- Lloyd Brown
OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field - Mercer Bears
Photos by Brian Jones, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field Adams St Macon, GA 31207
Mercer Bears website OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field website
Year Opened: 1977 Capacity: 500
The Good News Bears
Mercer University is a private university located in Macon, Georgia. It was founded as a Baptist-affiliated institution in 1833. It is no longer affiliated formally with the Baptist church but does follow many of the principles of Baptist doctrine. It is primarily a liberal arts institution and has a student body of more than 8,600 students. It has produced more Georgia governors, members of Congress and US Cabinet members than any Georgia institution other than the University of Georgia.
The athletic teams at Mercer are known as the Bears and they play at the Division I FCS level of NCAA competition. They are members of the Southern Conference. Mercer first fielded a baseball team in 1948, playing their games at a nearby high school field. In 1962 the program moved to an on-campus location known as Bear Field. The field was renamed Claude Smith Field in 1977 upon the retirement of their longtime coach, who led the school to more than 400 victories. In 2017 the stadium underwent a massive renovation and was rechristened OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field.
Food & Beverage 4
There is one concession stand at OrthoGeorgia Park. They serve the typical fare of hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, peanuts, chips and candy. Beverages include Coca-Cola brand sodas, Powerade and bottled water. The stadium does not serve alcohol. Although the menu is limited, the price cannot be beat. …everything costs only $2.
Fans are also free to utilize the adjacent University Center, which has a food court, which includes Panda Express, Chick-fil-A and Provisions on Demand. This option is only available before fans enter the stadium.
OrthoGeorgia Park opened to rave reviews at the beginning of the 2017 season. Its red brick exterior fits in seamlessly with the surrounding architecture of the Mercer academic campus.
The stadium has increased seating to 1,500 with additional free seating available on the hillside above the park. The press box has been enlarged and now has two open air suites located on the same level. Premium seating has been added with chair backs behind home plate and aluminum bleachers with chair backs in the remainder of the seating bowl.
The Diane Owens Entry Plaza has been added outside of the main entrance to the park to facilitate meeting up with friends before the game.
Mercer University is located on a hill overlooking the city of Macon known as College Hill. It is surrounded by many historic homes in the Intown neighborhood. There are two districts filled with eating and retail establishments adjacent to the campus. Mercer Village is located at the front of the academic campus and includes the campus Barnes and Noble bookstore, NuWay Weiners (a Macon staple for more than 100 years) and Sauced Pizza. Mercer Landing is located across Mercer University Drive from the athletic complex and features Growler USA, Amici Pizza and Wings and the Towne Place Suites Marriott. It can be accessed via a sky bridge across busy University Drive, which is a very nice feature as you can avoid the on-campus parking fee.
Two attractions located close to Mercer that you will want to check out are The Big House and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Macon is home to some of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century, including Little Richard, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band. The communal home used by the Allman Brothers has now been turned into a museum and features the world’s largest collection of memorabilia from the band. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is the largest state-based Hall of Fame in the country. It highlights Peach State sports from the amateur to the professional level.
The closest lodging option is just a long foul ball from OrthoGeorgia Park. The Hilton Garden Inn Mercer University is located on Stadium Drive.
The Bear fans have high expectations of the baseball program on an annual basis, as the team has posted eight consecutive seasons with thirty-five wins or more. They have been to the NCAA Tournament three times, won the conference regular season title seven times and won the conference tournament on five occasions.
Tailgating has become a very popular activity for Bears fans, even during baseball season. The grassy hill above the first baseline near the parking areas is especially popular and is available for pre-game festivities. Families with young children flock to these areas and spread out blankets to watch the games. Make sure to get some selfies with the bear statue in front of Five Star Stadium next door.
By far the loudest group in the park on game days are the Mercer Maniacs. This is a school spirit organization whose members are dedicated to supporting all the Bear athletic teams.
Macon is in the geographic center of Georgia. The town is primarily serviced by I-75, which runs from towns to the north of Macon (Atlanta is approximately 80 miles from the Mercer campus) as well as cities in south central / southwestern Georgia. I-16 originates just two exits east of University Drive and runs towards the coastal areas of Georgia (Savannah is 150 miles from Macon).
OrthoGeorgia Park and the Mercer campus are easily accessed via the Mercer University Drive (exit 163) from I-75. The stadium will be on your right off Stadium Drive. It is located between the University Center and Five Star Stadium. Parking lots for the ballpark are found on the west side of the facility.
Restrooms and a newly enlarged concession stand are located on the concourse and are sufficient enough to avoid long lines.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Bears games are priced at two levels: chair back seats behind home plate are $10, seats along the baselines feature bleacher seating with seat backs are $8 and grass hillside seating is free (bring your own blanket or lawn chair). Parking for baseball games is free. Most fans live within commuting distance of Macon, but a hotel near Mercer will cost about $100 a night.
Mercer has been very ambitious in its scheduling, as they play traditional powers including Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Mississippi State and Liberty University.
The fan friendly free seating on the grassy embankment is certainly an extra.
The Mercer Bears have done a great job in renovating the structure surrounding Claude Smith Field. OrthoGeorgia Park provides a great experience with its great sight lines, hillside seating and new amenities.