you check the championship banners hanging from the rafters. The original home of NHL hockey in Pittsburgh was the Civic Arena/Mellon Arena. It was located across the street from the PPG Paints Arena and served as the home of the Penguins from 1967-2010. The first three Penguin Stanley Cup Championships came while they played at the Civic Arena (aka the Igloo). It was torn down in 2012. Basketball seems to be the only sport without a deep history in the Pittsburgh area. The Civic Arena/Mellon Arena also served as the only home for Pittsburgh’s lone foray into professional basketball. The Pittsburgh Pipers of the American Basketball Association (ABA) won the inaugural ABA Championship in 1968. They then moved to Minnesota due to low attendance. The team returned to Pittsburgh as the Condors in 1973. The team folded after one season. Forbes Field served as the home of the Pirates from 1909-1971. It also served as the early home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Negro League baseball. The Pirates played here for more than 61 seasons. It is probably best known as the stadium where Bill Mazeroski hit a dramatic home run in the World Series 7th game to bring a World Series pennant to the Steel City. Forbes Field was torn down in 1970 to make way for an expansion of the University of Pittsburgh. Today all that is left of Forbes Field is a short stretch of the outfield wall that Mazeroski’s bash flew over to win the 1960 World Series. There is also a historical marker posted next to the wall. It is located along Roberto Clemente Drive. The last major sports facility in the Downtown Pittsburgh area is the Petersen Events Center at the University of Pittsburgh. It serves as the home of both men’s and women’s basketball programs. It has seating for 12,500 Pitt Panther fans. Petersen Events Center is in the Oakland neighborhood in Downtown Pittsburgh. The end of our Steel City sports journey is located on the South Shore of the Monongahela River, across from Downtown Pittsburgh. Highmark Stadium is in the Station Square Complex, and it serves as the home of the USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The soccer stadium opened in 2013 and has served as the home of the Riverhounds ever since. The stadium has a capacity of 5,000 fans. Station Square is also the home of the Josh Gibson Heritage Park. The park honors not only Josh Gibson, but also honors Negro League stars Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Cum Posey, and both the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, two legendary Negro League teams based in the Steel City. A great way to end your tour of the many sports venues of Pittsburgh is to stop at Yinzers in the Burgh in the Strip District. It carries the largest line of Pittsburgh sports memorabilia in the world. After touring the Steel City’s many sports facilities and heritage sites, we know that you’ll agree that Pittsburgh is a championship city with a great sports history. Links to various sites: Civic Arena/Mellon Arena https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_Arena_(Pittsburgh) Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum www.heinzhistorycenter.org/visit/sports-museum Three Rivers Stadium www.sabr.org/park/three-rivers-stadium Acrisure Stadium www.acrisurestadium.com PNC Park www.mlb.com/pirates/ballpark Clemente Museum

  • St. Anne's-Belfield Stadium - Charlottesville Blues

    Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14 St. Anne's-Belfield Stadium 799 Faulconer Drive Charlottesville, VA 22903 Charlottesville Blues website St. Anne's-Belfield Stadium website Capacity: 1,800 (estimated) A Sea of Blues in Charlottesville The Charlottesville Blues are one of the newest soccer teams to join USL League Two, having been founded just this year, in 2024. USL League Two, confusingly, is the fourth division of American men's soccer and is a semi-professional league played over the summer consisting mostly of current and recently graduated college players. Pay is structured in a way that allows athletes to retain their amateur status. The Blues play their home games at the St. Anne's-Belfield School, a private boarding and day school in Charlottesville. Although their stadium is officially known as Frank G. Addonizio Field (after Howie Long's father-in-law), the Blues' marketing materials simply refer to it as St. Anne's-Belfield Stadium, so that is the name we will use as well. In addition to the League Two team, a women's team in the USL W League competes under the Blues' name. This review will focus on the League Two experience, but the two teams regularly play doubleheaders. Food & Beverage 5 There are several food and beverage options to choose from at a Charlottesville Blues game. A small concession stand is located at the top of the seating area and offers bottled water, soda, chips, candy, and other snacks, including Honey Stingers, an energy waffle that also sponsors the Blues' kits. A Honey Stinger is like a stroopwafel, only with the added "energy" of an energy bar. Pizza slices are also available here. Prices at this stand are very reasonable, with nothing costing more than a few dollars. However, there are better options, sold out of tents from local vendors (which the Blues refer to as "food trucks" even though there are no trucks.) A local barbecue place sells freshly made pulled pork, barbecued chicken, and steak and cheese sandwiches as well as homemade sides of mac and cheese and cole slaw. Another stand sells ice cream bars in unusual flavors like raspberry cheesecake. Prices here are on the higher end but not too outrageous - a meal and a side at the barbecue place will cost about $15 for a large amount of very good food. Beer is also available from local Three Notch'd Brewery for $8 a can to those of age. Atmosphere 5 Seating at a Blues game mostly consists of bleachers with backs, located underneath some trees. You will have a great view of the action from here as there are only a few rows. There are some seats on the field in what is called the "Fox Hole". These are flimsy plastic chairs that are not any more comfortable than the bleachers and, while they offer a great view, you are far removed from the energy of the stands as there is a literal brick wall in between. Therefore, we recommend you save money and just get general admission seats. That being said, a Blues game is an excellent atmosphere, which is often not the case at this level. The PA announcer is enthusiastic and entertaining without being too over the top. There is a section behind one goal known as the Fox Den which serves as a Supporters' Section. We will have more on this in the Fans section but this is where the Blues' most loyal and passionate fans stand and cheer on their team for the entire game. This is open to all fans regardless of what ticket they hold, but there are no seats, so you will be standing the entire game. Additionally, as this is a section for Blues fans, soccer etiquette dictates that if you are a fan of the visiting team, you do not go in here. There is no reason you would want to as a fan of the opponent except to cause trouble. Although soccer provides few breaks in the action, the Blues do have some on-field activities during halftime. Kids compete in contests such as bouncing a soccer ball on their feet as many times as they can for the chance to win prizes from local merchants. Neighborhood 4 Charlottesville is a beautiful college town known mostly for the University of Virginia. Once you head into town, you will find many options to choose from. Boylan Heights is a popular bar just off the UVA campus and serves up good food as well. It is just one of many places to eat, drink, or have fun along University Avenue ranging from bagel bakeries to bars to sushi restaurants. History buffs may also want to check out Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Keep in mind that many of the places near the University may offer limited hours during the summer when the Blues play, as the UVA students are not on campus. Fans 5 Although St. Anne's-Belfield Stadium isn't large by any means, the Blues have mostly filled it during their first two games. Despite being a new team, the Blues already have a large, loyal, passionate fan base who comes out to their games decked in blue and cheers on their team for 90 minutes. As mentioned above, the Supporters' Section is known as the Fox Den and consists of the Blues' most loyal, passionate fans. They stand behind one goal for the entire game, cheering, shouting, and banging upside-down buckets as improvised drums. After the Blues' goals, they set off blue smoke in celebration. The section is small in number for now, but even in the game Stadium Journey attended, it grew throughout the night as more fans decided to head down there, so it should continue to grow during this inaugural season and beyond. You don't usually see this kind of dedication down in League Two, which makes this all the more impressive. Access 2 Unfortunately, this is the one area where the experience at a Charlottesville Blues game isn't so great. To the stadium, you will take US 29 or I-64 to US 250, and the campus and stadium are a short distance away. Make sure you are setting your GPS to the Belfield campus of St. Anne's-Belfield and not the original St. Anne's campus that may come up if you just enter the St. Anne's-Belfield School. There are signs directing fans to the general vicinity of the stadium, but none directing them where to park. There is a VIP lot right next to the entry gate, but most fans will not be able to park there. Instead, you will turn down an unmarked gravel road next to the soccer stadium (this is the soccer stadium where St. Anne's-Belfield plays - the Blues play in the football stadium) and then park along the side. If this fills up, fans will park on the other side of the school and walk around. If you miss the turnoff and head to the stadium, you will then have to drive around the school as there is a one-way loop; After the game, getting out of the gravel area can be difficult with cars and pedestrians going in every direction. There is staff directing traffic at the end of the path, but they can only do so much. Fortunately, you will not need to drive around the loop to get out, as a small portion is two-way. Restrooms are located at the top of the seating area behind the concession stand, and there are also some port-a-potties at field level by the entrance. Return on Investment 5 Tickets are just $10 for general admission seats or $20 for Fox Hole seats pitchside. As mentioned above, the Fox Hole seats are not worth the extra $10, but the general admission seats are a great value. Concessions are affordable as well. With the fan experience here, a Charlottesville Blues game is an affordable way to spend an enjoyable evening watching soccer, and the return on investment is high. Extras 3 There is a merchandise stand at the top of the seating area, in the same area as the food and beer tents. A second star for the Fox Den and the energy they bring. It is rare to see any kind of Supporters Section at the League Two level, and the Fox Den is passionate and rapidly growing. A third and final star for partnering with local businesses on concessions, promotions, and giveaways. In an era where sports have become increasingly corporatized, it is good to see local vendors being given attention over multibillion-dollar corporations. Final Thoughts Despite being a low-level soccer, a Charlottesville Blues game is a great experience. Soccer fans in the Charlottesville area will want to make the trip to St. Anne's Belfield over the summer to check it out - a Blues game is fun for everyone, adults and children alike.

  • PGCC Baseball Field - D.C. Grays

    Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71 Prince George's Community College Baseball Field Prince Pl Largo, MD 20774 D. C. Grays website PGCC Baseball Field website Year Opened: 2019 Capacity: 500 The Other District Team Founded in 2005, the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League features six teams in the Washington, D.C. metro area. One member, the DC Grays, is the second of two summer league teams by that name. The first Grays team played in the Clark Griffith League from 2006 to 2009 when the league folded, although they only played in the District for one of those years. After an absence in 2010, the second and current version of the Grays was founded in 2011 and joined the Ripken League for the next season in 2012. The Grays played their first two seasons at Hoy Field on the campus of Gallaudet University before moving to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast D.C. in 2014. In 2024, the Grays moved out of the District entirely. Now, they play at the baseball field at Prince George's Community College (PGCC for short) in Largo, Maryland. The turf field at PGCC opened in 2019 and is a simpler home than the Youth Academy. The Grays nickname pays homage to the old Homestead Grays, a Negro League team that used to play in the District. Food & Beverage 4 Concessions at a Grays game are sold out of a food truck that is parked up the left field line, near the foul pole. Most of the truck's selections are Mexican food such as tacos, quesadillas, and burritos, but a steak sandwich and a veggie burger are also available. Most meals come with fries. Bottled water and soda are available, including Jarritos, a popular Mexican soda known for its wide range of flavors. A meal and drink will cost about $15, which is reasonable for a food truck and cheaper than what you'd pay at most professional stadiums, but is on the high end for this league. Food is made to order so it may take a while to be ready, but you shouldn't spend much time in line waiting to order and you can see the field from the truck. They will also give you an estimate for how long your food will be, so many fans choose to leave and come back. Atmosphere 2 Although the baseball field at Prince George's Community College only opened in 2019, it certainly doesn't feel that way. There are several sets of rusty bleachers with no steps in the middle to climb up or down. A few new-looking tables are located up the left field line and are a popular area to sit at. These are first come, first serve, so arrive early if you want one. All seats are located behind a thick fence which makes it difficult to see the action, and some are partially obstructed by the dugout or its fence as well. This makes the sightlines not ideal. A Grays game is a pretty basic experience. You will get to see a game, and that is about it. You will be able to hear a lot of the conversations on the field, which baseball purists will certainly enjoy, but if you're looking for the excitement of a professional baseball game, you will not find it here. The PA announcer can be difficult to hear at times, especially as you get further up the lines. There are no lights at the PGCC Baseball Field, so Grays games typically start at 5 PM so they can be completed before darkness falls. Neighborhood 3 This year, the Grays moved out of the District of Columbia to Largo, Maryland, a suburb of DC in Prince George's County. This is a typical suburb, with several shopping centers located a short distance away from the PGCC campus. There are many eating options to choose from here, but most of them are chain restaurants. Local pizza chains Ledo's Pizza, known for its square pies, and Pizza Boli's, are close by and are quite popular. The amusement park Six Flags America is about a ten-minute drive away for fans looking to make a whole day out of their experience in Largo. Fans 2 The Grays only draw a few dozen fans to a typical game. These are typically locals, and many have a connection to the PGCC community. The crowd is not very active either, though they do occasionally get lively. It seems most locals are unaware of this team's existence. The fact that they moved out of the District to Largo was only announced shortly before the season, which perhaps has impacted attendance. Access 2 The PGCC campus is located a short drive off the Capital Beltway (I-495). If coming to a weekday game, be aware that traffic around 5 PM will be horrible, so we recommend arriving early to avoid this. It should be less bad on the weekends, but still give yourself extra time. There is a small paved parking lot past the outfield fence, but when this fills up, fans will have to drive through a gate at the end of the lot and onto a gravel road that runs beyond the outfield fence. They will then park along the grass to their right. However, there is no signage indicating to do this, so fans are often unaware of where to park. This gate is also where fans will enter the stadium on foot after parking in the lot. There is a gate in right field that is closer to the seating area, but it is locked. However, there is no indication of this until you get there. Restrooms are available just inside the locked gate in right field and are sufficient for the small crowds the Grays draw. Return on Investment 5 Admission to all Grays home games is free. While most clubs in the Cal Ripken League charge a small price for tickets, free is even better. Prices at the food truck are reasonable as well, making a Grays game an excellent value. Extras 1 The picnic tables down the left field line make for a unique place to watch a baseball game, especially while eating something from the food truck. Mexican food is not known for being neat, but being able to eat it at the tables helps. Final Thoughts Moving out of the District has hurt the fan experience at a D.C. Grays game, at least for now, and it is a pretty simple experience here at Prince George's Community College. Baseball purists will certainly enjoy it, and it's hard to argue with free baseball on a warm summer evening. One hopes that with more time in their new stadium, the team will have the opportunity to improve things here.

  • An Interview with Philly Sports Fanatic KRAV!

    Peter Kravitz has worn many hats in the sports world. He grew up a Philadelphia sports fanatic. He was the spring training bat boy for the Phillies. Then, he was a Blue Hen, a wrestler at the University of Delaware. Following graduation, he coached wrestling at Haverford College. After a stint as a sports writer, Kravitz switched gears entirely and became a high school teacher. For twenty-nine years, he taught English and coached sports teams at Wantagh High School on Long Island, where he was simply known as KRAV. Recently, Krav wrote about his experiences in his memoir, So You Wanna Be a Teacher. He took a few moments to discuss his book and epic teaching career, as well as some of his most memorable sports adventures, including hallway wrestling. STADIUM JOURNEY: So, what inspired you to write So You Wanna Be a Teacher? KRAV: I tried to write it several times while I was teaching but never got anywhere. Then, I retired and found a different starting point. I had a breakdown at 20, landed in a mental hospital, and started telling that story, which flowed easily into teaching. SJ: A lot of people have preconceived notions of what it's like to be a teacher. Positives? Negatives? Would you do it all over again? KRAV: It’s a very difficult, exhausting job, not just teaching five to six classes a day but all of your interactions with the kids, colleagues, and administrators. I tried to say hello to so many of the kids and see how they were doing. You grade papers at home, eat dinner, and pass out, as you have to be up very early. But it’s also very rewarding. You feel like you’re making a difference in kids’ lives. Also, being around kids can be uplifting. They’re young, and their lives are ahead of them. Would I do it all over again? Knowing how hard and exhausting it was, I’m not sure. Journalism or broadcasting might have been interesting, but it wouldn’t have been as rewarding. SJ: When you were teaching, how did you handle phones? How much of a problem was it? KRAV: I wasn’t a very good disciplinarian. If kids were disruptive with the phones, I’d tell them to put them away. The rules were always changing regarding whether we could confiscate them. With a bad class, however, phones were good. The obnoxious kids would get distracted with them and not disrupt the class. I’d let those kids disappear into their phones. SJ: In addition to teaching, you coached a lot of high school teams. Which was your favorite sport to coach? KRAV: I coached varsity wrestling, and I still coach varsity golf and middle school baseball. I enjoyed coaching high school wrestling. Frank Muzio and I built up the program at Wantagh. In Frank’s final match as coach, several years after I stepped down, a freshman named Paul Liguori won Wantagh’s first state title in over three decades at Nassau Coliseum. After Frank left coaching, national wrestling hall of Famer Paul Gillespie took over and turned the program into one of the best in New York State. SJ: Is the Bethpage Black Course all that? KRAV: I probably played the Black about ninety times. I first played it in the late 80’s when it was a complete mess. Once they decided to host the U.S. Open, they put a lot of money into it. It’s a great tract. There’s water in only one hole. The course’s protection is thick and rough. You can be two yards from the fairway, and all you can do is advance a wedge forty yards. The best round I ever had there from the white tees was eighty-three in April at age 49. The rough wasn’t thick and gnarly yet. You need to be in shape to play the Black. There are no carts allowed. It’s an eight-mile, hilly trek. I remember playing with one guy who ate up the front and was even par. He said it was an easy course. You don’t let the golfing gods hear you say that. He became exhausted and shot like ten over on the back. There’s one spot on the back, this one tree on the par five 13, on the right side, where a lot of golfers have supposedly had heart attacks. I once played with a random teenager who had an albatross, a double eagle, on 13. SJ: Backtracking, you grew up in the Philadelphia area. What was your favorite stadium venue to attend as a young Krav? KRAV:  Connie Mack Stadium was great. My grandparents had seats on the field between the third base dugout and the screen. Balls would get fouled up on the roof behind home plate, and you never knew when they’d come crashing down. Sometimes they’d make their way down five minutes later. One almost killed my grandfather. I saw Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Roberto Clemente play there. I was at its last game in 1970. I wanted to grab a base or something. I was 10. But fans were ripping seats out, and my grandparents rushed me out of there before the game ended. But my best Philly sports moment came at the Vet. I was at the Vet’s first game in 1971, and we thought it was a technological wonder with its dancing fountains, big scoreboards, and Astroturf. My grandparents had another box on the field, one box away from the Phils’ dugout on the first base side. My college buddy Jeff Gowan, a New Yorker, and a Yankees fan, bugged me to ask them for tickets to Game Six of the 1980 World Series. Jeff went on to a legendary career as an NFL and MLB producer for Fox. He produced the Bartman game and the Jeter-flip game. As Tug McGraw came off the mound after escaping the eighth inning, he looked over at Jeff and me and pounded his heart. We were about ten feet from Bob Boone when he dropped a foul pop-up in the top of the ninth, and Pete Rose backed him up and snatched it before it hit the turf. That was one of the most incredible and clutch plays I’ve ever seen. And I got a foul ball at that game, which I still have. When the Phillies finally won, I thought I’d get a base, but Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo had cops on horseback circle the field, so there’d be no souvenirs. But my grandparents didn’t try to beat the crowd, so I witnessed a Philadelphia miracle championship win. SJ: You wrestled for the University of Delaware. How'd you get so good and what makes wrestling different from other sports in college? KRAV: I started wrestling very late, as a high school sophomore. In Pennsylvania, the best wrestling state in the country, you don’t stand much of a chance if you don’t start young, but I was obsessed. I lifted, ran, and wrestled in summer tournaments across the state in places like Shamokin. My high school program was led by a great coach, Bill Zimmerman, and some great wrestlers like Billy Pincus, who went to nationals for William and Mary and then became the head coach there. My wrestling partner in Delaware, Don Philippi, became the winningest wrestler in Delaware history for a brief time. Wrestling him every day made me tough. You improve in wrestling when you have partners who either beat you up or battle you. We wrestled at the Delaware Fieldhouse, a huge indoor facility but never got big crowds. What makes wrestling different from other sports? It’s not about athleticism. It’s about training, repetition, and quick thinking. It’s like chess with attacks and counters. You’d think it’s about brute strength, but it’s very tactical. SJ: So let's talk about your great contribution to Wantagh High School: hallway wrestling. Explain. What were the rules? How intense did it get? KRAV: It was probably a stupid thing to do, but I would grab a wrestler in the hallway and battle him. I would usually go after the little guys because I could tie them up. I often had a 70-pound advantage. There were no rules. They wouldn’t be able to get away from me, and I’d tell their class that I’d beaten a county or state champ. I made the mistake of going after a kid my weight at 50. He was a state champ, one of Wantagh’s all-time greats. Maybe I did it because he was my student in three classes, and he drove me a little crazy. He was great at throws, but for some dumb reason, I thought I could toss him. He hurled me into a wall. I retired from hallway wrestling after that ignominious defeat. SJ: Favorite sports venue to attend? KRAV: Two of my children went to Wisconsin, so I went to a bunch of college games at Camp Randall. I love college football with the bands and traditions. I saw Russell Wilson’s first Big Ten game. The Badgers battered Nebraska at Camp Randall, which is famous for its third-quarter jump around. It’s a little scary because the whole stadium shakes. The governor of Nebraska told the Nebraskans to wear black, as both teams’ colors were red. Everywhere you went, there were folks in black shirts. Most of them didn’t even go to the game. They just wanted to soak up the atmosphere. SJ: And the most important question for last: best bagel on Long Island? KRAV: Well, I’ve tried to go all healthy in my golden years, but I still eat bagels, so I’ll go with House of Bagels in Commack. And don’t forget New York has the best pizza in the world. You can’t get bad pizza here, but my favorite is Villa Monte in Old Bethpage. I love the vodka grandma slices. Jon Hart is @manversusball

  • Obstructed Views 048 - Amica Mutual Pavilion - Providence College Friars Basketball

    One of the most influential basketball conferences in College Basketball was the Big East Conference and the origins of the Big East run directly through Rhode Island. The Providence Friars are one of the cornerstone franchises of both the original and current Big East Conference and their experience at Amica Mutual Pavilion is top notch. Grab a beer and join Paul and Dave as they talk some NCAA basketball from New England. You can find Stadium Journey's review of the Amica Mutual Pavilion and the Providence College Friars basketball game day experience here.

  • San Antonio Missions Owners Working Towards New Ballpark

    Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey A recent report in the San Antonio Express-News has revealed that the ownership group of the Double-A San Antonio Missions is zeroing in on a new stadium for the club. The current ownership group purchased the team in 2022 and has always eyed a move into the Alamo City’s vibrant downtown area. According to the newspaper’s reporting, the Missions ownership group has been buying up parcels of land in the downtown area since taking over the team. It is unclear exactly how much a new ballpark will cost, or where the funding will come from. The Missions, who have resided at their current home Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium since 1994, are under a deadline from Major League Baseball (MLB) that is fast approaching. Minor league clubs were put on notice when MLB put new facility standards in place in 2020; the deadline for the Missions to either make significant improvements to Wolff Stadium or make plans to build a new ballpark is Opening Day of 2025. The guidelines released by MLB include upgrading to larger clubhouses, improving training facilities and lighting, and upgrading facilities for female staffers. If a team fails to make the changes by the 2025 deadline, they could lose their affiliation with MLB. The Missions, members of the Texas League, are currently affiliates of the San Diego Padres. ----- Follow Eric Moreno’s Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477. Visit Eric Moreno’s writer’s portfolio site at ericmoreno.contently.com.

  • Oracle Park - San Francisco Giants

    Photos by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57 Oracle Park 24 Willie Mays Plaza San Francisco, CA 94107 San Francisco Giants website Oracle Park website Year Opened: 2000 Capacity: 41,503 Twenty-five Seasons by McCovey Cove The San Francisco Giants have a deep baseball history that dates back to their golden days in New York. Established in 1883 as the New York Gothams, they would be renamed three years later as the New York Giants. There would be many a memorable moment for the New York Giants franchise such as Willie Mays over the over-the-shoulder catch in Game One of the 1954 World Series and Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” in 1951. All told the New York Giants would win 14 pennants and five World Series championships. With decreasing attendance and the Polo Grounds deteriorating, like their longtime nemesis from Brooklyn, the Giants were seeking a new yard. During this time, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, looking to move to Los Angeles after a failed attempt of their own for a new yard, convinced Giants majority owner Horace Stoneham to move out west and so for the first time in 1958, Major League Baseball would have two franchises west of the Mississippi. The Giants would take up temporary residence at Seals Stadium. Upon arriving in The City, Stoneham was searching for a spot where his team could call their own. During a visit to Candlestick Point on the shore of San Francisco Bay, he ventured through the area on a nice warm morning when the winds were calm. Little did he know what would “blow” ahead… Candlestick Park would be the Giants home for 40 seasons from 1960 -1999. Throughout the years, nightly winds accompanied by the city’s fog would wreak havoc on players from both teams. Candlestick would be enclosed in 1970 to accommodate the 49ers move from Kezar Stadium, but winds remained so unpredictable that routine fly balls were anything but. Food & Beverage 5 San Francisco is a city that loves to eat. The variety throughout the yard, from the simple hot dogs and brats to the various ethnic choices is vast and too much to list. Whatever your dining pleasure is, you will not go wrong. One of the many plentiful food items the locals love is their garlic fries. The aroma from the fries is evident throughout the entire stadium as the smell of garlic permeates throughout the concourses onto the stands. The variety of fine ballpark dining options is reason alone to arrive early. Among the favorites here are the Crazy Crab’z Sandwich, a fresh Dungeness crab on grilled sourdough bread, as well as The Baby Bull Carved Tri-Tip Sandwich and the Cha Cha Bowl, which comes with jerk chicken, white rice, and black beans topped with pineapple salsa; the latter two in honor of Giant legend Orlando Cepeda, known during his playing days as “The Baby Bull.” Oracle Park Crazy Crab Stand, Photo by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey Craving some Filipino finger foods? The Lumpia Company is a locally owned lumpia hotspot serving a variety of fried spring roll options including a Shanghai-style lumpia with ground pork, diced shrimp, carrots, and water chestnuts, a vegan option with kale, potatoes, and roasted mushrooms, and a bacon cheeseburger lumpia stuffed with beef, smoky bacon, cheddar, and onions. If you want to keep it simple I highly recommend the pork and shrimp lumpia. Oracle Park Lumpia, Photo by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey Beverages available are your usual Coke products as well as a wide variety of domestic and import draft and bottled beer, wine, and specialty cocktails. Ghirardelli, a San Francisco institution, offers fans a sweet tooth of hot fudge sundaes, 2 scoop waffle cones, and hot cocoa for those cold evening games. The ice cream flavors are simple, Ghirardelli Chocolate and vanilla. While nothing spectacular, the options Ghirardelli offers are something you may want to enjoy at the yard as part of the Oracle Park and San Francisco experience. Atmosphere 5 The vibe one gets is evident as you approach the yard. Since its opening in 2000, Oracle Park has featured some of the busiest turnstiles in all of baseball. From the views beyond the bay to the nightly breeze, Oracle Park, with its gorgeous surroundings anchored by the bay, has done more than its share to bring baseball fans to its gem. Adding to the San Francisco atmosphere, an actual cable car is located in the right-center field arcade. The car, originally car #4 formerly #504, is now numbered 44 in honor of Willie McCovey. To take in one of the many true “Oracle Park/San Francisco Experiences,” fans are encouraged to take in an inning. Neighborhood 4 Once an industrial area that occupied World War 2 storage units, Oracle Park has certainly helped revitalize the surrounding area since its opening in 2000. Located in the district known as China Basin, the area around the yard has seen its share of high-end luxury units migrate into the neighborhood. Among the popular pre and post-game hangouts are MoMo’s and Lucky Strike, conveniently located across the street from the yard’s grand entrance, Willie Mays Plaza on 3rd, and King. MoMo’s is right around the corner on 2nd and King. If you are looking to explore the area during your visit to China Basin, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority offers trolley service to and from the yard, with the “N” line taking fans by historic Golden Gate Park with stations along Market Street in downtown connecting you to other trolley and transit lines to explore other parts of The City. Speaking of the Golden Gate, if it’s that highly talked about bridge you want to visit, you can take the “N” to Judah Street and 19th Avenue and transfer to bus line 28. The 28 will drop you off right at the foot of the bridge. Fisherman’s Wharf is not far from the yard either. One could walk along King Street through The Embarcadero to The Wharf and enjoy the sweeping views of the bay throughout the approximately 3-mile walk. Or one could take one of San Francisco’s vintage street cars to The Wharf as well. Scoffed by locals as being touristy, if it’s your first time venturing into The City, you may still want to pay a visit to The Wharf and grab yourself a crab sandwich or some chowder on sourdough from one of the many vendors. One of my favorite activities to do at The Wharf is visiting the sea lions along the pier at the Sea Lion Center. Fans 4 With San Francisco being one of the most expensive cities to live in, the crowd can be upscale. Even with such an upscale crowd, the fan base is diverse. Though San Franciscans can have a reputation of being the wine and cheese type; that does not prevent the locals from showing off their passion for the home nine. Inside Car 44, Photo by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey With a lineup full of young prospects the Giants continue to average over 30,000 fans a game, putting them among the upper half of the league. Access 4 Navigating through the concourses can be a bit of a challenge, especially a promenade along the arcade. This is mostly due to space limitations during the building of this gem. Otherwise, strolling the park is highly encouraged to soak in all the beautiful vantage points. Parking can not only be a challenge but also extremely pricey. However, depending on how far you’re willing to walk you may be able to find a spot starting at $20. Public transit is highly recommended. The SFMTA N-Line trolley drops fans off directly across the street from the yard along King Street as well as a few other bus lines that are within the vicinity of the yard. If you’re heading to or coming from Union Square or Chinatown the T-Line trolley has a stop one block from the yard on 4th and King. Both the trolley and transit lines provide connections to most other Bay Area transit options, including the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) for fans coming from points stretching as far south as San Francisco International stretching to Oakland and beyond the East Bay. Return on Investment 5 Starting prices for most games have recently become reasonable. Weeknight games and perhaps some weekend games, depending on the opponent, can be purchased for as low as $10. Even tickets for games against their longtime rivals from L.A. have been reasonably priced with tickets starting at $35. If you have a chance and want a full experience of everything Oracle Park has to offer, try a couple of weeknight games on the cheap and take full advantage of the Oracle Park experience. It will certainly rank high among your ballpark experiences. Extras 5 One of the more recent upgrades fans will notice this season was made to enhance the sound and lighting system. If the Giants enter the visiting 9th with a slight lead, fans will be treated to a Hollywood-like spectacle as closer Camilo Doval trots in from the bullpen to finish off the visitors. Should you decide to bring the little ones and they get restless, the Coca-Cola Superslide, a green Coke bottle with a children’s slide inside, is one of the park’s most visible features alongside the Giant 1927 Old-Time Four-Fingered Baseball Glove. (It’s really hard to miss those two features…) Both features are located behind the left-field stands. Should you decide to continue exploring more of what the yard has to offer, walk along the concourse beyond the Arcade, located behind the right field stands. As you walk along the concourse you will not only be offered beautiful views of the Bay Bridge but you will be a stone’s throw away from McCovey Cove, where you will see kayakers awaiting a Splash Hit. Limited on funds? How ‘bout some free baseball? That’s right folks! The Portwalk, located beyond the right field wall outside the yard along McCovey Cove, allows fans to peek into the action. Fans are permitted free viewing every three innings, however, depending on the size of the crowd and the discretion of Giants management, it is possible that one could spend a whole 9 innings or more viewing a free MLB game. Who doesn’t love free baseball? Another recent addition, this one for kayakers and those strolling along the portwalk is a 12-foot screen mounted above the portwalk. Final Thoughts After years and years of vying for a new stadium, groundbreaking would begin in the industrial waterfront area known as China Basin on December 11, 1997. Known then as Pacific Bell Park, this would be the first privately built MLB park since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. Even with the anticipation and excitement of a new yard, fans could not have envisioned the beauty of a gem they continue to frequent. Since the opening of Camden Yards in 1992, 21 other yards have opened. With two no longer used for baseball, Oracle Park, now in its 25th season, is just as vibrant as the day it opened to such grand fanfare on April 11, 2000. If visiting The City for the first time, it is a good idea to pack some warm clothing and a sizable budget. San Francisco can be surprisingly chilly for the first-time visitor expecting some warm California weather. Oracle Park is as iconic to San Francisco as its Golden Gate Bridge. Lodging and other activities in The City, as well as any other major tourist activity, are anything but cheap but can be well worth the visit. One visit to this beauty and you will see why Oracle Park consistently ranks among the top ballpark experiences among baseball fans. As you walk away to the tune of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” a piece of your heart will undoubtedly be left at 3rd and King.

  • Stadium Journey's 2024 Ranking of the NBA Arenas

    The Dallas Mavericks taking on the Boston Celtics are set to do battle in the NBA Finals. Stadium Journey felt it was time to do what we do best - rank the arenas of the league. The website utilizes the FANFARE rating scale, which considers a venue's Food, Atmosphere, Neighborhood, Fan support, Access, Return on investment, and a final Extras category to determine the rankings. A Stadium Journey Council of Elders is consulted to break the tie when two or more venues are tied. We hope that this list provides some good-natured debate. After all, isn't that why we do these things? Feel free to share your opinions on Stadium Journey's social media pages. Without further ado, we present Stadium Journey's rankings of all 30 National Basketball Association arenas for the 2023-24 season. 1. Madison Square Garden - New York Knicks 4.57 Brian O'Sullivan - Once again, “The World’s Most Famous Arena” finishes in the top spot. Seeing a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden is a must for any basketball or sports fan in New York City. Although it comes at a substantial monetary cost, the memories that come with the experience are truly magical and will last a lifetime. 2. Kia Center - Orlando Magic 4.57 Chris Green - Take an NBA team, plant it in a beautiful growing city, and build them a beautiful facility with modern touches that never seem to go out of style, and you have yourself Kia Center, home of the Orlando Magic. Chock-full of quality concessions, comfortable seating, great restaurants and bars nearby, and friendly patrons, you would be hard-pressed to find a venue as enjoyable and inviting for a game of professional basketball. 3. Scotiabank Arena - Toronto Raptors 4.43 Dave Cottenie -Taking in a Toronto Raptors game is an event that fans will love.  The entertainment is top-notch, and the Scotiabank Arena is an excellent venue with a terrific location in one of the most dynamic, tourist-friendly cities. Basketball fans should not shy with the Raptors because of their relative youth as a franchise.  They are one of the best experiences around. 4. Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia 76ers 4.43 Pete Dowell - The fans make the experience at a Sixers game worth the price of admission. They love to band together and show the 76ers love just as much as they love to give the opposing team a hard time. Trust the Process and enjoy your time at Wells Fargo Center. 5. Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse - Cleveland Cavaliers 4.43 Lloyd Brown - Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse has been directed towards improving the fan experience, as the seating bowl and playing court remained the same throughout the latest changes. 6. Kaseya Arena - Miami Heat 4.43 Lloyd Brown - The facility is one of the most unique arenas in the league, both architecturally and in its promotion of the local team’s brand. It embraces the Latin heritage found in the Miami area through its concessions program and the music played during lulls in the action. 7. Chase Center - Golden State Warriors 4.29 Lloyd Brown - One of the premiere franchises in the NBA now has a home to match up with its elite status. The Chase Center boasts an unbeatable view of San Francisco Bay, cutting-edge technology, and a food and beverage menu featuring the best in the country. 8. Moda Center - Portland Trailblazers 4.29 Lloyd Brown - The Moda Center offers one of the most entertaining venues to watch a game. The fact that basketball is the primary professional sport in town, added to the raucous atmosphere of fans providing a great viewing experience. 9. Ball Arena -  Denver Nuggets 4.29 Matt Finnegan - NBA games are high-energy, and Nuggets home games are no different.  The club's recent championship success has brought larger and louder crowds. Yet the costs of watching the Nuggets at Ball Arena do not require a complex financial transaction. 10. Golden 1 Center - Sacramento Kings 4.29 Lloyd Brown - A large venue can harm the environment through heavy car emissions, trash, and heavy use of carbon-producing gasses. Golden 1 Center is a winner in minimizing these harmful issues and should be a blueprint for future athletic facilities. Winning off the court can be just as important as winning on the court as far as our environment. 11. TD Garden - Boston Celtics 4.14 Paul Baker - The city of Boston may not be viewed as a basketball hotbed by many people. However, the combination of a team contending for the NBA Title, a rabid fanbase, an outstanding gameday atmosphere, unmatched history, and tradition makes 'The Gahden' one of the must-see venues in the league. 12. Gainbridge Fieldhouse - Indiana Pacers 4.14 Marc Viquez - The arena no longer feels like a traditional basketball fieldhouse, but more of an entertainment venue that will appeal to different events.  Once in your seat, you will have a great NBA experience. 13. Frost Bank Center - San Antonio Spurs 4.14 Eric Moreno - The Barn is still a special place to watch an NBA game. For the history alone, I think any sports fan should take in a Spurs game – the atmosphere is great, the arena still sparkles, and one day the Spurs will rise again. 14. American Airlines Center - Dallas Mavericks 4.14 Michael Davis - American Airlines Center is one of the finest sports venues in America and is in a great city. The arena is in immaculate condition, offers first-class amenities, and is among the best experiences in the NBA. 15. Delta Center - Utah Jazz 4.14 Lloyd Brown - Through stable ownership that always puts its fans first, the franchise has been one of the most successful on and off the court. The Utah Jazz are proof that a small-market team can thrive in the NBA. 16. Smoothie King Center - New Orleans Pelicans 4.14 Matt Colville -The Blender is slowly beginning to show its age and has received some recent flack for not being up to comparison with other NBA venues. It doesn't stand out amongst the city skyline.  But for everything the arena lacks, and in a city known for its partying, the gameday staff does an excellent job trying to make it an exciting and festive atmosphere. 17. Fiserv Forum - Milwaukee Bucks 4.00 Marc Viquez - The Fiserv Forum is an architectural beauty and offers everything a fan would want in an NBA area. The concourses are spacious, the food is varied, the views are open, and the service is top-notch. When you add the Deer District and Third Street as nearby destination options before the game, the Bucks fans have one hell of a place to enjoy their team. It is a beautiful place for a basketball game. 18. Crypto.com Arena - Los Angeles Clippers 4.00 Editor - The Clippers have played their last game at the Crypto.com Arena that they have shared with the Lakers since 1999. It is scheduled to open the Intuit Dome in Inglewood next season, a state-of-the-art venue that we hope debuts on our list next year. 19. State Farm Arena - Atlanta Hawks 4.00 David Welch - Taking in a Hawks game at State Farm Arena is an overall fun experience. The organization puts a lot of effort into visiting one of the best in the NBA. From the player introductions to the in-game entertainment and variety of food and drinks at affordable prices, the experience is, without a doubt, high quality. 20. Footprint Center - Phoenix Suns 4.00 Lloyd Brown - A trip to the Footprint Center provides a much-improved fan experience for the Suns faithful. They can relax in the newly installed seats while keeping up with the game stats via the new video board and end zone displays. 21. Paycom Center - Oklahoma City Thunder 4.00 Dave Cottenie - Oklahoma City has proven that despite being in the smallest NBA market, they can play with the big boys and belong in the league.  A trip to see the Thunder is well worth the trip, and the city of Oklahoma City is an underrated destination city. 22. United Center - Chicago Bulls 3.86 Marc Viquez - The United Center has enough of what you need for an enjoyable evening of professional basketball. The history of the Bulls is on display all over the building, the social areas are great for spending time away from the game, and there is always an energetic crowd to liven up the mood of the building. 23. Barclays Center - Brooklyn Nets 3.71 Sean MacDonald -The Barclays Center has embraced a black and gray color scheme, which works well with the Nets, who use those as their primary colors. They have also embraced their Brooklyn home, and much of the game day presentation is used to strengthen the bond between the borough and the team. 24. Little Caesars Arena - Detroit Pistons 3.71 Dave Cottenie - Little Caesars Arena attempts to meld a modern arena with something from a different era.  The exterior of the Little Caesars Arena attempts to bring you back to the old Olympia Arena in Detroit, which the Pistons and Red Wings once shared.  A healthy mix of glass and brick, the exterior of the building is attractive. 25. Spectrum Center - Charlotte Hornets 3.71 David Welch - There are a variety of entertainment options to enjoy in downtown Charlotte. The Uptown area provides copious activities for fans before and after a Hornets game. 26. Crypto.com Arena - Los Angeles Lakers 3.71 Lloyd Brown - The arena continues to serve as the premiere indoor sports facility in the Los Angeles area. Its mix of teams touches upon almost every demographic in a city. Its location across the street from the LA Live music, restaurant, and entertainment district makes it an attractive place for a night on the town. 27. Toyota Center - Houston Rockets 3.57 When in Space City, checking out the Houston Rockets is a great way to help take in the entirety of the city.  The Toyota Center is a solid NBA venue; fans will have a good time at the game. 28. FedEx Forum - Memphis Grizzlies 3.57 Lloyd Brown - The FedEx Forum does a great job of saluting the musical heritage of the city of Memphis and the great basketball teams of the city’s past. The concourses are very witty in working in musical references to some of the city’s blues legends while also featuring photos of some of the top basketball talent to pass through town. 29. Target Center - Minnesota Timberwolves 3.57 Lloyd Brown - The recent renovations at the Target Center have vastly improved the fan experience for the Timberwolves faithful. New gathering areas, opening the building to more outside light, and the electronic package in the seating bowl area have been improved. 30. Capital One Arena - Washington Wizards 3.14 Gregory Koch - Although the Wizards had high hopes when they moved downtown in 1997 into a shiny new arena, the experience has proven to be less than promised. Although a Wizards game is more affordable than others in the league, you ultimately get what you pay for.

  • George F. Bachman Sports Complex - Baltimore Chop

    Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.57 George F. Bachman Sports Complex 570 East Ordnance Rd Glen Burnie, MD 21060 Baltimore Chop website George F. Bachman Sports Complex website Year Opened: 2003 Capacity: 100 A Baltimore Chop The Maryland Collegiate Baseball League is a summer collegiate league with players from many colleges but mostly from regional colleges and universities, such as Towson, Maryland, Penn State, UMBC, and Mount St Mary's. The Baltimore Chop team has played in the league for many years. They are named for the "Baltimore chop, " a chopper that takes a high bounce near home plate, allowing the runner to reach first safely. The Baltimore chop came from the Orioles of the late 19th century. With runs hard to come by in the dead ball era, the Orioles hatched a plan: They instructed their groundskeeper to pack the dirt in front of home plate (legend has it he once even put down a concrete slab) so that speedsters like John McGraw and Willie Keeler could leg out infield singles. The George F. Bachman Sports Complex is a 55-acre adult sports complex that contains 6 lighted softball fields, 1 lighted baseball field, and 1 lighted multi-purpose field. Food & Beverage 1 There are no actual concessions at Bachman Park, but the softball fields in the same complex have a food stand with good prices. The softball fields are seemingly in use more often than the baseball field, so getting food there should not be an issue. A good option is to bring your food. There are no restrictions in doing so, and the open areas around the baseball field would make an ideal picnic area. Atmosphere 2 There are only three small metal bleachers surrounding the field. Most fans bring their folding chairs. The smartest fans also bring a small sun shade or tent, especially for long daytime doubleheaders. The field lacks almost any amenity, although there is an announcer who also happens to distribute roster sheets. The park does not even have a scoreboard. The lack of a scoreboard is the biggest fault of this otherwise fine field. Well, that and some seating. And anything besides a porta-potty for bathroom trips. The atmosphere is still pretty good, as the quality of players in the league makes those in attendance realize they are watching a great level of play. The field is also in seemingly good shape. Neighborhood 3 Bachman Park is an intriguing place. Glen Burnie is not often considered the most exciting place around. It is a non-stop strip of shopping malls that run south along Governor Richie Highway from the Baltimore Beltway towards Severna Park or Annapolis. But this complex is tucked in a lovely wooded area that is next to the United States Army Reserve land and across from a Home Depot. The Curtis Bay US Coast Guard Yard is also right down the road. Being so close to shops and restaurants means that attending the game here will give a fan many pre and post-game options. All the normal fast food options are around, with a McDonald's being the closest, as they are in that Home Depot Center. For quick food, the best options are Wingstop at 6710 Governor Ritchie Highway, Checkers (1417 North Crain Highway), and Maria D's Sub Shop at 111 North Crain Highway. Mo's Seafood Factory (7146 Ritchie Highway) may be your best bet for a little higher level of dining. Cafe Bretton in nearby Severna Park (849 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard) may also be worth a drive for some fine French dining. Fans 2 There are not a lot of fans who attend games. The ones who do tend to be friends or family of the players involved. They are a knowledgeable bunch, and cheer and jeer at all the correct times. Access 4 Access is a strong part of Bachman Park. It is located near I-695, Route 10, and Governor Richie Highway. Please note that the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which was part of I-695, could make getting to the field from the north a little more difficult. You will need to use one of the Baltimore tunnels instead. Parking lots may fill quickly if there are softball games also going on. And it seems like softball games are always going on. You should still be able to find parking on a lot or in overflow grass areas. Just be careful to stay out of foul ball territory. A porta-potty is the only bathroom at the field itself, although full bathrooms are open at the nearby softball fields. There is currently construction going on for a real bathroom facility. Return on Investment 4 The games are free to attend. And the food at the nearby concession stand is cheap and of good quality. You will certainly not go broke at a night out here. The level of play of this summer college league is very good. The rosters are filled with players at high-level college programs, so you will see good baseball. . Extras 2 Stop at the nearby softball fields and watch a game at one of the six fields in the complex. The weekend warriors swarm the area and play some intense games. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association holds their girl's fast-pitch semi-final tournament at the complex yearly, so you may see some other softball players besides just the usual beer-league type. Final Thoughts The experience at Bachman Park is better than you would expect. The area nearby is the most exciting, but this tree-lined sports complex makes for an enjoyable day or night of baseball.

  • Victory Field – Indianapolis Indians

    Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29 Victory Field 501 W Maryland St Indianapolis, IN 46225 Indianapolis Indians website Victory Field website Year Opened: 1996 Capacity: 15,500 Victory Field is Still the Spot in the Minors Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis remains one of the premier spots to enjoy a minor league baseball game in the country; its design, setting, minor improvements, and simplicity keep attracting fans again and again during the season. The team has been an institution in town since 1902 and has a stadium that is synonymous with baseball in Indianapolis. The Tribe has been the top draw the past two seasons in all of minor league baseball and has averaged numbers well over 9,000 fans a game. The secret to the team’s success might be the spacious ballpark that ages like fine wine, and affordable tickets, or its location downtown near the zoo, WhiteWater Amphitheater concert venue, restaurants, bars, bike paths, museums, and Lucas Oil Stadium. Then again, it may be just the perfect ballpark for the size of the city. The Indianapolis Indians of the International League have been playing baseball at the stadium since July 11, 1996. The 14,230-seat stadium replaced the aging Bush Stadium that had housed the Tribe since 1931. Ironically, Bush Stadium was known as Victory Field from 1942 to 1967 after World War II. Baseball itself has been played in the city since 1877, while the Indians franchise has called Indianapolis home since 1902. The team has made several renovations over the past two seasons that have included a new $2.4 million, 35-foot-by-50-foot HD video board in the right field, updated suites, and hallways that now include the team colors of red and white, along with pictures of former players, managers, championship seasons, and a franchise timeline of major league affiliates and historic moments. Food & Beverage 4 Victory Field upgraded its food options to include fresh–never frozen–burgers, loaded tots, and other delights for the baseball visitor. There are always the staples that include the always tasty Victory Dog, loaded nachos at the salsa bar, and Sun King beer that includes the exclusively produced Indians Lager–a Vienna Lager only found at the ballpark. Indy Burger Kitchen offers the classic single or double burger along with tots at its concession stand behind the backstop. The meat is never frozen and fans can load their tots with cheese, chili, peppers, or bacon for three dollars extra. There is also a shareable portion of tots with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, and peppers and onions. The Chicken Tender and Love stand offers premium chicken tenders and chicken sandwiches with fries along with a sauce bar just outside the concession area. Chicken Tenders sold at Victory Field, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey The Salsa Street kiosk has ultimate nachos and burrito bowls with beef, chicken, beans, salsa, sour cream, and cheese. There is also the Hot Dog & Sausage kiosk that serves up foot-long dogs, brats, and cheddar sausage. The Coors Light Cove is an adult area that includes a separate ticket but offers menu items for all ticket holders. These new items are street tacos that are just as good as their price. Fans can choose from grilled chicken and steak or bacon and mac and cheese tacos. In the beverage category, Coors, Leinenkugel, and Budweiser products are served on draft, while local craft brewery Sun King offers 16-ounce cans. Sun King provides a variety of beers from Pachunga Mexican-style Lager, Wee Mac Scottish-style Lager, and the popular Sunlight Cream Ale. Mixed drinks and wine can be found at The Cove for various prices. You can also find vendors hawking soda, beers, cotton candy, and peanuts in the stands. On Tuesday, it is Dollar Menu Night featuring $1 hot dogs, sodas, popcorn, and peanuts at specific concession stands. This night is also extended to Thursday night for playoff games. Thursday nights, during the regular season, feature Thursdays which includes $2 Pepsi products and $3 draft beers. The food at Victory Field does not try to reinvent ballpark cuisine, but rather, makes it a little bit tastier. Stadium Journey tip – Get the loaded tots with pulled pork, cheese, and barbecue sauce and enjoy an Outfield Assist Vienna-style lager. Atmosphere 5 When you have a ballpark situated downtown, the views are spectacular throughout the concourse. There are two-tier seating and a long, lush grass berm area that is perfect for laying out on a blanket or enjoying a few snacks from your cooler. The berm is a favorite gathering spot for both your baseball and non-baseball fans to enjoy the game in unison; it is also a great place to get a tan. A lot of other ballparks have grass seating in the outfield, but here it is spacious and perfectly sloped for comfort. The majority of visitors enter through the center field entrance under the arched signs of Victory Field into the PNC Plaza. This area offers the children’s play zone, access to lawn seats, and concession items. You will also find a few sellers offering a cold beer or cotton candy to everyone who walks through the entrance. Fans either walk to their seats, gaze at the surrounding views or head to other concession areas of the stadium. Then again, you may have a ticket in The Yeubngling Landing in the left-field corner. A ticket will cost you $30, but you will have table-top seating with wait service. The popular section can handle up to 150 people per game and is usually sold out from June to September. It is a place for adults 21 or older to enjoy the game in a much more prestigious setting at the ballpark. The Elements Financial Club is $85 and includes food and drink. It is located in the suite area above the grandstand and offers a full-service bar, indoor seating, and outdoor seats. Victory Field Yuengling Landing, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Rowdie is the official team mascot and he can be seen throughout the game entertaining fans. If you are with children, the team offers carnival games behind the batter’s eye in the center field. Kids can test their pitching arms, win prizes at ball tossing, or enjoy t-ball hitting, and water gun races. There is also a small team gear stand and food stand in this area. The team’s official merchandise store is rather small, but there is a lot of great team swag for both men and women that pays tribute to the team’s long history. There is an additional store down the first baseline. Also, look out for tables offering discounted shirts and caps during select times throughout the season. The main concourse features heritage posters that pay homage to past greats including Harmon Killebrew, Roger Maris, Randy Johnson, George Foster, and current star Andrew McCutchen. Much of the Indians’ former Hall of Famers, all-stars, and championships are on display on the exterior of the outfield entrance. Neighborhood 4 Victory Field is located in downtown Indianapolis, and there are many options from hotels, bars, restaurants, and museums; although many of them are chains, there are a few places worth visiting before or after a game. A great destination after the game would be Mass Ave. where the vibrant streets offer an array of dining and late-night destinations. The Eagle has some of the finest fried chicken in the city, Bru Burger Bar is widely popular, but then again so is the taco and tequila bar Bakersfield. If you are looking for music, cocktails, and a cool vibe, visit Union 50. The downtown scene features many local breweries including Sun King, Metazoa, and Ellison. The Tap and The Yard House feature even more craft beer choices from around the Midwest and the country. If you are with the family, the Indianapolis Zoo and State Museum are within walking distance of the stadium, and for a place, the kids will enjoy, The Children’s Museum is just a few short miles north. The Fountain Square neighborhood is worth visiting as well with even more restaurants, shops, bars, and comedy clubs. Fans 5 There is a question that lingers over each visit made to Victory Field. Are the fans here to watch baseball, or are they here for a nice night out with friends or family? It is solely about enjoying time outside, having a lazy afternoon, or enjoying a night with a group of friends or colleagues. It is a quintessential minor league baseball experience where fans come out in droves on the weekends, during fireworks nights, and during promotional Sunday afternoon games. The city fills up the place consistently year after year and there has rarely been a negative word said about Victory Field by any of its fans or first-time visitors. Access 4 Moving around the concourse at Victory Field is simple and easy, markers are located for bathrooms, seating areas, and exits. Ushers are available to assist with seat location, and there are very few barriers in anyone’s way inside the facility. Concession booths are set up nicely around the stadium and there is free WiFi for patrons. After and before the game, local police do a great job of making congestion dissipate on the streets and sidewalks outside of the main outfield entrance. The best way off I-70 is to exit 79A S. West St. and proceed north until the stadium is on your left. However, during certain weekends or Holiday games, the crowds can swell to close to 15,000–plan to arrive early and look for concession lines down the third base side to reduce wait time. Return on Investment 4 Tickets for an Indians game will cost you between $13-$19 (add $2 if purchased the day of the game) depending on where you want to sit. This is the average price point compared to other International League teams. Tickets to Yuengling Landing are $32 and near the foul pole in left field, fans in the Landing have access to an exclusive menu, reserved tables and drink rails, a dedicated bar, and wait staff. The team offers its Dollar Tuesdays and Thirsty Thursdays where beer and soda are $3. Victory Field parking is accessible by several city lots surrounding the stadium including the Senate State Garage (a 15-minute walk) for $7 and the White River State Park and Government Center Garage ($10). Lucas Oil Stadium Lot 1 and Convention Center Lot A are both $7 for most home games. Parking in the neighboring lots should cost you no more than $7-$10, however, parking in the museum lot can run you $10. If you can find street parking, the prices are from $1.50-$1.75 an hour until 9 PM, or if taking in a Sunday afternoon game, the meters are free of charge. Extras 4 One extra point for the lawn seats in minor league baseball, the area is perfectly sloped and wraps around the entire outfield perimeter. Fans are also allowed to bring in a single-handed cooler no larger than 20 inches, sans non-alcoholic beverages and glass containers. An additional extra point for the victory bell that gets rung after every Indian victory. The collection of merchandise from the team’s illustrious history is worth an extra point. You can spot Cincinnati Reds-era caps, Montreal Expos pinwheel caps and powder blue shirts, and Chicago White Sox-era navy caps on fans throughout the ballpark. One final extra point for the video menu boards at almost all concessions and kiosks throughout the facility. There are more and more ballparks catering to visual customers, but we all know that we eat with our eyes. Final Thoughts Victory Field is my minor league baseball headquarters. I have the opportunity to visit the spacious facility numerous times each year and see what is new. Certain nights and promotions are better than others, but it is a ballpark that feels new, clean, vibrant, and beautiful over 25 years. It’s not uncommon to have 12,000 fans at the stadium on a Friday Fireworks Night. If architects were to create a new ballpark for Indy, they would make it exactly like Victory Field. ------- Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at marc.viquez@stadiumjourney.com

  • Columbus Civic Center – Columbus Lions

    Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43 Columbus Civic Center 400 4th St. Columbus, GA 31901 Columbus Lions website Columbus Civic Center website Year Opened: 1996 Capacity: 7,573 It's Football Time in the Civic Center The state of Georgia is well known for its love of football – from Friday nights under the lights at high school fields around the state to Saturdays on college campuses or Sundays at Mercedes Benz Stadium, there is no denying Georgia’s love of football. While Georgians have a deep love affair with the game in its traditional form, the alternative forms of the game have found a niche audience in the west central Georgia city of Columbus. Columbus, Georgia has been a fixture on the arena football landscape since 2007, when the initial incarnation of the Lions would play in the World Indoor Football League. Since that time, the Lions have played in seven different indoor football leagues, finding their most recent home as members of American Indoor Football (AIF). Over the years Columbus has shown itself to be one of the more formidable teams regardless of the league they played in – the Lions have made the playoffs in all but one of their seasons, and have won four league championships. Arena football’s core rules are similar to typical football, but the limited size of the playing surface (50 yards long and just over 28 yards wide) calls for specialized rules to compensate for the restricted space the game is played. Some rule differences are evident right away, such as 8 players per side and different pre-snap motion rules. Other rule changes regarding defensive stunts and blitzing might not be as obvious right away, but overall the rules here are designed to emphasize scoring, to create an exciting game experience. Food & Beverage   4 Concessions at Columbus Civic Center are a mix of traditional stadium fare and a touch of local options. The basic concession stands have a limited menu that includes nacho chips with cheese sauce, popcorn, bottled Pepsi products, and Gatorade. Pepsi vending machines are also widely available around the concourse. The line at Chester’s BBQ & Grille should be a good sign that it is probably the best bet when it comes to concessions here; Chester’s has a wide selection of chicken tenders, wings, BBQ sandwiches, and just good old scoops of meat (yes, this is an actual menu option). Chester’s is the best bet to get a decent arena meal at a fair price, including several combo meals that offer a well-discounted price. Besides Chester’s, a combo concession stand serves a limited menu from Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, while the other side serves cones from ice cream chain Bruster’s.  Pizza is also served at The Pizza Place, but $7 for a slice does seem a bit steep. Full-service bar stations are set up on the exterior concourse on each side of the arena and offer fans domestic beers, mixed cocktails, wine, Nutrl vodka seltzers, and cans of Cutwater premixed cocktails. Atmosphere   3 The exterior of Columbus Civic Center has a rather modern feel to it, utilizing a great deal of windows to the curved entry point of the arena. Once inside the entry foyer is reminiscent of a smaller version of Gas South Arena, with bookending stairways that curve up to a second level. The arena itself has the feel of Macon’s Centreplex, where the seating bowl horseshoes into a wall of what appears to be either offices or suites. A small, four-sided scoreboard hangs over midfield, but the center sideboards either do not work or are just not used for whatever reason. While the enjoyment of the game is not impacted by the lack of a video board, there is nowhere for fans to get down-and-distance information. Stoppages in play are typically accompanied by music rather than ad reads, which fans appear to enjoy, as they are quick to their feet to dance along with the music. Players also frequently take notice of the music being played and are excited to join the fans in dancing. Throughout the game the team mascot, Leo, makes his way around the arena, taking pictures and interacting with fans. There is a lot to make the Columbus Lions experience an exciting one for both those who are there simply to be entertained, and those who are there more for the competition on the field. Neighborhood   3 Columbus Civic Center is part of the larger complex that sits on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, just across the state line from Alabama. The complex is home to several of Columbus’ athletic facilities, including R.G. Jones Field and the accompanying softball complex, which hosted softball during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, as well as A. J. McClung Memorial Stadium, which once hosted the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” between Georgia and Auburn – today McClung Stadium hosts the “Fountain City Classic” between Albany State and Fort Valley State. On the western edge of the complex is Golden Park, the one-time home of the Columbus RedStixx, and following major renovations, this venue will become the new home of the Atlanta Braves AA affiliate in the Southern League when the Mississippi Braves relocate following the 2024 season. Though not directly on site, the Civil War Naval Museum neighbors the athletic complex. Just a short drive from Columbus Civic Center, downtown Columbus has a concentration of restaurants, brewpubs, and lodging. The Columbus Riverwalk along the Chattahoochee River also provides access to the Civic Center from downtown, while just across Chattahoochee is Phenix City, Alabama, with more eateries and hotels. Fans   4 The Lions give their fans a lot to get excited about through their performance on the field, and their fans reciprocate with a great deal of support. Columbus Civic Center typically sees a few thousand fans fill the seats of the arena, and they play a big part in setting the tone for a fun indoor football experience. Columbus players are very interactive with their fans – it is commonplace for players to celebrate by giving fans high-fives as they return to the bench area, or for a fan to help a player tuck his shoulder pad back into his jersey. The Lions have a long history in Columbus, and it has paid off in a symbiotic relationship, where the team is part of the Columbus community and a source of local pride. Access   3 Columbus is located in west central Georgia, approximately an hour-and-a-half from Atlanta’s southside. Visitors from Georgia’s largest city can access the area via I-85 to I-185. If coming to Columbus from any other direction, be prepared to use US or state highways. Columbus Civic Center is surrounded by a great deal of parking, close to the front entrance to the arena. The layout of the entrance is a bit strange in that the box office is not accessible from the outside, so visitors will have to enter the arena to purchase tickets. This line might be a bit delayed once security checks are set up. Once in Columbus Civic Center, curved staircases lead to a concourse that horseshoes around the back of the arena. There is not an inner walkway that passes fully around the seating bowl, but several entry portals allow visitors to easily access their seats. While the concourse continues completely around the arena, security does not allow access to the back hallway, so fans can’t walk fully around. Return on Investment   3 General admission tickets start at $15, which might seem a touch high, but when considering there are no parking fees, it does make the general admission ticket price a bit more reasonable. Concessions are a bit hit or miss. Pizza prices do seem to be rather expensive with a slice going for $7. On the other hand, Chester’s prices are very reasonable, and they do not shy away from serving good-sized portions. Extras   4 Columbus Civic Center is also home to the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame – three of the most notable enshrined athletes come from the world of baseball: Walter Alston, Enos Slaughter, and Frank Thomas (all three are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame). If you look close enough at the end zones, through the black paint, you will notice the logo of the LA KISS of the Arena Football League; the KISS was owned by band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Like other indoor football leagues, fans are free to keep game balls that enter the stands. Players are also rather generous in tossing touchdown or turnover balls to kids, or to some of the more passionate adult fans. Following the game, fans are invited onto the field for 30 minutes for a player meet-and-greet to get autographs, take pictures, or just interact with players. Final Thoughts The Lions play a fun, high-speed, high-scoring style of football – the problem is they might be too good, making many of their games not very competitive. It’s a good problem to have, though; no one wants to be on the other end of that equation. American Indoor Football seems to be struggling to establish a competitive balance and sustainability for its league. The 2024 season started with plans for seven teams, but one folded midseason, another moved to a non-league schedule, and a third never got operations off the ground. Games have been so lopsided this year that the playoff format was even changed midseason. The instability of the league does not seem to hurt the Lions as an organization, however, as they appear to be head and shoulders better than the rest of their competition in the league. Regardless of what the future holds for AIF, Columbus appears to be on solid footing when it comes to the stability of their franchise and should continue to prosper regardless of what the 2025 arena football season might bring.

  • Meritus Park – Hagerstown Flying Boxcars

    Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00 Meritus Park 50 W Baltimore Street Hagerstown, MD 21740 Flying Boxcars website Meritus Park website Year Opened: 2024 Capacity: 4,000 Flying Baseballs and Boxcars in Hagerstown Baseball has been played in the city of Hagerstown, Maryland, for over a century. The Hagerstown Hubs called several parks home for their first few years before moving into the newly constructed Municipal Stadium in 1930. Various minor league teams would play here over the years, with the most recent tenants being the Hagerstown Suns, who played there from 1981 to 2019, playing in the Carolina League, Eastern League, and South Atlantic League over the years. However, the Suns were eliminated as part of the contraction of 43 minor league teams in 2020. The push to bring baseball back to Hagerstown began almost immediately, and city leaders agreed to the construction of a new stadium, Meritus Park, in downtown Hagerstown. The Hagerstown Flying Boxcars moved into Meritus Park and joined the independent Atlantic League for the 2024 season. The Flying Boxcars nickname pays homage to the Fairchild C-119, a military aircraft that was built at the Fairchild Aircraft Plant in Hagerstown between 1949 and 1955. Food & Beverage 5 Meritus Park has a wide range of concessions that are sure to satisfy every fan's craving. Most concession stands are located on the concourse level. One stand features crab cake sandwiches and other local Maryland favorites. Another features barbecue items such as brisket nachos and pulled pork sandwiches. Ballpark classics such as hot dogs, burgers, and chicken tenders are available as well. Cheese and pepperoni pizza are available, but with a twist, they are served Detroit-style, with a thick rectangular crust similar to the Sicilian pizzas that are ubiquitous in the New York City area. This does seem a bit out of place in Western Maryland, however. For fans with a sweet tooth, soft-serve ice cream is available in cone or helmet sundae form. Alcohol is available at several stands on the concourse level and the lower level near the entrance. There is a bar down the right field line on the lower level, and while it does not offer a good view of the field, there are plenty of screens to watch the game on. A pubhouse area is located in right field and also serves alcohol, and offers views of the game through the outfield fence. Prices are on the high end but not outrageous, and prices seem to be going up everywhere now inside and outside stadiums. The food is good, and the price is not unreasonable compared to what you'd pay elsewhere for this kind of food. Keep in mind that Meritus Park is a cash-free facility, so the concession stands only take credit cards. Atmosphere 5 The main gate to Meritus Park is next to the ticket window in centerfield on the lower level. From there, you will walk past the pub or bar, and go up stairs or an escalator to the concourse level. There are also wheelchair lifts for those who require them. On the concourse, you will find most concessions and then can walk down to your seats. Other than some group areas with tables, all seats at Meritus Park are chairbacks. You will have a good view of the field no matter where you sit, but netting runs from foul pole to foul pole, so unless you are sitting in the group areas in the outfield, you will be watching through the net. It is not too obstructive, however, so most fans won't mind. The upper rows of sections 206-212 are under an overhang. This will put you in the shade during day games but won't obstruct your view of high-fly balls. It is a good place to sit to stay cool on a hot summer day. The bar area down the left field line on the lower level also has couches to sit on as well as foosball tables. However, it is hard to see the game from here except on monitors. It seems to be more of a social area than a place for serious baseball fans who want to watch the game. Numerous on-field activities are going on between innings at a Flying Boxcars game. You will of course see the classic games such as the build-a-burger race and the hat shuffle on the scoreboard, but there are some unique ones as well. In one contest sponsored by a local donut shop, contestants attempt to eat a donut off the end of a fishing rod. Whoever finishes their donut first, or eats the most donut in the allotted time, wins. The Flying Boxcars have a mascot named Stryker, who is meant to be a fighter pilot. Stryker runs onto the field before the game and roams the stands interacting with fans. There is also an on-field mascot race sponsored by a local liquor store in a tradition that dates back to the days of the Hagerstown Suns at Municipal Stadium. A can of beer, a bottle of beer, a glass of beer, and a pink elephant (like in Dumbo) race around the field to the finish line while getting into various hijinks. This has always been a fan favorite, especially Ellie the Pink Elephant. Neighborhood 2 Meritus Park was built in Downtown Hagerstown in an attempt to revitalize the area. While safety concerns are overblown and should not be an issue, the area has seen better days. The hope is that the ballpark will revive the neighborhood, but it is too soon to say if this will happen. That being said, there are still some options. Bulls and Bears is a pub-style restaurant a couple of blocks from the stadium and is located adjacent to one of the parking garages used for the ballpark. You may even walk through the lobby area of the building it is in to get out of the garage and to the stadium. Broad Axe is another pub/restaurant a few blocks from the stadium. For fans staying overnight, the Dagmar Hotel is within walking distance of Meritus Park but has a terrible reputation and we do not recommend staying here. However, despite what you may hear, it is safe to simply walk by the hotel on your way to and from your car. There are several better options a short drive away along Route 40, closer to Interstate 70. Fans 4 In a 4,000-seat ballpark, the Flying Boxcars have been drawing quite well so far, filling up most of the seats, especially for weekend games. Although it may not be a sellout, expect a near-capacity crowd and buy your tickets in advance to ensure good seats. The crowd does applaud after big plays, but as is typical of minor league ballparks, they tend to be pretty casual. This is especially true in Hagerstown due to all the social areas used for purposes other than watching the game. Even if the numbers show near capacity, there will still be some empty seats as those fans hang out at the bar or elsewhere. Access 4 Hagerstown is off Interstate 70, via US Route 40 a few miles off the highway. Once you get near the ballpark, there are several surface lots and garages you can park in, some officially sanctioned by the team, others not. Be sure to check and confirm you are legally allowed to park there at that time, as laws can vary. There is a paved lot immediately adjacent to the stadium, but it is reserved for select individuals. Other unpaved lots are nearby, although these are small and fill up fast. A large parking garage is going up right across the street. When Stadium Journey visited in early June of 2024, the garage was not yet open, but it was expected to open in early July, so we factored that into our rating. If we had to rate this without the garage, we would have taken it down one point to a 3. Fortunately, there are several other garages as well. The Arts & Entertainment Garage is located along Renaissance Way, while the University Deck and Central Lot are located along Potomac Street. All of these are a couple blocks from the ballpark. The new garage will only hold about 400 cars and will be used for all visitors to Downtown Hagerstown, not just ballpark traffic, so fans arriving closer to game time may need to park here even after the new garage opens. Payment methods vary depending on where you park - some use the Parkmobile app, while others require you to pay at a pay station upon exiting. Be sure to read the signs to find out where and how you pay. Prices vary depending on where you park, but $5 is a good approximation. It may be slightly more or less. Although Meritus Park is cashless, the parking is not run by the team, and some garages accept cash at the pay station. Others don't, however, so be prepared to pay by card. There are stickers with the Flying Boxcars logo and arrows directing you from the parking to the stadium. This is a small but very useful feature. Return on Investment 4 Most Flying Boxcars tickets are $12. Some seats behind the Hagerstown dugout cost $14-$17, which seems like a waste of money. Concessions are a bit high but not unreasonable in the present environment, and what you will pay for parking is not bad considering the downtown setting. Overall, a Flying Boxcars game is a great value for fans looking to attend a baseball game. Extras 4 One star here for all the unique areas in the stadium. A kids' play area, a brewpub in right field, and a bar in left field (with couches and foosball) all offer their opportunities for fans. Check out the model of a Fairchild C-119 (aka a "Flying Boxcar") in right field. It is visible from the stands. The mascot race is worthy of an extra star here, even if it does have a corporate tie-in. A fourth and final star for the multiple team stores, one by each entrance. Final Thoughts Although Meritus Park doesn't have the nostalgia or history of the old Municipal Stadium, it is a gorgeous new ballpark and one of the top venues in the Atlantic League if not all of independent baseball. This is still a new stadium, so hopefully things get even better as the team settles in. Even if it stays the same, a Hagerstown Flying Boxcars game is a great experience.

  • Grand Park Events Center – Indy AlleyCats

    Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29 Grand Park Events Center 19000 Grand Park Blvd Westfield, IN 46074 Indy AlleyCats website Grand Park Events Center website Year Opened: 2014 Capacity: 1,000 An Ultimate Indoor Experience The Indy AlleyCats are members of the United Frisbee Association, formerly the American Ultimate Disc League, and play home games out of the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana. The building is the centerpiece of the Grand Park Sports Complex. It features 26 baseball and softball diamonds and 31 multipurpose fields for soccer, football, and lacrosse spread out over 400 acres 20 miles north of downtown Indianapolis. What makes the GPEC unique is that it is the only indoor facility in the 24-team UFA and offers plenty of benefits that include protection from cold and rainy days,  an indoor control climate, a full-service restaurant, and alcoholic beverages to sip during the game. The AlleyCats have been mainstays in the league since 2013 and have posted only two losing seasons in its history. To the discerning eye, the sport of ultimate disc should be easy to follow, understandable, and enjoyable to watch, and to its burgeoning fan base of supporters, the next big step in spreading the game to further regions of North America. The sport has a little bit of everything: high scores, quick and short passes, turnovers, close plays, and extraordinary leaps toward the heavens to pull down a disc for a score. During the spring and summer time, it may be a nice distraction from the usual sporting events taking place in town. Food & Beverage 3 The GPEC offers two areas for food and drink. A full-service restaurant is located on the top level and overlooks one end of the field offering 12 taps of craft and domestic beers, plus plenty more in cans. While the concession stand downstairs offers an array of snacks. Grand Parks Event Center Restaurant, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey The beers range from local varieties from Grand Junction, Sun King, People’s, and Three Floyd’s. The beer prices are $9 a pint. There is also a list of cider, hard lemonade, wine, and spirits available. Downstairs is a small concession stand that offers nachos, hot dogs, pretzels, candy, chips,  and sodas. Pepsi products are also served at the concession stand. The prices range between $3.50 to $5; a nice price to grab a snack during the game and save an appetite for dinner somewhere else afterward. Atmosphere 3 The atmosphere of the game is connected heavily to the action on the field. The majority of the fans are part of the ultimate community and will shout out to specific players on the field who are most likely friends or family members. GPEC includes three soccer fields and the Cats use the middle field where there is bleacher seating on one side, up above the field of play. There are 8 rows of aluminum bleacher seats that put fans up close to the action and offer a nice view of the field except the first few rows that are obstructed by the wire guard rails. The team’s merchandise is located at the corner of the concourse and displays a wide variety of merchandise that includes caps, t-shirts, hoodies, gloves, discs, and scarves. The shirts are displayed on mannequins and there are about 5 to 6 different styles of caps. The team's MC gets the crowd hyped during the game engaging with fans, offering prizes to young fans, and reminding them to cheer during pivotal times of the games. After each score, two young fans march up and down the sidelines waving team flags colored in green and white. Neighborhood 4 Grand Park is located 20 miles north of downtown Indianapolis in the suburb of Westfield, a sprawling community that has grown quite gradually in recent years. Grand Park is located near a collection of chain restaurants, hotels, and local restaurants and establishments. Just outside the complex are Portillo's and Noble Roman’s, two local establishments with numerous locations throughout the state. Visitors can enjoy craft beers, pizza, and pub food. A little further down the road are smaller places that are noteworthy: Chiba Indy (sushi), Rail (farm to table), and Grand Junction Brewing Company. Two personal favorites include Wine & Vine and The Mash House & West Fork Whiskey Company offers bourbon, and farm-fresh ingredients in an aesthetically pleasing setting. Wine & Vine is a combo winery and brewery with outdoor seating and pleasant views. The best for entertainment may still be downtown Indianapolis, a short 30-minute drive south. Options include the Indiana State Museum, Children’s Museum, Canal Walk  Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and the neighborhoods of Mass Ave, Broad Ripple, and Fountain Square. Fans 3 Most fans are very knowledgeable about the sport and most likely are connected with the team or the sport itself. It makes for an interesting visit as one can gather a lot of information from the mouths of many in their seats. The crowd is fixed to the game and the only objective that matters is a win by the Cats. Access 4 Grand Park Events Center is 20 miles north of Indianapolis but access is super simple via automobile. The highways leading up the complex are designed with roundabouts and underpasses to keep traffic flowing towards the facility. Once inside, there are two sets of staircases in the lobby that lead visitors to the seating area. Return on Investment 3 A single ticket is $11 and concession options are around $5, a very reasonable price to take in a game of Ultimate under climate control conditions. The restaurant has affordable dinner options and 12 draft options are available for $9. There is also a beer of the month available for $5. There is no fee for parking. Extras 2 The Alley Cats have some of the best merchandise in the league. It is of high quality and some of the shirts and caps feature some great designs for fashionable fans. The Grand Park Events Center receives another point for being the only indoor venue in the league. It might affect the game for the players in some regards, but fans are comfortable and do not have to second guess attending a scheduled contest under gloomy, wet, or cold conditions. A final point is awarded for the team's MC who hypes and engages the crowd during games. The action on the field is enough for many of the fans, but he adds a little flare to the proceedings. There is also a DJ who plays familiar songs with a different beat. Final Thoughts The Grand Park Events Center is the only indoor venue in the league. However, the place could use a little more logo placement to give the venue a true home feeling. Also, being indoors ensures that all games can be attended by fans under comfortable conditions. The UFA is an exciting sport to watch and from my standpoint after watching multiple games, didn’t seem too different underneath the roof. ---- Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com

  • Gainbridge Fieldhouse – Indiana Fever

    Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29 Gainbridge Fieldhouse 125 S Pennsylvania St Indianapolis, IN 46204 Indiana Fever website Gainbridge Fieldhouse website Year Opened: 1999 Capacity: 17,923 Basketball Played at a Fever Pace The Indiana Fever celebrates 25 years this season, including the debut of their number one draft pick, Caitlin Clark. Her presence on the team has resulted in higher media coverage, increased season ticket sales and merchandise, and the upper balcony seating being opened for home games in recent memory. All of this excitement has created a new interest in the team that hopes to translate to packed fans at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The home of the Fever was built in 1999 and is also home to the NBA Indiana Pacers. The arena just completed a three-phase $360 renovation plan that has transformed it to today’s standards. The building seats 18,165, and all of these seats will be available for Fever games during the summer season. The Fever arrived in town in 2000 and has qualified for the playoffs 13 times in its first 17 seasons. It included a championship in 2012 during the Tamika Cathigs era. However, the team has fallen on hard times with seven straight losing seasons, including a 5-31 season in 2022. With the arrival of Clark, along with previous number-one pick Aliyah Boston, the Fever hopes to begin a new era of basketball in Indiana and hang another championship banner to the Gainbridge rafters. With the city having Caitlin Fever, attending a game this year will be much different than in years past. Food & Beverage 4 The food and beverage options have been updated at the fieldhouse and include new and familiar options. The Warehouse District BBQ and Three Point Taqueria are two options that offer fans something different at the game. The Indiana Kitchen offers lemon pepper and honey glazed chicken wings, short rib poutine, and maple bourbon sticks. If you are looking for familiar options, then Fieldhouse Favorites has you covered. Hot dogs, nachos, chicken tenders, pizza, burgers, pretzels, and Pepsi products are available. A value menu offers $4 hot dogs, $3 popcorn, and $8 PBR and Coors Banquet cans. A unique sweet treat is served at the Steak 'n Shake Milkshake Bar, which offers cotton candy, mega M&M, and crazy chocolate brownie flavors. The Fast Break Market sells grab-and-go beverages and snacks. A nacho cart offers an array of toppings, and Ben's Pretzels has long lines for freshly made baked pretzels. The Crossroads Eats sells gourmet hot dogs. The Yuengling Flight Deck and the Jim Beam Bar offer beers, wine, and cocktails. It also has various TV screens and views of the playing court. Atmosphere 4 What a difference a season makes. A Fever game feels more aligned to an Indiana Pacers game. A variety of fans walk throughout the concourse and the seating bowl with support for their WNBA team. The Gainbridge Fieldhouse is ideal to accommodate the newfound fan base that has made their way downtown. Before the game, fans line up in the Bicentennial Unity Plaza, which offers a basketball court for kids to play on, along with a curved sculpture, which features a screen for images and graphics. The atrium in the main lobby offers large windows, allowing natural lighting to fill up the area, and features banners of current players and a large roundel chandelier overlooking the half-circular staircase leading up to the main concourse. The concourse has been revamped and features basketball-theme murals that are both popping with collar and creativity, along with honoring past greats who have suited up for the Fever, Pacers, and high school teams of the state.  The new art is a variety of murals, and artwork varies in designs and colors. The fieldhouse includes a massive $4.3 million 20-foot by 52.5 feet video scoreboard, including underbelly panels for improving sightlines for fans sitting next to the court. It almost feels like it's floating when viewing it from the main concourse. There are also plenty of open views of the court from the concourse. Team banners of retired jerseys, league titles, and division championships hang from the rafters on each side. The Fever gift shop has an array of team merchandise but is a little cramped. However, a couple of stands and one station can personalize a jersey with your name on it on the main concourse. Neighborhood 5 The fieldhouse is in the heart of downtown Indianapolis and closer to retail and restaurants than Lucas Oil Stadium down the street. The only problem is choosing a place to grab a drink or eat before or after the game. Located near the arena is the local favorite Kilroy’s Bar and Grill offers 40 flat-screen televisions, shuffleboard, video games, and their famous pepperoni stuffed breadsticks. Another fan favorite, Brother’s Bar & Grill, is a short walk and is another popular destination before or after the game. A few more favorite spots after the game that are near the arena are District Tap, Mr. Tequila Street Cantina, and Pier 48 Fish House & Oyster Bar. It is recommending visiting the neighborhoods of Mass Ave. and Fountain Square. The two areas offer live music, craft beer, fine dining, and a little shopping at local retail shops. Mass Ave. is also home to the Bottlework District, the city's newest attraction. The Garage houses multiple food and drink vendors, offering an array of culinary treasures. Downtown Indy is also safe, clean, and easy to get around by car, foot, or mass transit. Local museums include The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Indiana State Museum, and the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. The riverwalk canal is a nice spot for a stroll on a warm spring day. Fans 4 To say the fans have responded to Clark’s arrival would be an understatement. Last season, the team averaged 4,000 plus fans, and so far this season lead the league with an average of 16,571 per game. The Fever has opened up the balcony seats, that had been draped off in recent seasons. It has created a mixture of die-hard Fever fans along with new and bandwagon fans. The fanbase feels more like a Pacers game, and attendance is more of a priority than a curiosity. Access 4 The arena is easily accessible from the major interstates of 70, 65, and 465, with parking abundant downtown. After the game, exiting these facilities takes a little know-how of the one-way streets of Indianapolis, but signs and police help direct customers to their desired route back home. Traffic moves smoothly during this time as well. Return on Investment 5 Depending on the night and opponent, Fever tickets are as low as $2 on ticket sites such as TickPick. Imagine paying $2 for a professional sporting event these days. Tickets for games against the New York Liberty, Las Vegas Aces, and Chicago Sky (Angel’s Reese’s team) will cost upwards of $45-$57. However, check out the dates and times because tickets sell for under $15. Prices inside the venue are typical of many NBA arenas, and craft beer will cost $10 a can, much less than what we saw in Seattle last year. The cost to park across the street is $25, but meter parking is available at $1.75 an hour until 11 PM (Sundays and Holidays are free), and there are cheaper parking lot options around the arena for as low as $10. Extras 4 Bicentennial Unity Plaza is outside the building. According to its website, it is the focal point for gatherings, offering a space where all residents and visitors will be greeted by captivating landscapes & art installations and, of course, a basketball court for some friendly competition. The team offers a Game Night Special that consists of a specialty-made t-shirt on sale for $18. They sell out fast, and the team store is usually packed with fans in line to purchase one. The Caitlin Clark effect can be seen all over the concourse. Fans wear her number 22 with pride, and many others bring in banners and signs to show support for the league’s newest star. Not as strong as it has been in the past, the fieldhouse still boasts an impressive collection of memorabilia showcasing the game of basketball in the state. There is an array of items from former professional clubs from the city, local high schools, and the major universities and colleges in the state. ----- Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com

  • Iroquois Lacrosse Arena - Six Nations Arrows

    Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86 Iroquois Lacrosse Arena 3201 2nd Line Hagersville, ON N0A 1H0 Six Nation Arrows website Iroquois Lacrosse Arena website Year Opened: 2004 Capacity: 2,300 The Heart of Lacrosse South of Brantford, through the farmland of Southern Ontario, lives one of many hearts of lacrosse.  Six Nations Indian Reserve No. 40, more commonly known as Six Nations contains the town of Ohsweken and is just north of Hagersville.  At the southern corner stands an inconspicuous, warehouse-looking building that houses the hopes and dreams of countless Indigenous children.  The Iroquois Lacrosse Arena was built in 2004 by lacrosse legends Curt Styres and Delby Powless and is a lacrosse-only facility, one of the only ones built in Canada specifically for lacrosse. Several lacrosse teams call Iroquois Lacrosse Arena home and possibly the most popular is the Six Nations Arrows of the Junior A, Ontario Junior Lacrosse League.  The Arrows have been around since 1974 and began as a Junior C team.  Originally known as the Six Nations Braves, the Arrows moniker would be adopted in 1979. Six Nations would step up to Junior B status after their first season and would remain there until 1989, culminating in the 1987 Tier II Championship.  In 1990 the Arrows would make the final step to Junior A and go on to enjoy tremendous success.  The Arrows would bring home the Iroquois Cup as Ontario Champions nine times. The Arrows would bring home the ultimate prize, the Minto Cup as National Champions in 1992, 2007, 2014, 2015, and 2017.  The list players who have gone from the Arrows to the National Lacrosse League is a who’s who of lacrosse royalty including Cody Jamieson, Doug Jamieson, Craig Point, Shawn Evans, Cam Bomberry, Johnny Powless, Delby Powless, Randy Staats, Leo Stouros, Brett Bucktooth and Warren Hill. Food & Beverage 3 The concession experience at a Six Nations Arrows game is better than one would expect.  Several vending machines can be found around the arena, mostly selling drinks.  However, adjacent to the arena is Bowcasters, which offers several arena offerings. One part concession stand and one part convenience store, Bowcasters is a cash-only facility that has many different offerings.  Hot dogs, poutine, fries, sausage, burger sandwiches, fruit, mac salad, and wraps are all available. A variety of soft drink options are also available as well as ice cream.  Prices are surprisingly good.  A bottle of water, for example, is only $1. Atmosphere 5 The exterior of the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena is nothing special.  Looking more like a warehouse than a sports facility with its drab siding, the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena shares space with Bowcasters, Arrow Express offices, ILA Sports, and Leroy Jamieson Fitness Centre. Fans enter the building on the east side and are welcomed by temporary tables and booths for ticket sales, a 50/50 draw, programs, and a bit of merchandise.  From there, the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena is a treasure hunter’s dream.  There are trophy cases and displays for the Arrows, including championship team pictures.  There are also displays for the Senior A, Six Nations Chiefs of Major Series Lacrosse, the Junior B Six Nations Rebels, and teams that Curt Styres has owned including the Hamilton and Toronto Nationals formerly of Major League Lacrosse, the Rochester Knighthawks and Styres’ current team, the Halifax Thunderbirds of NLL. Even better, there are displays and profiles for lacrosse pioneers and a history of lacrosse and the Mann (Sr.) and Minto Cups.  Entering the seating bowl, fans will find that the floor runs from west to east with seats around three sides of the turf floor.  Orange arena seats are found at the south and east sides and orange benches are on the west side. Purple trim is also found throughout the seating area, completing the color scheme of the traditional Haudenosaunee, formerly the Iroquois, flag.  The north side of the arena is littered with championship banners from multiple levels, fourteen of which belong to the Arrows.  Simple scoreboards are found at both east and west ends, the east flanked by the Canadian and Haudenosaunee flags. The gameday production at an Arrows game is fairly simple.  During warmups, there isn’t much in the way of music.  Before the game begins, a traditional Indigenous dance is performed with a song and drum.  No national anthems are otherwise played.  Unlike a NLL game, there is no music during the play.  There are some “Indigenous” sound effects during the game. Neighbourhood 2 Iroquois Lacrosse Arena is located approximately 10 km south of the town of Ohsweken, and north of the town of Hagersville, in a rural area at the southern tip of the reservation.  Fans will not be walking to any sort of attraction.  The Burger Barn, which was featured on the Canadian show “You Gotta Eat Here” is probably THE spot to go.  Other options include Dixieland Grill and Big Pete’s Steakhouse. For fans looking for other sports options, lacrosse is on the menu at the ILA all the time.  The Six Nations Chiefs of Major Series Lacrosse and the Junior B, Six Nations Rebels also share the ILA.  During the winter months, hockey can be found in nearby Brantford (Brantford Bulldogs), Caledonia and Hagersville.  The Friday nights at the Ohsweken Speedway are popular during the summer months also.  For fans looking for a more authentic Haudenosaunee experience, investigating Six Nations Tourism is the best idea.  Heading to Brantford for lodging is going to be the best idea for fans wishing to stay near the arena. Fans 4 It is difficult to assess fans for Six Nations Arrows as OJLL attendance figures are not published.  It is clear, however, that the Six Nations Arrows are a draw and possibly the biggest draw out of all of the Six Nations teams that call the ILA home.  The game that was reviewed was well attended, with probably around 1,000 people in attendance. Also, consider that the game reviewed was a holiday and the opening game of the season.  Six Nations fans are pretty quiet and not really over the top, typical for Ontario.  What puts Six Nations fans a notch above are the kids.  There are plenty of kids in attendance at an Arrows game, most of them with sticks, helmets, and gloves.  Between periods and after warm-ups, kids flood the floor with their equipment and proceed to play, whether it is one one-on-one exercise, passing or just throwing the ball against the boards. Access 4 Getting to Iroquois Lacrosse Arena is not difficult. The Reservation is located southeast of Brantford and southwest of Hamilton.   The major routes include Highway 24 to the west and Highway 6 to the east, however, it is mainly farmland in between these cities, and a two-lane highway is the best to expect for the majority of the travel.  ILA is in a rural area, basically at the junction of Cayuga Road and 2nd Line. There is definitely no public transit in the area.  There is plenty of free parking on site.  Getting around ILA is not difficult at all and the washroom facilities are adequate.  However, a really large crowd would make getting around more challenging and crowded.  It may be important to note that cellular service is spotty in this area, depending on the carrier, and there is no public wifi in the facility.  Also, a Six Nations Arrows game is a predominantly cash experience. Return on Investment 5 There is tremendous value in OJLL lacrosse experiences and the Six Nations Arrows are no different.  Tickets are $10 and there are discounts for students and seniors.  The concession prices are much better than expected and parking is free.  The action on the floor is among the best box lacrosse that can be found outside of the NLL and it is in a place dedicated entirely to lacrosse.  In junior lacrosse, it doesn’t get much better than this. Extras 4 An extra mark for the pipeline for pro lacrosse that the Six Nations Arrows are.  The alumni list is massive and The Lax Mag ranked the Six Nations Arrows as the fourth-best provider of NLL talent. An extra mark for the community hub that the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena is.  The facility is very busy with various teams, minor lacrosse, and other community events. An extra mark for the authentic Indigenous experience provided by the Six Nations Arrows. An extra mark for the lacrosse focus at the ILA. Final Thoughts With regards to Junior A lacrosse in Ontario, it does not get much better than the Six Nations Arrows experience.  The Iroquois Lacrosse Arena is one of the few facilities that was built specifically for lacrosse and has a total lacrosse focus.  Taking in an Arrows game offers great value for the dollar and is an experience not to be missed. ---- Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on YouTube, Twitter, Threads and Instagram @profan9.

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