- Sean MacDonald
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park – State College Spikes
Photos by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park 701 Porter Rd State College, PA 16802
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park website
Year Opened: 2006
Summer Spikes in State College
For most sports fans, the town of State College, Pennsylvania is known as the home of Penn State. No doubt, this is a university town even in the summer, but the only sport available at this time is minor league baseball.
The State College Spikes of the Class A short-season New York-Penn League (NYPL) play on the PSU campus at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, just across the street from Beaver Stadium, home of Nittany Lions football.
The stadium was opened in 2006 to house the franchise that had moved from Augusta, New Jersey where they were the Cardinals affiliate. One year after the move, the Spikes signed on with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they returned to the Cardinal fold in 2013.
The playing field is named after longtime Penn State baseball coach Charles “Chuck” Medlar, who is honored with a plaque, while the ballpark is named after former Penn State player Anthony P. Lubrano who made a $2.5 million donation to help build the stadium.
The stadium was the first ever Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified baseball stadium in the world. The playing field has the same dimensions as PNC Park; home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, except the right field wall, is only 18.55 feet tall (for the year Penn State was founded, 1855) versus the 21 feet tall height at PNC Park (for the jersey number worn by Roberto Clemente).
Food & Beverage 4
Food options here have improved over time, with two main concession windows, a Sweet spot, and several portable stands to tempt you. Flashpoint Grille is the primary stop, and with the tagline “Burgers, Dogs, and Chicken,” you know this is where you will get your typical ballpark fare.
The menu is extensive though lacking anything unique, other than the Sloppy Joe Putnam that comes with corn chips for $6. Cheeseburgers are $5, hot dogs are $3.75, and a grilled chicken sandwich is $5. On the snack side, Oreo Churros are $5 and something worth trying if you are brave and need a sugar high.
Other stands include the Broken Bat BBQ, where you can get pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, or a full plate that comes with Mac ‘n Cheese and coleslaw. No prize for guessing what Steakadelphia sells; the cheesesteaks are cooked right in front of you and cost $7.50, or you can get the meat served on a bed of nachos for the same price.
Burgertopia claims it is hamburger paradise, though I cannot confirm this. Their premium offering is the Nittany Lion, an $11 monstrosity with two half-pound patties, two slices of cheese, and a bun. For those on a diet that precludes a pound of beef, four other varieties have a single patty and are $8 apiece. The Centre Slugger that comes with 2 Pierogies is certainly intriguing.
Sweet is the name of the dessert stand and they have Penn State Creamery ice cream served in the cone or helmet, as well as lemon chills that were only $1 on the night I attended. Other stands include Smokie’s Sausage Shack for brats and Salsa for your nachos and tacos.
Beer comes in two sizes: small (16 oz.) and souvenir (24 oz.). Regular brews are $5.75 and $7, while the premium varieties run a dollar more. Several options differ by concession stand; the free program provides a detailed list but some unusual names, at least in ballparks, are the Straub Hefeweizen and Troegs Perpetual IPA.
Pepsi products are available for non-drinkers, with a kid’s soda (12 oz.) going for $2.50, the 24-oz regular for $4 and those thirsty can enjoy the large (32 oz.) for $4.50. Bottled water is $3.50 and small milk is $1.
Overall, the selection provides nothing exceptional and is slightly overpriced for this level, but there is enough variety so that any fan should find something to their liking.
The stadium is designed as a typical minor league venue with a full seating bowl, open concourse, and suite level above. The most frustrating thing here is that protective netting extends down to the end of the dugout.
This is perhaps because the park is also used by the Nittany Lions baseball team and the aluminum bats do send balls into the stands faster. Protective netting is now a hot-button topic, so I expect that more and more minor league parks will adopt it. Fortunately, there are seats past the bases that offer clear views of the action and these are recommended. All seats in the bowl come with cup holders.
There are nice views over the outfield fence, including Mount Nittany. For trivia buffs, the word Nittany comes from the Algonquian word Nit-A-Nee meaning “single mountain.”
Four mascots keep the fans entertained in various ways. Ike the Spike roams the concourse signing autographs, well LuCKy the Lion hangs out in right field tallying strikeouts. I enjoyed the Nook Monster, who lives in the fence and only appears to do a jig when the Spikes score. Last but not least is Bob the Baseball Dog, a yellow lab that runs the bases with kids after the game.
Children can also spend time in Ike’s Kids Zone, which includes an arcade, but it isn’t free. Adults can pass the evening in the Fun Deck, located down the right-field line and overlooking the home bullpen.
State College is a great little town and still vibrant in the summer with most of the student population back home. The campus itself is worth a tour with its many old buildings and manicured lawns. Be sure to check out the Palmer Museum of Art if you are a fan of painting and sculpture; it is a short walk from the ballpark and free to enter. Of course, Beaver Stadium towers right next door and the Penn State All-Sports Museum is in the southwest corner. Open until 4 pm from Tuesday-Sunday, this is a good spot for the Nittany Lion fan to reminisce.
If you want to grab a bite to eat, try The Fraser Street Deli, where you can select from a sandwich and salad menu that has over 120 offerings, plus a create-your-own section with over 5 million different meat and cheese combinations. All of the sandwiches are named after Penn State and Centre County athletes, coaches, professors, and University presidents. Another option is Cozy Thai Bistro or its fast food branch, Galanga, which offers affordable and tasty dishes from Thailand.
Of course, there are several bars along College Avenue and the two or three blocks east; I’ll leave it to you to find one that suits your taste. Finally, there is the Happy Valley Winery a couple of miles away, through a tiny subdivision, that offers free tastings and reasonably priced bottles should you be taken with one of their many varieties.
The team draws well considering that much of the fan base is out of town for the season. The fans are responsive and pay attention, but I didn’t notice anyone outrageous or memorable. Overall it’s a good, friendly crowd that enjoys the game, which is all you can expect.
State College lies at the intersection of one portion of I-99 and US-322. The university is located just south of here and very easy to get to. Driving around campus is not a problem as there are few students in the summer, but keep in mind the speed limit is quite low.
There are parking lots right near the stadium which cost $3, but if you drive just north of University Avenue, there is a lot there that is free on the weekends and only about a five-minute walk to the stadium. Note that parking regulations are stricter on weekdays so read the signs carefully to make sure you don’t get a ticket.
Inside the stadium, the concourse is wide with plenty of metallic picnic tables that offer views of the field, thus allowing a family to enjoy their meal in a more comfortable setting than their seats. The bathrooms are clean and never crowded.
Return on Investment 4
There are four distinct seating areas at Lubrano Park: Diamond Club seats ($14) between the bases (and hence no clear view due to the netting); Field Box ($12) the next two sections along; Bullpen Box ($10) which is four sections along the left field line, but only 1 in right field as the Fun Deck takes up the rest of the space there; and the $6 Outfield Bleachers, which are also reserved seats. There are no GA tickets, so my general advice is to buy the bleacher seats and sit in the Bullpen Box or spend time on the Fun Deck as you will get a clear view of the action from there.
Like food prices and the $3 lots, tickets are just a bit too high for the level of baseball being played here. Cut a couple of bucks off each ticket and make parking completely free and you’d have a perfect score here.
There are several small touches that I appreciated. There is the aforementioned plaque honoring Charles Medlar; there is a defensive alignment board that includes notes on the starting pitcher; an alumni report is also hand-written. The team won the 2014 NY-Penn League championship and there is a small display commemorating that title.
The stadium includes the typical “Made the Show” display, though it seems that they are overwriting previous entries with newer ones. Finally, it was “Bark in the Park” night and the scoreboard had each player’s face inside a dog’s body. It looked as weird as it sounds.
Medlar Field does everything quite well and is worth a trip to State College. The netting and slightly overpriced food and tickets are the only negatives and those are mere quibbles. Unfortunately, their season rarely overlaps with the football schedule, but at the same point, it is nice to see the PSU campus when it is still quiet. Teams in the NY-Penn League only play 38 home games, so you have limited opportunities, but if you can make it out to State College in July or August, make sure to see a Spikes game.