- Michael Rusignuolo
NBT Bank Stadium – Syracuse Mets
Photos by Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.42
NBT Bank Stadium 1 Tex Simone Dr Syracuse, NY 13208
Year Opened: 1997
From Chiefs to Mets in Syracuse
Professional baseball goes back a long way in Syracuse, beginning when the Jersey City Skeeters moved north in 1934 to start playing in the brand-new Municipal Stadium as the “Chiefs.” Outside of the renaming of the stadium for WWII hero Douglas MacArthur in 1942 and a three-year break in the late 50s, not much has changed in Syracuse minor league baseball except for their MLB affiliation. During their longest affiliation with the Blue Jays, the team moved to the new P&C Stadium in 1997 from the venerable MacArthur Park (unceremoniously demolished for the new stadium’s parking lot) and changed their names to the “Sky Chiefs.”
That 11,071-seat stadium has undergone several name changes, renovations, and affiliate changes since then. And 2019 finds a new big-league club sponsoring the team, with the New York Mets taking over from the Nationals and renaming the team in their likeness. The former P&C Stadium is still their home, but since 2014, the naming rights have gone to NBT Bank. While the Mets are talking about big new renovations (and perhaps even a new downtown park), NBT Bank Stadium saw its last big renovations in 2012, with a PA system upgrade and installation of one of the largest LED scoreboards in the minors.
While NBT Bank Stadium doesn’t stand out in a lot of areas, it is an easy-to-get-to park with a lot of good food and drink options for a cheap night out of baseball entertainment.
Food & Beverage 4
Although the other facilities at the park might not blow a visitor away, the food and drink selection at the park lives up to their AAA pedigree.
Salt Potato Hot Dog and Souvenir Drink, Photo by Michael Rusignuolo, Stadium Journey
The food concessions are only along the main concourse that runs above the lower seating bowl, but they cram in a ton. The concessions include The Show (an eclectic mix of hot dogs, sausages, pulled pork and mac and cheese, $4.50-$7), Dunkin’ Donuts (donuts and unexpected offerings like poutine, $6.50-$9.50), Chicken Fry Fry (tenders and wings, $8-$10), Hoffman’s Home Plate (custom dogs, $6), Syracuse Land & Cattle (gourmet burgers, $9.50-$9.75), Vinny’s Original ($4.50 pizza slices), and Taste of NY at 1st (spiedes and brats, $8-$9).
All of the food concessions stands and a few specialty concessions serve the same range of standard suds with a few variations (Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Labatt) at $7 for a regular and $9 for a large. The Jim Beam Bullpen Bar (by home plate, for some reason) has a selection of big-beer pounders ($8) and bombers ($12), as well as mixed drinks and the soccer mom favorite, wine slushies ($10-$12). But if you’re serious about beer, head to the Hops Spot and check out the big chalkboard wall with the dozens of craft beers available that day ($10-$12). Coke is the non-alcoholic beverage brand of choice, with drinks running $3.50, $4.50, and $6 for small, large, and souvenir. Bottled water is $4.
“Eat local” is always the best policy, and since there is a short list of upstate New York culinary masterpieces, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not grabbing a Lupo’s chicken or pork spiede ($9) at Taste of NY. Or another undeniable upstate taste is the salt potato hot dog ($6 — it tastes better than it might sound) at Hoffman’s Home Plate. Don’t mess around and grab your choice of the local craft beers available that day at the Hop’s Spot ($10-$12) to wash it all down.
Tacking on the name “Historic” to a ballpark built in the late 90s doesn’t do NBT Bank Stadium any favors. While it shares the location of the original Municipal Park from the 1930s, the 22-year-old stadium doesn’t have any of the charm and appearance of an actual historic park and doesn’t measure up favorably with newer stadiums.
It is a solid stadium, but it is nothing exceptional, especially in the International League. All the entrances dump onto the main concourse above the lower deck seating that runs from left field to right field around home plate. A smaller walkway divides the field box seats from the reserve box seats. A second level consists of palatial, two-tier luxury box building above home plate and separate general admissions bleachers hanging above first and third base. A small picnic area, kids area, and the Jim Beam Party deck sit out in right field. The backdrop over the outfield wall is scrub brush and trees, occasionally interrupted by passenger and cargo trains that run beyond the left field wall. A sizable digital video board juts above the left field wall to keep the fans informed on the play on the field.
Ambiguous monster mascot Scootch leads the on-field shenanigans before the game and between innings. Anyone familiar with minor league baseball will recognize the standard array of contests of dubious skill, races, quizzes, and sing-alongs that fill the spaces between baseball.
Any of the seats offer a good view of the field. If you want to be closer to most of the activities, grab a seat on the third base side by the home dugout. The reserved box seats are just as good as the field boxes, so you can save yourself some money. Heck, a $10 GA ticket for the upper deck isn’t a bad view of the field, either, and has some of the only areas in the shade or shelter from inclement weather.
As with many Mets’ affiliate parks, the immediate area around the park isn’t too inspiring. There’s not a ton to do unless you go downtown, but there are some good choices for lodgings.
Right by the stadium doesn’t give you a ton of options for food outside of some recognizable chains. Downtown by the university opens up dozens of options, from cheap college comfort food to upscale restaurants. However, a quick drive or medium walk from the park onto Wolf Street lands you local standbys Jim’s Fish Fry, JR Diner, and The Loop Grill.
Besides its relative closeness to the lake, there’s also not a lot going on by the stadium. The Destiny USA mall right south of the park has all the activities you’d expect of an upscale mall, including escape rooms, a WonderWorks, and indoor go-carts, but to find anything more substantial, you’ll need to take the drive downtown.
Located between downtown, Onondaga Lake, and the airport, NBT Bank Stadium does have hotel options close-by. Just south of the park on the inner lakefront, there are the ritzy and hip Embassy Suites and Aloft Syracuse. North of the park is a clutch of airport hotels, including the more modest Super 8 and Country Inn & Suites, as well as the mid-level Maplewood Suites, Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn, and Homewood Suites. More options lie north closer by the airport, east in East Syracuse, and, of course, downtown.
Time will tell if the 2019 change of affiliation to the New York Mets will reverse the Syracuse baseball attendance fortunes, but the squad has nearly nowhere to go but up. The only thing keeping the former Chiefs out of the bottom of the barrel in the International League was the Gwinnett Stripers, who had a death grip on the bottom of the league for attendance for the last five years.
While the determined but damp crowd for this game isn’t a fair bellwether, the situation does look to be improving. Early on in the campaign, the Mets have crawled within striking distance of the middle of the league’s attendance pack, but it will be seen if they can hold on to that for the entire season.
That said, the crowd at the park are clear baseball fans. While the families certainly enjoy the between-inning antics, they are there to see a ball game and are involved and loud about the game on the field.
The park is very convenient to travel, and the wide main concourse makes it easy to get around most of the park.
NBT Bank Stadium is located just off of I-81 and S.R. 11. If you’re coming from out of town, good news: the Syracuse Amtrak station is just beyond third base. For other mass transit, Syracuse CENTRO bus lines 116 or 216 ($2) will also get you right to the stadium from downtown.
The copious parking area is split into two lots: general ($5) and VIP ($10). While the VIP lots are closer to the park, it isn’t *that* much closer, and doesn’t have a quicker way out of the park, so you should save $5 and stick to the cheaper lot. Attendants are still on duty at the end of the game to direct traffic, and exiting the stadium is hassle-free.
Perhaps indicative of better days, there are three large entrances to the park at first base, third base, and home plate, but only home plate is generally open for most games. And it isn’t a problem, as the entrance process is quick and efficient, and you’re soon up the flight of stairs that dumps you out on the stadium’s main concourse. There is also a special entrance in right field for the Jim Beam Party deck and the picnic area, the only part of the outfield accessible to fans.
Walking around is quite easy on the spacious concourse, but it only runs from outfield to outfield and not around the entire park. Getting around in the second level can be a little more challenging, as it only has stairways at regular intervals leading up to a small walkway at the base of the upper deck, but unless the crowds are big that day, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Return on Investment 5
While the park may not stand out in many areas, it is certainly a very affordable experience, especially for a Triple-A team that is one step away from the majors.
The dismal attendance of late has led to the happy outcome of dirt-cheap ticket pricing. All tickets are $2 more on game day, but even then, they are quite the bargain. Premium Field Boxes behind home plate and the dugouts are $15, reserved box in the outfield and the second level of main seating bowl are $13, and general admission and handicapped tickets are just $10. (Active military gets $2 off premium tickets and free GA seats.)
Food and drink prices are reasonable, with nearly all food and most drink options under $10. Parking is $5 for general and $10 for VIP parking, and the slim newsprint program is free, almost unheard of at the AAA level.
As with most minor league teams, there are regular daily specials, such as craft beer nights, Taco Tuesdays, and all-you-can-eat nights that have special discounts or items added to your ticket.
The park has a modest collection of memorials around. At the main entrance, there are banners for major leaguer Hank Sauer (who spent some time in Syracuse in the minors), baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and long-time Syracuse baseball executive Tex Simone (who’s name also graces the road of the stadium).
The increasingly crowded Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame is on the concourse by home plate, and the Hank Sauer Room of Legends (also housing a bust of Tex Simone) is a restaurant area sitting in the right field corner that is also rented out for parties and hosts some special events, such as all-you-can-eat nights. One stand-out of note is the Frederick J. Karle Fan Walk of Fame on the promenade. While it currently enshrines only its namesake, it is a nice nod to the fans that you don’t often find in other parks.
The small-ish team store is on the concourse by home plate, a small play area is found beyond right field, and the fan relation booth to sign up for on-field events and other activities are on the concourse close to third base.
It is also worth noting that all the personnel are polite and helpful to a person, which also helps enhance a ballpark experience.
NBT Bank Ballpark has a great selection of food and drinks at a great price for baseball fans but doesn’t stand out in many other areas — a solid ballpark, but not a lot more.