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  • Jay Wagner

Appalachian Power Park - Charleston Dirty Birds

Photos by Jay Wagner, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Appalachian Power Park 601 Morris St Charleston, WV 25301

Year Opened: 2005

Capacity: 4,500

The Power of Country Roads Baseball

Appalachian Power Park is home to the West Virginia Power, the newest inception of Minor League Baseball in West Virginia’s state capital. The franchise departed aging Watt Powell Park for the new downtown park in 2005. The team rebranded from the Alley Cats to the Power when they moved into APP. The name “Power” pays homage to West Virginia’s coal mines that power many homes and businesses along the east coast. It also helps create a brand for the team, whose stadium namesake is sponsored by Appalachian Power, the energy giant in the Mountain State. The cozy ballpark is nestled into the mountains of Charleston’s east side, and it fits perfectly in both the landscape and atmosphere of West Virginia.

Food & Beverage 4

Although Appalachian Power Park’s food options are not world class by any means, you won’t be disappointed. There is plenty of variety as well as staff, ensuring lines won’t become a logjam between innings. The High Heat Grill down the left field line offers many unique options, such as ribs, pickle fries, and fried bologna. Hot Corner Grill and Power Alley Grill serve more traditional ballpark fare, such as hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks. Pepsi provides the soft drinks, and if you are of legal age, all beer is priced at $5. The loaded tater tots with taco meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream is a solid option.

Atmosphere 4

West Virginia has no major professional sports teams. Citizens support West Virginia and Marshall teams with great passion, and Appalachian Power Park really identifies with the working class feel of the state. A brick red building labeled “Power Alley Grill” sits down the right field line, and the four-story building doubles as the team’s headquarters. The ballpark’s backdrop consists of mountains, brick buildings, Interstate 64 and the state capitol building. As for inside Appalachian Power Park, the seating bowl is about 10 rows deep the length of foul territory. The setup creates a situation where no fan is too far removed from the playing field. The sections between the dugouts are perfectly rounded, ensuring every fan is facing home plate. The Power have placed beer gardens and club levels near both foul poles, just like every other smart team in the world. A club level and suites occupy the second deck behind the box seats.

As is customary with baseball fields today, the park has a northeast orientation. Sit on the first base side to avoid squinting for the first three innings of a night game.

The in-game entertainment is average at best. Typical between innings contests such as the fitness race and lucky seat happen between innings, but that’s about it. Hopefully, nobody comes to baseball games solely for entertainment between innings. Still, there’s not a lot to write home about in that regard.

Neighborhood 3

Appalachian Power Park sits in eastern Charleston. Charleston is the largest city in West Virginia, and it’s a unique city with some fun things to see and do. The state capitol building is nearby, and it’s visible down the right field line from the seats behind home plate. Soho’s and Laury’s are two eateries located within walking distance of the ballpark. If you’re into outdoor excursions after ballgames, the Mountain state will not disappoint. There are no hotels or restaurants to walk across the street to after the game, but Charleston is a town of about 50,000. Going from one side of the city to the other is not much of a headache.

If you’re driving in, you will most likely access the ballpark from Interstate 64. The interstate runs from Virginia Beach to St. Louis, and the stretch through West Virginia is arguably the prettiest drive in America. Make sure to sightsee a bit on your trek into the city.

Fans 3

West Virginia’s two college teams are supported by the most rabid of blue-collar fan bases. Obviously, MiLB teams aren’t going to have the same diehard following as college football teams. Still, the fans at Appalachian Power Park do a good job of creating a solid atmosphere. There is no shortage of clean heckling from the locals near home plate. In fact, Charleston deputy mayor Rod Blackstone, better known as “the Toastman,” is a ballpark icon. Blackstone sits in the first row behind home plate next to a working toaster oven. When a visiting player strikes out, he grabs a piece of freshly toasted bread and throws it above his head, while simultaneously exclaiming, “You are toast!” He leads the locals in chants and heckles that are so corny you’ll be laughing for a full nine innings.

Access 4

Getting to downtown ballparks these days can be difficult, but that won’t be the case at Appalachian Power Park. Three interstates converge in Charleston, meaning that traffic won’t be too congested before or after the game. The stadium is also less than a mile from the interstate exits.

Parking is located beyond the both right and center field across Morris Street. Parking costs $4 if you want the lot 100 feet away from the main gate, although you can save one dollar by walking about twice as far. Transportation to and from the park is about as simple as it gets.

The main entrance is located near the right field foul pole. Ticket offices and will call windows are located alongside the brick building labeled “Power Alley Grill” a few feet from the gates. The other entrance is directly behind home plate. Due to the setup of the ballpark, the concourse is uncovered and even wider than the concourses of most new ballparks. Everything about Appalachian Power Park is very fan-friendly, although the restrooms leave something to be desired.

The restrooms are about average size and cleanliness, but the problem is the sinks. When washing your hands, its impossible to put your hands under the water without touching the back wall of the sink due to the faucet that shoots straight down that wall. It appears every sink in every restroom has the exact same problem, and it needs to be addressed. If washing hands is always a counter-intuitive process, that’s a real problem. Other than that, it’s hard to have any real complaints about accessibility at Appalachian Power Park.

Return on Investment 5

Minor League Baseball’s marketing modus operandi is no secret – affordable fun for the whole family. Just about every team provides that, but nobody does it better than Appalachian Power Park. Tickets are priced at $8 for box seats and $6 for general admission. The 14 sections of box seats are located around the ring of the seating bowl, and they are all the same price in every section. Box seating is bookended by a general admission section on each side. The fact that you can get two seats behind home plate for less than an Andrew Jackson is a ridiculous deal. If you’re into spending less and getting more, get out to a West Virginia Power game as soon as possible.

Extras 2

The one feature that will surely stand out to any dedicated fan is the scoreboard graphic package. The scoreboard is a good size, but the layout takes it to a whole other level. The information is prominently displayed in legible, colorful fonts, and balls and strikes are easy to find. Another great feature is the lineups that are always displayed on the edge of the screen. If scoreboards are important to your experience at the ballpark, you will thoroughly enjoy your visit to Appalachian Power Park.

Also, behind the press box is the Charleston Baseball Wall of Fame. Most baseball cities have had multiple teams, names and affiliates throughout different eras. Charleston is no exception, and it’s very interesting to see how the teams of yesteryear helped get us to where we are today.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard not to feel at home in the state John Denver described as “almost heaven.” The great thing about Appalachian Power Park is that it fits perfectly next to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River. It doesn’t try and be something it’s not – The Power embraces the cozy nature of the Mountain State. A trip to a Power game feels less like a typical ballgame and more like a mountain retreat. The great venues are the ones that create a feeling that no other venue can replicate. Not only is it an aesthetically pleasing ballpark, but it has more than enough character to match. That is the textbook recipe for a great venue. If you call yourself a baseball fan, you’d be wise to make your way to Charleston soon and let the combination of baseball and country roads take you home.

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