Photos by Marc Viquez and Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park 360 Fishburne St Charleston, SC 29403
Year Opened: 1997 Capacity: 6,000
Charleston’s Coastal Canines
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park has served as the home field for the Charleston RiverDogs since 1997. It is located along the banks of the Ashley River. The 6,000-seat stadium (known locally as The Joe) is named for longtime mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Riley served as mayor for 10 terms, serving from 1975-2016, and was best known for guiding the city through the recovery from Hurricane Hugo.
Charleston has a long history in professional baseball dating back to 1886. Past teams have gone under names including the Seagulls, the Palmettos, the Rebels, the Pirates, the Royals, the Rainbows and finally in 1994, the RiverDogs.
Today, the RiverDogs serve as the Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees and are members of the South Atlantic League (SAL). The RiverDogs served as the professional starting point for many of baseball’s most familiar names. Two former Charleston players, Kiki Cuyler and Roberto Alomar, are in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Other players who have seen playing time at The Joe include David Cone, W.S. “Bull” Durham, Willie Randolph, Gorman Thomas, Sandy Alomar, Ryan Dempster, Josh Hamilton, Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Aaron Judge and B.J. Upton. Several players are remembered in murals around the park.
Food & Beverage 5
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park offers one of the widest variety of foods in minor league baseball. Amongst its vendors are the Peanut and Pretzel Café, Dave’s Sausage World, Grab-N- Go, Smokin’ Joe’s, Scoops, Pie House, Dog House and Dog World.
The concessions menu does contain several uniquely Charleston items. The RiverDog is a beef hot dog with cole slaw, Carolina BBQ mustard sauce and pickled okra. The stadium also is known for its Coastal Shrimp Burger. Another popular item is the Homewrecker, which is a hot dog with slaw, pimento cheese, pickles, okra and BBQ sauce.
Here’s an overview of what’s available at The Joe: hot dogs (Carrot Dog, Vegan Dog, River Dog…all at $4.50 … and the Homewrecker at $10), salads (chicken, spinach and strawberry and summer harvest..all at $4.50), grilled cheese sandwiches ($4.50), nachos ($4), corn dogs ($6), burgers ($8.50), chicken tenders ($8), popcorn ($3), peanuts ($4), cotton candy ($4), gelato ($4) and ice cream ($4).
Beverages include Pepsi brand sodas ($4.50), bottled water ($3), coffee ($3), smoothies ($5) and milkshakes (key lime, dreamsicle and caramel expresso… all at $5). A wide assortment of beers is available at $6.
The Joe is a terrific venue to enjoy a baseball game. It offers scenic views of the Ashley River and The Citadel, which is located just across a marsh from the stadium’s right field stands. Its architecture is in keeping with the surrounding area, including brick exterior walls and iron gates. The seating bowl is close to the field and primarily around the infield. There is no seating beyond the outfield walls. The main entry into the park is along the third baseline, as the first base side of the park lies along the banks of the Ashley River. It’s no wonder that Riley Park has been chosen as the host for four South Atlantic League All Star Games (1998, 2000, 2004, 2012).
There are some seats at the higher levels of the stadium that are covered by a hanging roof. This can make a huge difference in fan comfort during the hot and humid spring and summer afternoons at The Joe.
Joseph P. Riley Park is located just north and west of the Charleston Downtown Historic District. It has a very picturesque setting along the Ashley River. It is located just a few blocks from the Charleston Historic District. Tours of the Historic District are offered daily, with horse drawn carriage, van and walking options available.
After your tour is over and you have worked up an appetite, head over to Rodney Scott’s BBQ. The James Beard Award winner serves up a unique form of Low Country BBQ.
Also in the area is the Palmetto Brewery, which bills itself as “South Carolina’s Oldest Brewery Since Prohibition.” Hotels convenient to Riley Park include the Courtyard Marriott Historic District and the Comfort Inn Downtown Charleston.
Due to baseball’s long history in the Charleston area, the fan base for the RiverDogs is quite large and loyal. Even though the team has never claimed a league title, the fans know that there is a good chance that they will be watching several future major league ballplayers at their first stop on the way to The Show.
There are a wide range of ages in the stands for each game. The RiverDogs are very active in the youth community, visiting schools and youth centers, so they draw many younger fans from the youth baseball programs. Charleston is also a haven for retirees from all over the country, who bring their love for the game to their new homes. Despite the closing of the Charleston Naval Yards a few years back, there is still a large military presence and the team holds numerous Military Appreciation Nights. It also offers $5 tickets throughout the season to active military personnel, no matter what the seat location in the stadium.
Riley Park is easily accessed from any number of directions:
From Downtown Charleston: Take Broad Street west until it becomes Lockwood Drive. Continue to follow Lockwood for ½ mile and the ballpark will be on your left
From North Charleston: Take I-26 East to Highway 17 South. Turn right on Lockwood Drive and stadium will be on your left.
From: Mount Pleasant: Take Highway 17 across the Ravenel Bridge into Charleston. Turn right on Lockwood and follow it until you reach the stadium, which will be on your left.
Once at the stadium you will find the access to be excellent. The concourse is very wide, and both concessions and restrooms are frequent enough that you should not encounter any long lines.
Return on Investment 4
Fans attending a RiverDogs baseball game will receive an excellent return on investment. All home games are played at one of the top-rated stadiums in the minor leagues, with amenities not typically found in a Class A level stadium. Tickets are priced between $8 – $20, with a $2 discount if purchased prior to the day of the game . Military seats are always $5, no matter the location in the park.
Concessions at Joseph P. Riley, Jr Park are above average in quality, so expect the prices to be higher than usual for a minor league venue.
Parking in privately owned parking lots adjacent to the stadium is $5.
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park also serves as the home field for The Citadel baseball team as the facility is built on land formerly owned by the Citadel. The school donated the property to the city of Charleston.
The RiverDogs have set many attendance records at The Joe. They also hold the record for the lowest attendance at a game. In 2002 the team held a Nobody Night, where no one was admitted into the park until the game was official in the middle of the fifth inning. This resulted in the official attendance figure being zero.
The grounds keeping staff has been recognized five times nationally for its turf management excellence.
Numerous events are held in the off-season at The Joe. These include the Ballpark Festival of Beers, youth baseball clinics and camps, as well as the Shrimp and Grits Festival.
Baseball and the city of Charleston have shared a love affair for more than 100 years. Today their rendezvous spot is the Joseph P Riley, Jr. Ballpark on the banks of the Ashley River. The Joe combines up close seating with a huge concession menu and a history of sending players to the majors as its recipe for keeping this relationship alive and strong.