top of page
  • David Welch

Mike D. Lane Field – North Alabama Lions



Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Mike D. Lane Field 615 N Pine St Florence, AL 35630


Year Opened: 1984 Capacity: 1,500

 

Roar Lions!

One of the newer additions to the NCAA’s Division I, the University of North Alabama Lions made the jump to D1 in 2018, becoming a full member as part of the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) in 2022.


North Alabama comes to the NCAA’s highest level with an impressive resume at the Division II level, having won five Gulf South Conference titles, qualifying for 12 NCAA tournaments, and advancing to D2 College World Series in 1999, making it to the quarter finals.


The year 1984 would prove to be one of new beginnings for the Lions – not only would they christen their newly built baseball field, but would also welcome Mike Lane to the helm, who went on to lead North Alabama baseball for the next 25 seasons, accumulating 908 wins while never suffering a losing season. Lane would be honored with the field being named for him in March of the 2008 season.

 

Food & Beverage   3

A lone concession stand is built into the bottom of the press box structure, behind home plate in the entry plaza of the stadium.  Concessions are a bit limited with hot dogs, soft pretzels, and nacho chips with cheese being the featured items; the menu runs heavy on snacks such as popcorn, peanuts, and candy.


Beverages include options from the Coca-Cola family of soft drinks, PowerAde, and Monster energy drinks. Alcoholic beverages are not sold at UNA campus athletic events.

 

Atmosphere   3

Mike D. Lane Field is a rather basic baseball facility consisting of three rows of individual chair back seats in the section behind home plate, backed by the press box and flanked with aluminum bleachers on either side (two sections up the first baseline and one on the home plate side of third base).


The stadium dimensions are a bit unique in that right and left center field are deeper (410’) than dead center (385’). The wall plays a touch short with power alleys of 365’ and right field at 320’. The stadium scoreboard just beyond the right field wall is fairly straightforward, displaying inning-by-inning line score with ball-strike-out counts as well.

The game presentation is as simple as it gets, and it is wonderful! Other than mid-inning ad reads and reminders of in-game promotions for fans to collect on after the game, the game is kept as the center of attention throughout.


There really is not a bad seat at Mike D. Land Field, since everything is pretty close to the action, but the upper rows on the third base side of the field do use the North Alabama campus as a backdrop. For those sitting in the bleachers behind the visiting team dugout on the first base side of the field, take caution, as there is no protective netting beyond the start of the dugout, protection that fans have become accustomed to.


Neighborhood   4

The North Alabama campus is just a short walk from downtown Florence’s restaurant and entertainment district. On weekends the streets are busy with visitors ducking in and out of shops, or waiting to grab a bite from any of the several restaurants, cafes, and even sidewalk stands set up around town.


The city of Florence and the surrounding area takes great pride in the history of the area. Historical markers can be found all around the city noting important dates, buildings, and events. North Court Street itself has a vibe of late 19th century main street, as many of the buildings have retained their 1800s charm.


A bit further from campus, along the Tennessee River that separates Florence from Muscle Shoals (home of the Swampers), is McFarland Park – McFarland Park is home to a riverside beach, miles of walking trails, an 18-hole golf course, and grassy areas with picnic tables where visitors can enjoy views of the O’Neal Bridge that crosses the river.

 

Fans   2

The Lions have a bit of a modest following but a supportive one, nonetheless. Averaging just over 250 fans per game, this does put UNA in the lower half of the ASUN in attendance. What Lion fans lack in numbers, however, they make up for in enthusiasm and support. Fans are frequently calling out points of encouragement to make the opposing pitcher work, or willing a lefty to just put the ball on the ground to move a runner on second over to third. Fans of the Lions do come with a good amount of knowledge of the game and about what constitutes “good baseball”.

 

Access   2

There is no putting it lightly – there really is not an easy way to get to Florence. The closest major city, Huntsville, is still an hour and a half away. Interstate-65 is the closest major freeway that runs through the area, but Florence is still a minimum of 50-minutes of US-highways away from it.


Once on campus there is a relatively small parking lot just outside the main entrance to Mike D. Lane Field, which wraps around the football practice field and along the access road to Bill Jones Athletic Complex. Street parking is available along Stewart Avenue, which also has a larger parking lot. The baseball stadium sits high above the street and is accessible via a stairway that joins the aforementioned lot and entry point.


The main gates enter into a small plaza just to the first base side of home plate. The pair of bleacher seating sections are directly to the right, but accessing the seating on the home side of the field is a bit challenging, in that there is only about three feet of space between the press box structure and the fence that sets the perimeter of Mike D. Lane Field. There is a walkway that runs in front of the seating behind home plate, but that has even less space and does seem a bit disruptive to the pitcher, so is even less inviting as a way to access the opposite side of the field.

 

Return on Investment   3

In a conference where several programs offer free admission to baseball games, the $10 starting point for general admission tickets here does seem a bit high. Granted there are no parking fees at Mike D. Lane Field, so slightly higher ticket prices might be expected, but the get-in-the-stadium coste does seem a touch high.


Concession prices are as would be expected at most stadiums, so the slightly higher prices than what would be found outside the stadium should not come as much of a surprise.

 

Extras   4

As fans enter Mike D. Lane Field they are greeted with billboards listing the accolades of Lions who have earned All-American and Academic All-American honors, or have gone on to careers in professional baseball. The most notable name on the list would be that of 15-year MLB veteran closer Sergio Romo who pitched for the University of North Alabama in 2004.


A large billboard just beyond the left field wall reflects on past UNA baseball accomplishments, from conference titles, NCAA Regionals, and the Lions’ 1999 Division II College World Series appearance, from their days as an NCAA D2 program.


In addition, the wall fencing just below the billboard displays the retired numbers of the field’s former head coach and field’s namesake Mike Lane (1) as well as Mike Keehn (6), who was on staff at UNA for 33 years and headed the Lions for 13 season following Lane; former Major Leaguer Josh Willingham (15) is also featured.


North Alabama might be the only campus in America with a live lion mascot visitors can get a glimpse of as they walk around the school – the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat in the center of campus is home to Leo III. A live lion mascot has been part of the University of North Alabama since 1974 when then President Dr. Robert M. Guillot first brought a lion cub to live on campus.

 

Final Thoughts

Following the 2024 season, Mike D. Lane Field will be torn down and the field reoriented, due to the new on-campus football stadium, Independent Bank Stadium, taking shape beyond the center and right field fence; the baseball stadium’s home plate will swing around to the northwest corner of the same parcel of land it currently sits on as part of the baseball facility’s rebuild.

Rendering courtesy of UNA Athletics


The entertainment value of baseball is not always tied up in mid-inning games, strobing stadium lights, and all the technology in the world that can make for a highly entertaining baseball experience; sometimes highlighting the simplicity of the game is all that is needed.


The beautiful thing about baseball is that the experience comes in so many forms – baseball proves that the game does not need to feel like a three-ring circus to be entertaining. Baseball at North Alabama is refreshingly simple where the entertainment value comes from the game itself.

Komentarai


Komentavimas išjungtas.
bottom of page