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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Veterans Memorial Park – James Madison Dukes


Photos by Gregory Koch , Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Veterans Memorial Park 270 Veterans Memorial Drive Harrisonburg, VA 22807


Year Opened: 2010

Capacity: 1,500

 

Diamond Dukes

Nestled in the scenic Shenandoah Valley town of Harrisonburg, Virginia is the campus of James Madison University. JMU’s athletic teams, known as the Dukes, compete in the Sun Belt Conference, having moved from the Colonial Athletic Association for the 2022-23 season. The Dukes softball program is best known for their miraculous run to the 2021 Women's College World Series, where they defied all expectations by reaching the semifinal. They were one win away from reaching the final series, but lost two in a row to number one overall seed Oklahoma, eliminating them from the double-elimination tournament and ending their miraculous run.

The Dukes call Veterans Memorial Park home. This facility is shared with the baseball team, who plays in the adjacent stadium. Although the two facilities have separate entrances, they share many common facilities including a concourse that snakes between the two stadiums.

Food & Beverage 3

A concession stand is located directly to your left as you come in, in between the softball and baseball stadiums, and offers a good range of options. Cheeseburgers, hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie dogs, sausage, and chicken tenders make up the main course options. Nachos, soft pretzels, fries, popcorn, candy, sunflower seeds, chips, and peanuts are available as well. To drink, fans can enjoy bottled soda and water, as well as hot chocolate and coffee. In an effort to be environmentally friendly, the water comes in aluminum cans rather than the typical plastic bottles. Prices are affordable - the only thing that costs more than $5 is the chicken tenders, and those come with fries.

Atmosphere 4

Fans will enter Veterans Memorial Park for softball to the right of the ticket booth, although the window has been shuttered for quite some time as the Dukes no longer charge for admission to regular season games here. Nonetheless, the signage is still up, so look for the sign that says "Tickets" and enter the gate to the right of that. The one to the left is used for the baseball stadium and is closed for softball home games. Despite this, it is possible to walk along the concourse into the baseball stadium, and one will need to do this to access the concession stand and souvenir shop. However, to get to the stadium itself, you will walk right from the entrance, then up some steps or an elevator to the seating area. From there, seating is available both above and below the walkway you will enter onto. There are a few chairbacks behind home plate underneath the press box, and everything else is bleachers with backs. All seating is general admission, so arrive early if you want a chairback.

The Dukes do a great job of keeping fans involved with promotions. From trading card giveaways of a different player every home game, to the Scream for Pizza (whoever screams the loudest gets free Domino's pizza), to name that tune and trivia contests to win a free hot dog at the concession stand, fans will definitely stay engaged here.



Neighborhood 3

Harrisonburg is a quaint town in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Although this doesn’t have the excitement of the big city, there is plenty to do here, including the Virginia Quilt Museum. For meals, there are plenty of options depending on your budget. The famous southern chain Cook Out has a location five minutes from campus, which serves up burgers, chicken sandwiches, and other options. Try one of their trays for a great value, as it comes with two sides and a drink for around $8. If you’re looking for something more upscale, or at least something with table service, the Magpie Diner and Macado's are both local favorites.


Fans 5

Dukes fans pack Veterans Memorial Park for softball game in and game out. The game we attended had close to a thousand fans in a 1,500 seat stadium and this is typical for what they draw. Fans wear the school color of purple and cheer their team on throughout the game. Some are friends or family of the players, but most are just loyal JMU fans . The team also partners with many local youth groups, including youth softball teams, so expect to see a lot of kids in attendance, many of them clad in their team's uniform. The crowd here can get quite loud, especially after big moments such as JMU home runs. Their passion is bold and unwavering, and they help make this an electric place to watch a softball game.




Access 3

Veterans Memorial Park is located a few miles off Interstate 81 via exit 247B. After exiting onto Market Street, continue a short while before turning left onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Continue for about a mile and a half before the road ends at High Street. Continue through the light and you will be in the parking lot. You will need to navigate a roundabout in the middle of the parking lot to wind up in the lot nearest the stadium – other areas serve the Veterans Memorial itself or other parts of the park, although you can park there if the stadium lot fills up.

Getting around the stadium once you get inside is easy enough, although it is a bit confusing to have to walk up and back down. Foul balls regularly fly onto the concourse so be careful while you are walking down there. A staff member will normally shout “Heads up!” when a ball is heading that way but be alert yourself anyway. Restrooms are located directly to the left of the entrance and are of sufficient size for the crowd.

When getting out of the stadium, you may have to wait at the traffic light for a few minutes as the timing of the cycle was not designed for such traffic patterns as occur postgame, but once you get out, you should not encounter any problems.

Return on Investment 5

Admission to softball games at JMU is free of charge, concessions are affordable, and parking is free as well. When combined with the fantastic atmosphere, that makes a trip to a James Madison softball game an excellent value.

Extras 4

One star for all the banners and signs throughout the stadium honoring James Madison softball history, including the Women's College World Series appearance in 2021.

There are free programs and JMU softball trading cards available at the marketing table. Fans who collect all the trading cards by attending every home game will receive a prize at the end of the season.

A third star for the merchandise shop to the left of the concession stand selling JMU gear,.

A fourth and final star for the potential to see both a JMU softball and baseball game in the same day if you time your trip right, or at least get the chance to explore two venues in one.



Final Thoughts

The excitement at a James Madison Dukes softball game is still palpable, even two years after their Women's College World Series appearance. This is a program on the rise, and the move to the Sun Belt Conference should enable that continued growth. The Dukes have some passionate and boisterous fans and a facility to match. Softball fans in the Shenandoah Valley will definitely want to spend an afternoon at a James Madison game here.


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