UPMC Park – Erie SeaWolves
Photos by Andy Pregler and Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
UPMC Park 110 E 10th St Erie, PA 16501
Year Opened: 1995
Squeezing it In
In 1995 the Erie SeaWolves were established, eventually settling in the Eastern League and a Double-A affiliation with the Detroit Tigers. The SeaWolves were purchased by former Procter & Gamble and Chiquita executive Fernando Aguirre in 2015. The SeaWolves call UPMC Park home. The ballpark is part of the Louis Tullio Plaza along with the Erie Insurance Arena and formerly named after Jerry Uht. Jerry was a professional ball player with the Cleveland Indians and is intertwined with Erie baseball. He established an endowment that would help support the park. A marker sits outside the park and continues to memorize Jerry Uht even after the naming rights for the ballpark were sold to the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. What is unique about this city owned ballpark is that it seems to be situated on a footprint that is smaller than one would expect for a ballpark. It has created a unique landscape for baseball, one that is not easily forgotten.
Food & Beverage 4
The SeaWolves garnered a bit of infamy in 2018 when it comes to concessions with their unique Cotton Candy Dog. Upon visiting UPMC Park in 2019 the item was nowhere to be found. What remains on the concession scene, however, is a good selection of ballpark favorites and premium items. All of the required ballpark items like hot dogs, peanuts, pizza and nachos are available at UPMC Park. There are also some spots in the park that should garner a second look. The Smith’s Sausage Shop is a good place to start. A ton of different hot dogs and sausages are on the menu including a Cuban Dog, Cajun Sausage and Ox Roast Sandwich are interesting options. The Mojo & AC Rocket Dog may be the choice with mac & cheese and pulled pork on it. Other interesting items at other spots in UPMC Park include Pepperoni Balls, Greek Fries, Mac n Cheese Bites and Loaded French Fries.
Soft drink options are focused on Pepsi products. For those who are beer connoisseurs, Labatt Blue and Yuengling are mainstays, with Southern Tier, Founders and Lakeshore products filling the craft contingent. Smirnoff Ice and Twisted Tea are also available for those who wish an alcoholic beverage while staying away from the beer.
UPMC Park is shoehorned into a small footprint. The exterior of UPMC is unspectacular but not terrible. Reddish-brown and tan brick with a tower in the southwest corner are the key traits for the exterior. The southwest corner has a bit of a gathering area, really the only one, with the monument for Jerry Uht right there to remind fans of his importance. A bit of a curiosity is the baseball frog in the southwest area known as “One-Hopper.” Both the monument and One-Hopper are outside of the ballpark right by the ticket office.
The interior of UPMC Park is where its uniqueness stands out. The corridors are not unlike most minor league facilities. Plaques honoring key members of the Erie baseball family are found around the concourse. Life-size, player posters also honour those SeaWolves who have made it to the big leagues. Chief among those players are Curtis Granderson and Justin Verlander. Getting out to the grandstands are quite telling. The lower seating area is quite traditional, wrapping around the infield, however, with only five rows of seats. The first base side upper deck is quite close to the action and basically on stilts. The party deck in right field is also on stilts. On the third base side, there is a more traditional grandstand on the other side of the exterior concourse. A picnic area is behind the lower grandstand on the left field side and behind it is the kids zone with some inflatable fun. UPMC has a distinct lack of symmetry to it, which takes some getting used to. The video board is in right-center field and UPMC has possibly the most unique left field in baseball. The left field wall is the neighbouring Erie Insurance Arena.
The game day atmosphere is what is to be expected at a Minor League Baseball game. Filled with promotions and special dates, the SeaWolves game day staff do what they can to keep the turnstiles turning. The SeaWolves mascot, C. Wolf, makes his way around the ballpark, interacting with fans and participating in promotions. The date that was reviewed was a doubleheader and in between the two games the SeaWolves hosted the Kid Stampede. Kids are welcomed in the left field corner and are encouraged to sprint to the right field corner as fast as they can.
UPMC Park is located between French, 10th and Holland Streets in what is essentially downtown Erie. There are a few spots within walking distance of the ballpark for pre or post game fare. Some spots that may be of interest include Cloud 9 Wine Bar, Franco’s Cafe, Docksider Tavern, Jeckyll & Hyde’s Gastropub and Bolero. There are also a couple of chains in the vicinity like Subway and Taco Bell for those who are looking for something familiar.
Located right behind UPMC Park is Erie Insurance Arena which is home to the Erie Otters of the OHL and the Erie BayHawks of the G League. There is also NCAA Division I hockey in Erie at Mercyhurst Ice Center, home of the Mercyhurst Lakers. Presque Isle Downs & Casino offers thoroughbred racing on the other side of the interstate. For other entertainment options, fans may consider checking out the Erie Zoo. or heading to the waterfront to Presque Isle State Park. The Warner Theatre is also in the neighbourhood.
For fans needing a spot to stay, the Avalon Hotel is very close to the ballpark and Courtyard by Marriott Erie Bayfront is near the waterfront.
The Erie SeaWolves draw between 3,000 and 3,300 fans per game in a year. From the 2017 to 2019 seasons, the attendance at UPMC Park has been trending down. The SeaWolves are traditionally at the bottom end of the league in attendance either the eleventh or twelfth out of twelve teams. UPMC Park has a capacity of 6,000, so there is plenty of space for more fans. The fans that are in attendance are pretty knowledgeable and remain interested in the game. However, a better mark for fans will come with simply a higher attendance.
UPMC Park is located in downtown Erie, north of highway 20 and further north of I-90 and east of I-79. Getting to the park by car will require plenty of maneuvering the city streets into downtown. There are a few parking options with a large parking garage to the southwest of the ballpark and a parking lot on the other side of 10th Street.
For fans interested in taking public transit to the ballpark, there are buses that run along 10th Street. Fans should check Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority website for fares, maps and schedules.
Security at the ballpark is what you would expect for a Minor League game. Checking the SeaWolves website before leaving home to confirm prohibited items and security procedures, is still a good idea. The ticket window is at the southwest corner at 10th and French and lineups are not a big issue. Getting around the ballpark given the number of fans in attendance is not an issue and the washrooms are adequate for the facility. The high number of seats that are above the inner concourse will require many fans to manoeuvre the stairs.
Return on Investment 4
As with most Minor League Baseball experiences, the Erie SeaWolves offer solid return on investment. Tickets for the SeaWolves can be found for $15, $13 or $10. Concession prices are not exorbitant and parking can be found for $5. The SeaWolves do a decent job of putting together a good experience and fans will not be disappointed. Finding a single-ticket doubleheader, usually possible due to early season weather issues, adds to that value.
An extra mark for continuing improvements to UPMC Park. The 2019 season features a new video board and new playing surface. The 2020 season expects a new team store, new entrance upgrades to suites, picnic area and party deck among other items.
An extra mark for the unique asymmetry of UPMC Park.
An extra mark for the honouring of Sam “The Jet” Jethroe. The Jet was a Negro League Hall of Famer who settled in Erie after his professional career ended. To go with his plaque in the concourse, Jethroe’s number 5 is retired and stands above Jackie Robinson’s 42 on the left field wall.
The experience at UPMC Park for the Erie SeaWolves is a decent Minor League experience. The uniqueness of the park, even among minor league facilities, offers something a little different. The small footprint makes UPMC distinct, however, better, more consistent attendance would make the experience better.