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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium - Mystic Schooners

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.43

Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium

14 Stott Ave.

Norwich, CT 06360

Year Opened: 1995

Capacity: 6,720

A Future for Dodd Stadium

Senator Thomas J. Dodd Stadium is named for the Norwich native who served two terms in both the House of Representatives and the Senate between 1952 and 1964. Dodd may be best known as part of the prosecution at the Nuremburg Trials.

Originally built as home to the AA Eastern League’s Norwich Navigators in 1995, several teams have called Dodd Stadium home over its nearly 30-year history. After the reorganization of the minor leagues in 2021 effectively ended professional baseball in Norwich, the collegiate wood-bat Futures League came calling, adding the Norwich Sea Unicorns to the circuit in 2021. Looking to utilize their ballpark for more dates during the summer, the city offered a lease to the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League the following summer.

The Mystic Schooners are the only remaining original franchise in the wood-bat NECBL. Debuting in 1994 in the Connecticut city of Willimantic as the Eastern Tides, the team has played in Hinsdale and Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Bristol, Connecticut before moving to the coastal city of Mystic, Connecticut in 2011. The team played eleven seasons at Fitch High School Field in neighboring Groton before moving to nearby Norwich for the 2022 season.

The Schooners franchise has won two NECBL championships, one in 1994 as the Eastern Tides and one in 2016 as the Mystic Schooners. 48 former players have gone on to play professionally, with three alumni (Joe Hudson, Jason Foley and Jake Myers) reaching the Major Leagues.

Food & Beverage 3

Only a fraction of the concession stands are opened at Dodd Stadium for Schooners games, but the options here still manage to cover all the bases.

Only one of the big stands is open during Schooner games, offering a menu of hot dogs, sausage and pepper sandwiches and chicken tenders with french fries. You can spice up your options with some buffalo sauce for your tenders or some cheese for your fries for a dollar upcharge. A decent collection of snacks are also sold here, including popcorn, pretzels and cotton candy.

Fans looking to satisfy a sweet tooth can head to the ice cream stand, where several flavors of hard ice cream are available, as well as a selection of candy.

Bottles of Coca-Cola products are sold at Dodd Stadium concession stands. Fans looking for an adult beverage can find Budweiser and Bud Light on draft at the main stand.

Atmosphere 2

With only a few hundred people in a 6,700-seat ballpark, the atmosphere is going to suffer. While Schooner staff provide many typical minor league baseball elements, there’s not a whole lot of energy you can bring to a big, empty stadium. Between inning games such as a tug-of-war contest, dizzy bat, name that tune and trivia contests keep fans involved during the game. A bouncy castle is set up in a deep corner of the left field concourse. Music plays between innings and an overly chatty PA announcer keeps the stadium full of noise throughout the game.

Longtime visitors to Dodd Stadium will undoubtedly notice that a few traditional Norwich touches are missing. The Tator the Gator statue that long stood guard at the front entrance has been moved to a hidden corner of the facility. Also, it’s strange to not see the dual major/minor league logos on the stadium façade. Younger fans will bemoan the fact that the arcade has been closed. It does look like the scoreboard has been repaired and updated, though.

All the signage at Dodd Stadium reflects the team’s primary tenant, the Sea Unicorns. The only mention of the Schooners in the ballpark is a single banner on the left field fence. It’s tough being the secondary tenant in a facility.

Neighborhood 2

Dodd Stadium is located in an industrial park, and there is nothing of note within a few miles of the ballpark. Fans looking for places to stay in the area or places to eat will find a few options on Town Street on the way to the ballpark. Downtown Norwich is a few miles away.

Most fans visiting the area will not choose to stay in Norwich, opting instead to proceed to the two large casinos located nearby. Mohegan Sun is located a 15-minute drive from the ballpark, and Foxwoods is located a half hour drive from Dodd Stadium. Both casinos are renowned for their variety of shops, entertainment, and dining options, and of course, gaming choices.

Families looking for a more family-friendly environment will surely enjoy a visit to Mystic Seaport, located a 20-minute drive away on the Connecticut coastline. This summer attraction contains more than 60 historic buildings, museums, historic vessels, shops, and an aquarium.

Fans 1

Stadium Journey attended a Schooners game on a beautiful June Saturday afternoon early in the 2023 season. We estimated the crowd at about 100 fans. Since the Schooners are the secondary tenant at Dodd Stadium, their schedule is dotted with unusual noon weekday starts and other less desirable dates.

Fans at Schooner games are typical of most summer league games in the area, with die-hard fans mixed in with families. With small crowds present in such a big facility, there is a ton of room for everyone to spread out and for the kids in attendance to chase down foul balls. Baseball purists will enjoy that you are able to hear all the chatter on the field.

Access 3

Dodd Stadium’s location in the Norwich Industrial Park ensures that it is easy to get to via car, but also that driving is the only method to arrive at the ballpark. Visitors to Norwich will simply take exit 14 off Interstate 395 and follow the signs to the ballpark. Dodd Stadium is located about three miles from the highway through the industrial park. Parking is in a large gravel lot adjacent to the ballpark.

Seating at Dodd Stadium is available in three forms: gray folding plastic stadium chairs, red molded bucket seats and metal bleachers with backs. A wide concourse runs atop the seating bowl and offers views of the field from all points except for directly behind home plate. Berms cap the end of the concourse on both sides, with a party deck located in left field and a gazebo in right field. Fans arriving early can stake a claim to the Adirondack chairs atop the right field berm. The rest rooms are clean and more than adequate for the typical Schooners crowd.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets are sold as general admission for ten dollars. Parking is free in the large lot adjacent to the stadium. Concession prices are reasonable, with no item costing more than ten dollars.

The Schooners have a merchandise table set up near the entrance to the ballpark, where in addition to your typical hats and t-shirts, fans can purchase a growler of one of the team’s signature beverages.

Extras 1

An extra point is awarded for the Schooners Beverage Company, an out-of-the-box idea to help support the team that has become quite a success in its own right, with several flavors of beverages that can be found at retailers throughout the area. With flavors ranging from lemonade and iced tea to raspberry and coffee cola, there’s something for everyone and definitely worth a try while you’re in the area.

Final Thoughts

It’s tough being a secondary tenant in any facility, just ask the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s even tougher when you are a team who struggles to attract fans. While Dodd Stadium is a massive step-up facility-wise for the Schooners, the improvement in home field hasn’t translated to an improvement in attendance or game day atmosphere. Yet.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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