- Steven Kee
ECTB Stadium - Allentown Railers
Photos by Steven Kee, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.14
ECTB Stadium 1008 S Howard St. Allentown, PA 18103
Year Opened: 1976
The Greatest Ballpark on Dirt
There are a great collection of minor league baseball ballparks in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania that include Limeport Stadium, Coca-Cola Park and Quakertown Memorial Park. A visitor would have a nice little history lesson on ballpark construction if visiting for a few days; however, there is another ballpark that may strike your fancy while visiting the area – ECTB Stadium in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The stadium is home to the Allentown Railers of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and brings a little life to the vapid facility during the summer months. ECTB Stadium, formerly known as Bicentennial Park when it opened in 1976, was built on the site of Fairview Field which had been home to various minor league teams in the city since 1930. It was also the home to the Allentown Ambassadors of the Northeast League (now the Can-Am League) from 1997-2003.
The stadium has seen better days, but there are improvements currently underway that should breath a fresh new breath of life into the vapid facility. The 4,600 seat stadium is rather large for the league and features an all dirt, softball style infield. However, with the right attitude, this quirky little baseball facility might be worth watching a game in the near future – time will tell.
Food & Beverage 1
There is a small stand located underneath the grandstand and facing out on the main concourse. There are only seven items on the rather crude cardboard menu cutout that adorns the windows – cheeseburgers, hot dogs, sunflower seeds, pretzels, sport drinks, soda and candy. The prices are inexpensive and the hot dogs taste quite good. The hot dogs are only $2 and cheeseburgers are $3.
Could the atmosphere be a little better at ECTB Stadium? Perhaps, but the ballpark is quite grandiose by ACBL standards. The largest stadium in the league looks like it would be be perfect fit in larger summer leagues such as the Northwoods or Prospect Leagues. The ballpark does feature a few intriguing quirks – perhaps its all dirt infield that would be akin to softball, because it was converted to a softball field during the country’s bicentennial.
The seating is made of plastic and feature bucket seats behind the first few rows of the backstop and backless seating throughout the rest of the stadium. The seating is up close and personal to the action. If it was not for the large fence screen behind home plate, you could brush off the dirt from a player sliding into home. There is a lot of room to stretch out, catch a foul ball or simply reminisce about old school baseball.
The outfield fence was renovated a few seasons ago and looks quite stunning, the center field light is in play and a simple electronic scoreboard resides in left field; however, it was not in operation when I attended the game (I was told that it needed to be repaired). A large net looms over the right field wall for protection of fly balls landing against the residential homes across the street. The setting in the south side of Allentown is also a nice nod to ballparks of the past. Incidentally, they have been playing baseball at this site for almost 85 years.
There are no mascots, major announcements, promotions or gimmicks. There is a large collection of souvenirs with the Railers’ logo on it and some of it looks pretty good – its not the cheap stuff you find sometimes. The main grandstand use to have tarp wrapped around when the Ambassadors played minor league baseball here, but it has been removed and the seats are now exposed. This is not aesthetically pleasing and a dash of color or name of the stadium would do wonders to its image.
The stadium is situated in a residential neighborhood, not far from the I-78 exit where a few great places to eat exist. Queen City Diner is open 24-hours and offers generous portions at reasonable prices. If you are not from the area, diner food is a must to have after the game. Rodizio Grill is a Brazilian barbecue restaurant where one would have to come hungry and not expect to eat for a few days. Steak, chicken, pork and lamb are all brought out to your table. It is a nice experience to say the least.
There were not a lot of them here at the game, in fact, there was not a lot of cheering from the ones who were in the grandstands at the day of this review. When your crowds are small in a vast ballpark, viewing the game can feel like a dirge, but the Railers have a great product and winning attitude. I am sure if there were few promotions here and there, a few more fans would find their way back to the stadium.
Arriving to the stadium is the best part – it is quick and easy. All you have to do is take exit 57 off of I-78 and proceed north on Lehigh Street for 1.5 miles and the stadium is on your left. The parking is free and plentiful in the stadium’s lot and access is easy to get in or out of after the game.
Return on Investment 3
The ticket prices are $5 a person and kids 8 and under are admitted free of charge. This is a small price to pay to watch college kids hone their skills with the wooden bat during the months of June and July.
The roofs of houses behind the right field wall adds a nice touch to this quirky little ball park that features high walls, a light tower in play in center field and seats close enough to tap the umpires back. If this was any other league, you may see some improvements with not only the stadium itself, but with the game day experience. Thankfully the public can still catch a game and perhaps the game day experience will improve in time; unfortunately, time will tell.
Lehigh Valley has a nice collection of ballparks to visit during the summer and ECTB has seen better days and the only allure might just be that it is still housing baseball in Allentown. Before Coca-Cola Field, this was where professional baseball was held, but the times have changed. If you have the time, it may be worth your pleasure to take in a game.