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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Cardines Field - Newport Gulls

Photos by Paul Baker and Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Cardines Field 20 America’s Cup Ave. Newport, RI 02840

Year Opened: 1936

Capacity: 3,000

The Cozy Confines of Cardines

Baseball has been played on the site of Cardines Field since the late 1800s. Once known as “The Basin,” this location was used as a source of water for steam locomotives serving Newport. The stagnant water drew the ire of local residents due to its odor, so it was allowed to dry out and was converted to use for baseball. A backstop was erected in 1908, but complaints from neighbors over broken windows halted the factory league that used the site. In 1919 the Sunset League, which still plays today, was founded. It’s the oldest amateur league in the United States. However, by 1936 the ballpark had fallen into disrepair and would become unusable after rainy days. Surrounded by dilapidated houses and broken fences, the ballpark was in danger of falling out of use.

The city of Newport purchased the field from the railroad at this time and made massive improvements to the site through the WPA. Stone bleachers with wooden seats were constructed. Locker rooms and bathroom facilities were built, and billboards were erected to protect local houses and serve as the outfield wall. The distinctive curved grandstand was soon added, as were lights.

As beloved as Cardines Field is within the local community today, it was in danger of demolition in the 1980s and 1990s. Plans were made to replace the field with a parking lot. Local groups were able to raise funds to renovate the ballpark and save it from extinction. Today the Friends of Cardines continue to make improvements to the facility. Over the years, legendary names such as Jimmy Foxx, Larry Doby and Satchel Paige have played at Cardines.

The Newport Gulls arrived in Newport in 2001 after playing for three seasons in Cranston, Rhode Island. They have quickly become the flagship team of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, winning six league championships and eleven division titles. 30 former Gulls have reached the Major Leagues.

Food & Beverage 3

There is a concession stand down the right field line that serves a decent variety of food for a small stand. Typical ballpark fare, including hot dogs, burgers and French fries anchor the menu. There is a wide selection of snack items available, including soft-serve ice cream. Cans of Coca-Cola beverages are sold here. No alcohol is sold at Cardines Field.

For many years, one of the more unique and popular features of Cardines Field was the tavern attached to the ballpark which featured a patio overlooking the field. The facility has been converted to an event space which can be rented out for meetings, parties and the like. The signature patio is still available for rental.

Atmosphere 4

At an older facility like Cardines, you would expect a more traditional gameday presentation. This is not necessarily the case here in Newport. There are many decidedly small-town touches here, and the connection between the team and the community is strong, but there is a lot going on here in the cozy confines of Cardines.

With a great percentage of the crowd made up of younger fans, much of what goes on at a Gulls game is geared towards them. There are many between-inning contests and distractions to be had, from the donut eating contest and base race to the “Tag the Mascot” race. The winners bring home gift certificates from local merchants. For the adults, there is a 50/50 raffle.

With so many fans jammed into a small facility, there’s a definite buzz in the stands for a Gulls game. Adding to the atmosphere is the Gulls long-time Public Address announcer, Dan O’Hanley, who delivers lineup and sponsor announcements with a mix of small-town, old-timey style and dry wit. He offers a marked contrast to the chaos going on all around him.

Neighborhood 5

Cardines Field is located at the northern edge of the Brick Market, an area full of shops, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. From local pubs to five-star restaurants, there is something for everyone just steps from Cardines Field. Of course, in a seaside resort city like Newport, you would expect incredible seafood to highlight the local menus, and the eateries of Newport will not disappoint. Just two blocks from the ballpark is The White Horse Tavern, which is one of the oldest restaurants in the nation, in operation since 1673.

The city of Newport offers much to do beyond the immediate vicinity of Cardines Field. Among the many attractions of this oceanside city are the Newport Art Museum, Fort Adams, the Gilded Age Mansions, the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Touro Synagogue. Newport also offers several wonderful white-sand beaches and spectacular ocean views at Brenton Point State Park. Visitors to Newport should be sure to check out Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile-long trail which offers incredible views of the beaches and mansions along Belleview Avenue.

Fans 5

Newport is annually among the tops of the national attendance rankings for all summer collegiate baseball teams. The Gulls annually average over 2,300 fans per game, leading the NECBL by a wide margin and good for the top ten in the nation.

In Newport you’ll find fans that have been supporting the team since day one in their usual spots, an impressive feat in a place without reserved seats. You’ll see families enjoying an affordable night out in Newport (not an easy thing to do), young adults here to catch a game before heading out to the nearby clubs, and casual fans here to soak up the unique energy of Cardines Field. Even though there’s not a whole lot of room to roam, you’ll find the kids in attendance manage to stay in constant motion, helping to bring a ton of energy to the old yard.

Access 2

Newport is a small city of approximately 25,000 residents located on the southern edge of Aquidneck Island. Located about 35 miles south of Providence, Newport is not served directly by any highways, meaning that you’ll have to give yourself some time to arrive in town. Once in Newport, the crush of summer tourists and narrow colonial-era streets mean that getting around the city can be difficult.

When you’re talking about a century-old ballpark without any real modern conveniences, access is once again going to be an issue. The ballpark is made up of a hodge-podge of five different grandstands, built at different stages of the ballpark’s history. A walkway at the front of the seating area connects sections and is constantly clogged with fans moving around the facility. Some fans will actually leave the facility on one side and walk around the outside of the ballpark to re-enter on the other side. Believe it or not, this is the easiest way to get around Cardines Field. By going around Cardines Field.

Cardines Field features recently renovated, if smallish, rest rooms on the third base side of the field. The concession stand is located at the end of the right field stands. A small souvenir stand is located outside the ballpark on the first base side. With the great amount of movement at the ballpark, it is recommended that you avoid the first couple of rows of seating. The old wooden bleachers can be difficult to climb, but the reward of the views of the field from the top rows and the breeze off the nearby ocean is worth the effort.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets are sold as general admission seats priced at five dollars, with seniors (55+), members of the military and students admitted for two dollars and children twelve and under admitted for just one dollar.

Parking in Newport can be quite expensive, but Gulls fans can park across the street from Cardines Field at the Newport Visitor’s Center for just two dollars with your ticket stub. There is some on-street parking available on neighborhood streets, but spots are hard to come by. Pay attention to street signs as many streets in the area are reserved for residents only.

Extras 4

The physical layout of Cardines Field is such that there are many ground rules unique to this ballpark. Both dugouts are on the same side of the field. The two teams share a bullpen and on-deck circle (which are incredibly close to the batter). The outfield fence juts in and out at strange angles due to the presence of homes beyond the outfield. The height of the outfield fence varies due to tree branches that hang over the fence (any ball hitting the trees is an automatic home run). The right field foul line is a warehouse. There is a light pole that is in play out in right field.

Fans in attendance are warned throughout the game that the chasing of foul balls is not allowed at Cardines Field. With the busy city streets surrounding the field, a foul ball is a risky proposition. Any fan chasing a foul ball on the streets will not be readmitted.

As a result of the cozy confines of Cardines Field, you can expect to see a lot of doubles and home runs here at a Gulls game. The total lack of foul territory means no extra outs will be had, wild pitches are at a minimum, and offensive opportunities are plentiful. If you like high-scoring games, you’ll love Cardines Field.

Final Thoughts

They certainly don’t build them like Cardines Field anymore. This historic ballpark, filled with features not seen anywhere else, is a relic from another time. Cardines Field is frequently mentioned as one of the top places in the country to watch summer wood-bat baseball. Located in a seaside city with great restaurants, attractions and lodging options, a trip to Newport should be on the short list for any ballpark chaser.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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