Toppa Field - Salve Regina Seahawks
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
Toppa Field at Freebody Park
Newport, RI 02840
Year Opened: 1933
Football by the Sea
Toppa Field, a WPA project, is located within Freebody Park, a multi-use facility with multiple athletic fields and a playground. It was the original site of the Newport Folk Festival. Today, Salve Regina University uses the facility as home for their football, lacrosse, soccer and softball teams. The field is named for John Toppa, who coached in Newport at Rogers High School for 32 years, winning 11 state championships. Toppa also taught at the school and served as its athletic director for 25 years.
Salve Regina University is a private Roman Catholic university located in Newport, RI. In Latin, Salve Regina translates to “Hail Queen,” which makes sense as the school began as a women’s college. Founded in 1934, the school is now coeducational, with an enrollment of 2,800 students enrolled in 40 majors. The school is best known for its nursing programs. Nestled amongst Newport’s famous Gilded Age mansions, it has been ranked among the nation’s most beautiful colleges by both Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler.
Salve Regina University fielded their first varsity football program in 1993. The Seahawks now play in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), a Division Three conference with schools located in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Salve Regina has played in nine postseason games in its history but has yet to participate in the D-3 national tournament.
Food & Beverage 4
There are no permanent concessions facilities at Toppa Field, so food trucks fill the void during Seahawk football games. Local favorite Little Fish provided the food during Stadium Journey’s visit, with a selection of fish, chicken and lobster tacos along with caviche, lobster covered nachos and lobster rolls. It’s not your typical football game fare, but totally appropriate in the seaside city of Newport.
Little Fish food truck also sells Coca-Cola products and Liquid Death beers from local favorite Revival Brewing. Fans can also pick up a frozen lemonade from Rhode Island legend Del’s Lemonade. Fans looking for snacks will find a table operated by the Salve cheerleading squad which offers up cold drinks and candy.
A Seahawk football game features a pretty basic game day presentation. Fans who haven’t visited Toppa Field in a while will be surprised by the improvements in recent years. The newest addition to the facility is the brand-new scoreboard situated on the north side of the field, behind the visitors’ sideline. This basic scoreboard is so new that the crew hasn’t totally figured out how to use all its features yet. Longtime fans say it’s great to now know how much time is left in the game.
Digital programs are available for all fans, and there is a playground near the park’s entrance where younger fans can let out some energy during the game. The Seahawk cheer squad provides some noise during the game while the PA announcer goes about his work in an unobtrusive manner. The sound system is not overwhelmingly loud, but the sound is of good quality. If you choose a seat near the top of the grandstand, the coaches will be sitting right behind you, barking out instructions to their sidelines via headsets.
Without a doubt, the biggest strength of Toppa Field is its location. Nestled in between Newport’s Gilded Age mansions and bustling Belleview Avenue, there is plenty to do and see before and after a Seahawks football game.
Easton Beach and the famous Cliff Walk are less than a half mile from Toppa Field. A local’s tip: get to the area early and walk the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile path that runs behind many of Newport’s famous mansions atop a 70-foot shoreline cliff. Just to the west of Freebody Park is the Newport Casino, home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. After the game, head a half mile in the other direction to America’s Cup Avenue, where the Brick Marketplace contains numerous fine restaurants, pubs and shops. The area will be much less crowded during the fall months, but most of the businesses will still be open. Also located here is Cardines Field, one of the oldest ballparks still in use in the country.
Other attractions in Newport include Fort Adams State Park, Touro Synagogue (the oldest synagogue in the country) and the Newport Art Museum. Fans visiting the area will have no shortage of choices for dining, shopping or lodging. More complete information can be found at DiscoverNewport.org.
Salve Regina draws good crowds to Toppa Field. The Seahawks are the only college team on Aquidneck Island, so many locals turn out to see some football on fall weekends. Many of the fans in the stands enjoy relationships with the players on the field, so they are knowledgeable about the game and enthusiastic in their support.
While there’s not an overwhelming presence from the student body, they do turn out in solid numbers to cheer on their classmates. Given the small size of Salve, they’d barely fill Toppa Field if everyone showed up, anyway. With the compact geographic footprint of the NEWMAC conference, there is usually a good turnout from visiting fans as well. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend a gorgeous fall Saturday in Newport?
Newport is a city of about 25,000 residents located at the southern tip of Aquidneck Island. Best known as a popular summer destination, this seaside town is famous for its Gilded Age mansions and sailing history.
Located 33 miles south of Providence and 74 miles south of Boston, it is not easily accessed by any highways. The closest interstate to Newport is I-195, which runs from Providence to Cape Cod about 20 miles north of Newport. Route 24 runs from Fall River down through the upper half of Aquidneck Island. Once the highway ends visitors will navigate Route 114 into the city.
Freebody Park is located in the northern section of Newport, just behind the Newport Casino and near the city’s famous Gilded Age mansions and beaches. This area is full of historic sites and a popular summer destination. While it may be a bit less crowded on fall football Saturdays, it’s still not the easiest area to navigate.
Parking is available on the neighborhood streets, but it can be difficult to find spots really close to the park. Be prepared to walk a few blocks and be sure to pay attention to signs. Many streets are closed to parking at certain times. There is some public parking available near the Cliff Walk about a half mile away.
Seating at Toppa Field consists of a single concrete grandstand on the southern edge of the facility. Seasoned fans will bring cushions to sit on during Seahawk games. There are a pair of small bathrooms underneath the grandstand, which are augmented with several port-a-johns scattered throughout the park.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to a Seahawks game are sold as general admission for ten dollars. On-street parking in the Freebody Park area is free. Some of the concession items are a bit on the pricey side, although not out of line for the type of food offered (lobster rolls aren’t cheap, after all). Overall, a Salve Regina football game is an affordable entertainment option for local sports fans.
The Salve Regina football game day presentation is a pretty basic one, with not much going on at Toppa Field that can be considered extra. We’ll award an extra point for the improvements that the university has put into the facility to improve the overall experience. The new turf and the new scoreboard are just two examples of such improvements to this classic stadium.
Toppa Field is a busy community recreation facility that just oozes history and provides a simple, but enjoyable game day experience. Located on one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, a visit to a football game at Salve Regina will be just a small part of an incredible stadium journey.