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  • Michael Rusignuolo

Neptunus Familiestadion - Curacao Neptunus


Photos by Michael Rusignuolo, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Neptunus Familiestadion Abraham van Stolkweg 31 3041 JA Rotterdam, Netherlands

Curacao Neptunus website Neptunus Familiestadion website

Year Opened: 1999 Capacity: 2,460

 

The Best Baseball in Europe

The Neptunus sports club has origins going back to 1900, but the Rotterdam-based organization didn’t field a baseball club until 1943. From those humble beginnings, the Neptunus baseball team has evolved to not only be the best baseball team in the Dutch top-level Honkbal Hoofdklasse (winning the Holland Series for seven years in a row in one stretch), but the best team in Europe, with over ten European Cup Championships to their name. Bucking the Dutch trend, the baseball team is the dominant sport in the Neptunus club, and soccer has fallen by the wayside.

It seems only fair that the premiere team of the league should have one of the premier ballparks, and Neptunus Familiestadion (“Neptunus Family Stadium”) is unquestionably one of the best ballparks in The Netherlands. Built in 1999 as “the most modern ballpark in the Netherlands,” it has a regular capacity of 2,460, but it can expand to around 6,000 for larger tournaments.

Neptunus Familiestadion is one of the top-level ballparks in The Netherlands, with solid facilities and amenities that is relatively easy to reach from the city center and a great value for your money.

[All prices are in Euros. At the time of writing, one Euro is worth about $1.15.]

Food & Beverage 3

The ballpark experience is much more small-scale in The Netherlands, even in this highest-level locale. All the food and beverages are available in the clubhouse–not the luxury locker rooms of the MLB, but literally a clubhouse for the organization that features a meeting space, a bar, and sometimes a separate food concession. Neptunus clubhouse is larger and fancier than most in The Netherlands, with a large bar and a separate grill kiosk.

The clubhouse food is served up at a concession to the left of the main bar. All the food items top out at €3.50, so the price isn’t an obstacle. You can get a selection of specialty hamburgers or hot dogs, sausages, omelets, and grilled sandwiches for that price and lower.

Beer is served up at the main bar in the clubhouse, also for a reasonable €3 per drink. Selection is limited to Heineken and whatever other local beers might be available that day, but you can’t really argue about the prices. Coca-Cola is the non-alcohol drink family of choice.

You’re in The Netherlands. Get a Heineken. As for grub, choose your poison. They are all fresh-made, cheap, and tasty. I went for a brat, but the filling grilled sandwiches are also quite popular.

Atmosphere 4

Neptunus Familiestadion is easily one of the best Dutch ballparks. While other parks in the country are mostly on the level of Rookie League MiLB, Neptunus Familiestadion is easily on the high-A or AA-level.

The ballpark is one grandstand, running from short left field to short right field behind home plate. Stairs lead up to the main promenade from both ends of the park, as well as the plaza behind home plate outside the clubhouse. The promenade runs the length of the grandstand and splits the seats into a lower and upper level, and at the very top of the stands are a press box and a level of box/VIP seats. Generally only the upper level of seats are in the shade, so depending on whether you are there on a cool spring day or hot summer day will determine where you might want to sit.

A full digital scoreboard sits in left-center field, definitely an upgrade from the minimalist scoreboards found in most of the league. While it doesn’t have video, it is the only scoreboard in the league to show players’ pictures in addition to names and numbers, and even displays the scoring of each completed play. The outfield wall is covered in advertisements and looks out over a tree-lined landscape broken up only by the batters’ eye in center and scoreboard. And all the seats in the stadium are modern, fold-down seats instead of the solid molded plastic found most elsewhere in the league.

There is minimal flair during the game. There are no mascots or between-innings entertainment that you would be accustomed to even in the lowest minors in the United States. There is some walk-up music for the home batters and a Seventh Inning Stretch, and that’s about it. The Dutch don’t even play the national anthem before games or fly their flag. Since this is a step up from club ball, however, there are some nice vestiges of sportsmanship. Each batter coming the plate for the first time usually shakes the hand of the umpire and the opposing catcher.

Your admission gets you any seat in the house, so choose what suits you best. But be sure to spend an inning in the area behind home plate outside the clubhouse. Grab a beer and watch the game from a vantage point you will almost never have the chance to see at a pro game in the States.


Neighborhood 3

Neptunus Familiestadion greatly benefits from being in a sportpark so close to the city center. Unlike most other Honkbal Hoofdklasse parks, it has more going on around it by not being stuck out in the suburbs.

There isn’t a ton of restaurants directly around the park, but a short walk south will yield Surinamese Roopram Roti Rotterdam, Turkish Meram Rotterdam West, Indian Sangam Tandoori, and Surinamese Rotiland. There are dozens more restaurants to be found on the short drive back to downtown.

The ballpark shares a bus stop with the Diergaarde Blijdorp Zoo, just to the north of the sportpark. The large zoo is a pleasant excursion for kids and adults alike. Also relatively close by is Miniworld Rotterdam, with the entire city done in a miniature train exhibit that is a lot more interesting than it might sound. The rest of the city’s attractions are also a short ride away.

The only hotel within walking distance is the fancy Van Der Valk Hotel Rotterdam Blijdorp, right outside the zoo, and two bed and breakfasts to the south, Algerti Bed & Bike and BNB Essenburgsingel. But the seven-minute drive back to Centraal Station yields dozens of hotel options from budget on up.

Fans 4

Baseball (or honkbal, as it is known locally) is very much a fringe sport in The Netherlands, and for all of Europe for that matter. The Dutch Honkbal Hoofdklasse is one of the only semi pro/professional leagues on the continent, sharing the distinction with the Italian Baseball League.

That said, Neptunus regular-season games get the average Dutch crowds across the league: Between 100-250 people per game. As they are mostly paying fans at Neptunus Familiestadion, that is more of an achievement than at other parks. Another out-of-the-ordinary status quo is that there are usually pet dogs at every game. It is a welcome change for dog lovers, less so if you don’t like them.

The fans that are there are into the game, and there are even some visiting fans to be found (much easier to do given the small size of The Netherlands). They are active with their cheering, and there are even a fan scorekeeper or two.

Access 4

While many of the ballparks in The Netherlands are a large distance away from city centers and hard to get to with mass transit since baseball is a fringe sport in the country, Neptunus Familiestadion is one of the few that is relatively close and convenient to downtown.

From Rotterdam Centraal Station, a ten-minute bus ride (RET Frequentbus 38 to stop Beukelsbrug/Van Nellefabriek, E1.32) will have you within walking distance of the park. It is also only about a seven-minute drive from the city center by car, cab, or ride share, and the especially hardy can walk there in about 30 minutes from downtown.

The stadium has its own parking lot attached to the stadium, there is plenty of free bicycle parking, and ride shares can drop off at the front gate.

The only entrance to the stadium is the main gate outside the parking lot. Given the size of crowds at regular-season games, this is not much of an issue at all.

A large plaza outside the stadium lets you walk to either end of the grandstand to stairs leading up to the promenade. A spacious walkway runs the length of the grandstand, separating the seating area extending down and up from there, with a top level of box seats.

Return on Investment 4

Even though Neptunus is one of the only teams to charge for admission to their park, it is still a great value overall

The best team in one of the best parks in The Netherlands comes at a price: €7.50. That is the ticket price at the door and will get you any seat in the house.

All the food and drink items are under €3.50. You just can’t beat those prices.

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Extras 2

As with all the Dutch stadiums, extras are at a minimum. The clubhouse has a selection of baseball memorabilia, as well as club trophies and awards. There is also a small team store display selling some very select team merchandise, but the person in charge of it may not be there, particularly on game days. There is also a small children’s play area outside of the park.

A small WWII memorial stands by the entrance to the stadium, and there are three retired numbers on the outfield wall and in the clubhouse (Kooster 14, Van Aallen 22, Eenhoorn 16) for players who made appearances in the MLB.

As Dutch clubhouse personnel are almost all volunteers, they are polite and helpful to a person and are always glad to talk to and assist visitors.


Final Thoughts

Neptunus Familiestadion is one of the finest stadiums in the Dutch Honkbal Hoofdklasse, featuring some of the best amenities in the country at a great price that is not as far from the city center as most other teams in the league.




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