Dodd Stadium - Norwich Sea Unicorns
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
Dodd Stadium 14 Stott Ave Norwich, CT 06360
Year Opened: 1995
A Future for Dodd Stadium
Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium was built in the eastern Connecticut city of Norwich in 1995. Senator Dodd was a Norwich native who served two terms in both the House of Representatives and the Senate between 1952 and 1964. Dodd may be best known as part of the prosecution team at the Nuremburg Trials.
Several teams have called Dodd Stadium over its history. The Norwich Navigators, the AA Eastern League affiliate of the New York Yankees, called Dodd home through 2003, when they moved their affiliation to Trenton, New Jersey. The San Francisco Giants then set up shop in Norwich, rebranding the team as the Connecticut Defenders in 2006. Facing steadily declining attendance, the team moved to Richmond, Virginia for the 2010 season. Filling the vacuum immediately was the New York-Penn League, which was looking to move out of their traditional footprint into more modern ballparks. The Connecticut Tigers were born and spent ten seasons in Norwich.
The Tigers and the city of Norwich were victims of Minor League Baseball’s reorganization in the winter of 2021. The Tigers, who had rebranded as the Norwich Sea Unicorns for the canceled 2020 season, were eliminated along with the rest of the New York-Penn League. It was a particularly cruel blow when you consider the team and city had partnered to make almost one million dollars in improvements to the ballpark after the 2019 season.
Filling the void was the summer collegiate wood-bat Futures League, which is made up mostly of teams playing in former minor league ballparks around New England.
You may be asking yourself, “What is a Sea Unicorn?” A sea unicorn is a colorful term for a narwal. The team’s logo shows a narwal decked out in a jacket and captain’s hat in tribute to Norwich’s seafaring history. It also serves as a nod to the nearby Naval Submarine Base in Groton and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, both located just a short drive from Dodd Stadium. The Sea Unicorn in the logo sports a rose tattoo, an homage to Norwich’s nickname, the Rose City.
Food & Beverage 5
Even though it seems everything at Dodd Stadium has been downsized, the concessions remain a strong point of the game day experience here.
Most of the concession stands remain open for Sea Unicorn games, and they remain well-staffed. All the ballpark basics can be found here, including hot dogs, burgers, nachos, sausage and pepper sandwiches, chicken tenders and fries. Upgrade your dog with some chili or add some cheese to your fries for an extra dollar. A kid’s meal with a hot dog, fries and bottle of water is only $8.
Coca-Cola products are featured at Dodd Stadium. In a strange twist unique to all Connecticut venues, all drinks are sold in bottles only. No fountain drinks are available. Visiting fans looking for snacks will be pleased to find pretzels, peanuts and popcorn among the offerings.
The Hole in the Wall Pub sells several brands of draft beer, as well as cans for those who prefer their beverage wrapped in aluminum. The Port Side Pours stand features a variety of brews from Gray Sail Brewing, including the "Beer to be Named Later."
With only a few hundred people in a 6,200-seat ballpark, the atmosphere is going to suffer. The Sea Unicorns try, with between-inning promotions and nightly specials, but there’s only so far that these efforts can go. Fans who enjoy room to spread out and the ability to hear the sounds of the game will enjoy their time in Norwich. The PA announcer goes about his job in a professional, entertaining manner, and lineups are posted along with Futures League standings near the main entrance.
Longtime visitors will undoubtedly notice that a few Dodd Stadium mainstays are missing. The Tator the Gator statue that has long stood guard at the front entrance has been moved to a hidden corner of the facility. Also, it’s strange to not see the dual major/minor league logos on the stadium façade. Younger fans will bemoan the fact that the arcade has been closed.
Dodd Stadium is located in an industrial park, and there is nothing of note within a few miles of the ballpark. Fans looking for places to stay in the area or places to eat will find a few options on Town Street on the way to the ballpark.
Most fans visiting the area will not choose to stay in Norwich, opting instead to proceed to the two large casinos located nearby. Mohegan Sun is located a 15-minute drive from the ballpark, and Foxwoods is located a half hour drive from Dodd Stadium. Both casinos are renowned for their variety of shops, entertainment, and dining options, and of course, gaming choices.
Families looking for a more family friendly environment will surely enjoy a visit to Mystic Seaport, located a 20-minute drive away on the Connecticut coastline. This summer attraction contains more than 60 historic buildings, museums, historic vessels, shops, and an aquarium.
On the official Futures League site, the Sea Unicorns are listed as averaging almost 1,400 fans per game, which places them fifth in the league rankings. Stadium Journey visited Dodd Stadium on a postcard-perfect Sunday afternoon with an announced crowd of over 1,300 fans. In looking around, this figure appears to be greatly inflated.
Fans at Sea Unicorn games are typical of most summer league games in the area, with die-hard fans mixed in with families. With small crowds in such a big facility, there is a ton of room for everyone to spread out and for the kids in attendance to chase down foul balls. Baseball purists will enjoy that you are able to hear all the chatter on the field. They may not enjoy having to listen to overserved fans try and heckle the players.
Dodd Stadium’s location in the Norwich Industrial Park ensures that it is easy to get to via car, but also that driving is the only method to arrive at the ballpark. Visitors to Norwich will simply take exit 14 off Interstate 395 and follow the signs to the ballpark. Dodd Stadium is located about three miles from the highway through the industrial park. Parking is in a large gravel lot adjacent to the ballpark.
Seating at Dodd Stadium is available in three forms: gray folding plastic stadium chairs (premium seating), red molded bucket seats (reserved seating) and metal bleachers with backs (grandstand seating). A wide concourse runs atop the seating bowl and offers views of the field from all points except for directly behind home plate. Berms cap the end of the concourse on both sides, with a party deck located in left field and a gazebo in right field. Fans arriving early can stake a claim to the Adirondack chairs atop the right field berm. The rest rooms are clean and more than adequate for the typical Sea Unicorns crowd.
Return on Investment 3
Premium tickets (gray folding stadium seats) for Sea Unicorns games cost $12, with reserved tickets (red molded bucket seats) priced at $11 and grandstand seats (bleachers) at $10. Seniors over 60 and students receive a one-dollar discount. Retired military personnel receive a $2 discount on all seats. Tickets in the lighthouse, located on the suite level, cost $20.
Parking in the large lot adjacent to Dodd Stadium will cost visiting fans an additional five dollars. While concessions prices have increased in recent years, they are still comparable to other venues at this level of baseball, with many bargains to be found.
Longtime Norwich baseball fans may want to check out the team store, where you can pick up not only some nice Sea Unicorns merchandise, but leftover swag from the Tigers and Navigators. If so inclined, there is even Lobster Roll merch for sale. Unfortunately, most of the old stuff is not marked down.
It’s been a long, slow decline for Dodd Stadium. Originally built to house AA-level baseball, over the years Norwich has downgraded to short season A-ball and now summer collegiate wood bat ball. We're certainly not saying that summer ball is a bad thing, but it remains to be seen if Eastern Connecticut fans will continue to show up. Dodd Stadium is a fine facility that is much too large for the needs of the Sea Unicorns.