Wednesday, November 30, 2011

War Memorial at the OnCenter, Syracuse NY

Basic Information
Team: Syracuse Crunch (American Hockey League)
Game: Crunch vs Binghamton Senatorus-11/25/2011
Team Website: http://www.syracusecrunch.com/
Ticket Information: (315) 473-4444 or http://www.syracusecrunch.com/
Tourism Information: (800) 234-4794 or http://www.visitsyracuse.com/
Online Broadcasts: WSKO-AM 1260 http://www.thescore1260.com/
Local Newspaper: Syracuse Post-Standard www.syracuse.com/poststandard/

Team History: After playing two years as the Hamilton (Ontario) Canucks, professional hockey returned to central New York in 1994, when the Canucks moved to Syracuse and became the Syracuse Crunch. The Crunch have been affiliated with the Canucks, then the Columbus Blue Jackets, and most recently, the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks and Crunch have been affiliated since the beginning of the 2010-11 season.
While hockey has been played in Syracuse in different leagues since the early 1930's, one of the most legendary teams that called the War Memorial home never "really" set foot on the ice. The Syracuse Bulldogs, led my Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken, Gilmore Tuttle, Andre "Poodle" Lucier, and of course, "Ogie" Oglethorpe were immortalized in the 1977 hockey classic "Slap Shot" as the opponent of the Charlestown Chiefs in the Federal League championship. Many of the hockey scenes were filmed at the War Memorial.

Team Affiliation: The Crunch are the top affiliate of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.

Arena Capacity: The War Memorial has a seating capacity of 6,159 for hockey.
How About That Name (And Some History): Opened in 1951 as a salute to those who served in World War I and World War II, the War Memorial at the OnCenter cost over three million dollars and took two years to build. Not only has the War Memorial hosted hockey, it was also the original home of the Syracuse National of the NBA. The Nationals played in Syracuse from 1951-1963 before moving to Philadelphia to become the 76ers.

In addition, the War Memorial has hosted indoor football, indoor lacrosse, and in 2011, the arena opened it's doors to indoor soccer, as the Syracuse Silver Knights took to the turf for the first time.

The OnCenter is composed of the War Memorial, the Pirro Convention Center, and the Mulroy Civic Center theater.

On The Town: Named after the Italian city of Siracusa, Syracuse is the fifth largest city in New York State with a population of 145,710. Syracuse is located in the central part of the state, approximately three hours from Buffalo and Albany. The city is serviced by the New York Thruway (Interstate 90) and Interstate 81.

For over five thousand years before European settlers, the land around Syracuse and Onondaga Lake has been the home of native Americans. This area was the territory of the Six Nations, a confederation of native tribes (the Mohawks, the Senecas, the Onondagas, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, and the Tuscaroras).

In 1615, the first Europeans, led by French explorer Champlain attacked the Oneida. During the next thirty years, many French missionaries were driven back into Canada. In 1654, a Jesuit missionary. Simon LeMoyne, drank from a spring that the natives avoided, thinking it was foul. LeMoyne discovered that it was salt water spring, and returned to Canada with salt made from the spring.

In 1825, history changed forever in the area with the opening of the Erie Canal. Boosted by state senator DeWitt Clinton, the canal became a major transportation artery, making it simpler and faster to get products from the east to the west. When the canal was finally completed in 1830, the villages of Syracuse and Salina were combined into the city of Syracuse, which became a major port on the Erie Canal.

Several notable Syracuse natives include actors Tom Cruise and Richard Gere, writer and host of "The Twlight Zone" Rod Serling, former NFL star running back Dorsey Levens, and comedian "Bobcat" Goldthwait.
Getting There: From the New York Turnpike, exit onto I-81 south (Exit 36), Take I-81 south to Harrison St (Exit 18). Make a right onto Harrison St, then follow for two blocks and make a left onto State St. Follow State St to the War Memorial parking.

Nearby Airport: Syracuse Hancock International Airport is approximately seven miles northeast of the War Memorial

What To Do: Not far from the War Memorial is the Erie Canal Museum. The museum was built into a refurbished weigh house, where boats traveling the canal were weighed and were charged a toll based upon the weight of the cargo. Inside the museum there are many "hands on" displays telling the story of the canal and how it became a major thoroughfare for waterborne cargo and those who wanted to settle in the western part of the United States. The museum is free, an also has some resources for those who are visiting the city. For more information, call (315) 471-0593 or visit http://www.eriecanamuseum.org/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: When in Syracuse, RUN, DON"T WALK to the amazing Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is located about a half mile walk west of the Erie Canal Museum on West Willow St. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is not a restaurant, it's a BARBECUE JOINT, and a damned good one. When Linda and I visited on the day after Thanksgiving at about noon, there were people lined up out the door, and we were told that there was a half hour wait. Fortunately, we were able to get a seat at the bar, and dined on an amazing lunch. I had a pulled pork sandwich liberally coated in the house "Sensuous Slathering" sauce, and Linda had a pulled pork and beef brisket platter and two side dishes. Not only was the food "melt on your mouth" good, it was an agreeable $30.00 between the two of us. Don't ask. Don't think about it. Just go. For more information, visit http://www.dinosaurbarbque.com/.

Where To Stay: On this trip, we stayed at the Red Roof Inn, which is located just off the Thruway, and is about ten minutes from downtown Syracuse. While this Red Roof is just like the others in the chain (clean, comfortable, and moderately priced, the only drawback was that the only restaurant that was open in the area on Thanksgiving day was the Denny's across the street. Not exactly fine dining, but you play the hand you're dealt. There is also a Italian restaurant and a Dunkin' Donuts within walking distance. For more information, call (800) THE-ROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.
Ticket Prices: Crunch tickets are priced at $17.00 and $13.00. Since the Crunch and the War Memorial are connected with Ticketmaster, you can also assume the normal ridiculous service charges if you purchase your seats over the internet or via the telephone.
Parking: There is a large lot and a covered garage just across the street from the War Memorial. Parking in this lot costs $8.00.

The Good Seats: The majority of the seating at the War Memorial surrounds the rink in a "horseshoe" fashion. There is also seating on the stage end of the building, I found that while walking around the seating bowl that all of the seats provide a good view of the ice. The only drawback was that the overhang over the top row of the seating area obscures the view of the scoreboard.

Getting In: The main entrance of the arena is located on the Montgomery St side of the building. The main entrance also features the box office and a moderately sized waiting area. In addition, there is a small beer stand located just inside the entrance.

Arena Food: Being an older building, there really is not much in the way of "specialty" items. In fact, I noticed that, for the most part, each stand sold the same items, which turned out to be the standard arena/stadium concession items. I sampled the arena's personal pizza. To be honest, it wasn't the best I've ever had. It might have been better if it was a little warmer and had more than just a essence of mozzarella on it. Linda sampled the arena's signature hot dog and cheeseburger. She said that "the Hoffman German-style sausage had a pork taste and casing, was grilled well, had a mild flavor, and was served on a fresh, above average bun". The cheeseburger was "about a standard quarter-pound size, but was a bit on the dry side. Although it was served on a kaiser bun, it wasn't particularly filling".

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the War Memorial:

Hot Dog: $4.00   Cheeseburger: $6.00   Nachos: $6.00   Draft Beer: $5.00   Pretzel: $4.50   Large Soda: $5.00   Ice Cream: $4.00   Personal Pizza: $7.00

Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola products are served at the War Memorial.

ATM: A "no-brand" ATM is located outside the souvenir table in the main concourse.

Souvenirs: Small souvenir counters are located on the main concourse on either side of the "long ends" of the rink. Both sell a smaller than expected line of merchandise.
Restrooms: Restrooms are located on the main concourse near the corners of the seating area. All are on the older side, but very clean and in good working order.

Mascot: A large white beast of unknown species and lineage named "Al" prowls the stands during the game.

Dance Team: The "Ice Girls" help hand out promotional items as fans enter and circulate in the stands during the game.

Program: Surprisingly for an AHL team, the Crunch do not sell a game day program. A staffer told me that a team magazine is available online for fans to read. The team does hand out an abbreviated set of game notes for those who want to follow the roster.
Scoreboard/Arena Voice: In one of the few concessions to "modern technology", the War Memorial has a large center-hanging scoreboard, which provides not only the pertinent game information, but also has a crystal-clear video picture. The arena also has message boards which hang off the facing of the press box, but these are just used for advertisements.

The acoustics in the arena a fairly good, which makes the presentation by the public address announcer easier. The PA is good, and is supplanted by decent musical choices.

Arena Staff: No issues at all. Everyone was fairly pleasant and helpful.

Arena Features: A very pleasant surprise was the historic displays throughout the main concourse. There were two large displays featuring the contributions made by Syracuse residents during all of the military conflicts that the United States has fought in. Also along the walls was a large plaque with all of the names of the Syracuse residents who fought in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and in Desert Storm. In addition, a large wall-sized display lists all of the Syracuse-area winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the military's highest award.
Along the outside of the building are carved the names of many legendary battles that this country has fought in.

Atmosphere: The War Memorial has all of the feeling of an old-time hockey barn. The people that go to Crunch games are very much a hockey-savvy bunch, and are very intense in their support of the home team.

Overall: The War Memorial is a trip back in time when arenas didn't have all of the creature comforts that are such a necessity today, and that not a bad thing. The home of the Crunch still serves the people of Syracuse well, and is a terrific place to watch some hockey on a cold winter evening.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Giant Center, Hershey PA

Basic Information
Team: Hershey Bears (American Hockey League)
Game: Bears vs Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins-10/22/2011
Team Website: http://www.hersheybears.com/
Ticket Information: (717) 505-BEAR or http://www.hersheybears.com/
Tourism Information: (877) 727-8573 or http://www.visithersheyharrisburg.org/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.whp580.com/
Local Newspaper: Harrisburg Patriot www.pennlive.com/patriotnews

Team History: Formed as the Hershey B'ars (yes, you read that right) in 1932, the Bears are the longest continuously operating hockey team in the American Hockey League. Renamed the Bears in 1936, the Chocolate Town's team joined the new AHL as one of it's founding members in 1938. From 1936 until the end of the 2001-02 season, the Bears played at the venerable Hersheypark Arena, which is located less than a mine from the team's state of the art new home, the Giant Center. In addition to being one of the oldest professional hockey teams in North America, the Bears are one of the most successful, winning seven AHL regular season championships and eleven Calder Cup titles, awarded to the AHL's playoff champion.

Team Affiliation: The Bears are the top minor league affiliate of the NHL's Washington Capitals.

Arena Capacity: For hockey, the Giant Center seats 10,500.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened on October 15, 2002, the Giant Center is now in its tenth season as the home of the Hershey Bears. Built at a cost of $65 million, the arena's naming rights are owned by the Giant supermarket chain, which is based in nearby Carlisle, PA. In early 2012, the Bears will be joined at the Giant Center by the Hershey Haymakers indoor lacrosse team, which will play in the North American Lacrosse League.

On The Town: Located less than fifteen miles from the Pennsylvania state capital in Harrisburg, the city of Hershey has a population of just over twelve thousand, and is a part of the town of Derry Township, which provides all of it's services. It is serviced by three major highways: Interstates 81 and 83, and US Route 322.
Milton S. Hershey was born in that small community of Derry Township, and it seemed that even at a young age, was determined to make a name for himself in the world. He left the farm town in order to try and become a success in the candy business. He tried in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, but all of these efforts left Milton bankrupt. and he returned to his childhood home. In 1888, he started the Lancaster Caramel Company, and his business boomed. After twelve years, he sold Lancaster Caramel for a million dollars! With his hard-won experience and influx of capital, Milton turned to a new confection. Utilizing the many dairy farms in the area, he began making milk chocolate, and this was the beginning of what we know today as Hershey's milk chocolate.

Milton was also a visionary for the people who would work for him. After buying his ancestral home, he hired architects to design a town for the people who would work in his chocolate factory. In 1927, the state of Pennsylvania allowed Hershey to incorporate into it's own town. Not only did Milton Hershey just build homes for his people, he also looked out for their interests, building schools, an amusement park, a zoo, and an ice arena.
Getting There: From the Pennsylvania Turnpike, exit at I-283 north (exit 247). Take I-283 north to US 322 east towards Hershey for seven miles. Exit at PA Route 39 west/Hersheypark Drive (the signs are marked Hershey Attractions). Follow for two and a half miles and the Giant Center will be on your right.

Nearby Airport: Harrisburg International Airport is approximately ten miles southwest of the Giant Center.

What To Do: No trip to Hershey would be complete without a trip to the world-famous Hershey's Chocolate World. Hershey's Chocolate World features three basic attractions: the Chocolate World Visitors Center, the HersheyPark amusement park, and ZooAmerica.
The visitors center allows chocolate lovers to take a simulated  tour showing how the Hershey's product is made from the cocoa plantations of South America to all facets of the production at the Hershey factory. In addition, there are several other attractions in the visitors center, a food court, and of course, a large factory store which sells not only all types of Hershey candy, but all manner of logoed merchandise.

Just on the other side of the visitors center is the famous HersheyPark amusement park. The park has some of the most well known roller coasters and thrill rides in the area. ZooAmerica, also located just adjacent to the visitors center, has large displays of wild animals from around the world.

For more information, call (800) HERSHEY or visit www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There are several chain restaurants and diners on Hersheypark Drive (PA-39) just before entering the Hershey property.

Where To Stay: While there are several chain hotels in Hershey proper, these can be a bit pricey, especially during peak tourist season. On this trip, I stayed at the Red Roof Inn/Harrisburg-Hershey location, which is located on the east side of Harrisburg, approximately fifteen minutes from the Giant Center. For more information, call (800) THEROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.
Ticket Prices: Bears tickets are priced as follows: $23.50 (lower level) and $17.50 (upper level). Note that there is a $2.00 surcharge for tickets purchased on game day. The Bears are usually one of the better drawing teams in the AHL, so purchasing tickets prior to your visit is recommended. However, this brings me to another subject: the ludicrous surcharges placed on ticket sales from our friends at Ticketmaster. When I bought my tickets online about a week before my visit, each ticket was accompanied by a outstanding $7.50 in surcharges! The moral of this story basically is, you're damned if you do, and damned if your don't.

Parking: There is a large lot which surrounds the Giant Center with more than adequate parking spaces. I was a little surprised when the sign said $12.00 for car parking, but the lady at the ticket booth said that was for "seasonal" parking, and it would only cost $8.00.
The Good Seats: The lower level of the Giant Center completely surrounds the rink, and is where most of the arena's seating is. The upper level has perhaps a third of the seating that the lower level does, and surrounds perhaps three quarters of the rink. With the exception of the club seating, all of the remaining seats are hard plastic, but aren't too uncomfortable. Each seat has it's own drink holder, and gives a good view of the action.

Getting In: The main entrance to the Giant Center is located in the front of the building, with the box offices located immediately inside.

Arena Food: As you might expect with a newer arena, the concession selections are numerous and wide ranging. Located throughout the main concourse there are not only the arena standards, but some specialty stands as well. These specialty stands include Famiglia's Pizza, Arooga's Wings, sub sandwiches featuring Hatfield's meats, Dippin' Dots, Uncle Andy's pretzels, and that French Canadian standard, poutine.
My friend Jen and I sampled the fare from the Famiglia's pizza stand. I had a meatball sandwich and she had a personal pizza. My meatball sandwich was fairly tasty and of an agreeable size. My only complaint was that the provolone cheese was just slapped on, and not melted into the sandwich. Jen said her pizza was quite good. I wasn't too unhappy with the cost, as the sandwich and a souvenir Diet Pepsi cost $12.00.

Here is a selection of the concession prices at the Giant Center:

Hot Dog: $4.75   Hamburger: $8.00   Nachos: $5.50   Draft Beer: $5.00   Pretzel: $4.00   Large Soda: $5.00   Ice Cream (Dippin Dots): $5.00   French Fries: $4.00   Personal Pizza: $6.00

Soft Drinks: Pepsi-Cola products are served at the Giant Center.

ATM: A PNC Bank ATM is located in the concourse next to the Hershey Sports souvenir store.

Souvenirs: There is a moderately sized retail store just next to the main entrance of the arena. This store sells an average sized line of merchandise, and, to no one's general surprise, Hershey's candy products. The main store is supplanted by several smaller concession stands located throughout the concourse.
Restrooms: There is a sufficient number of mens' and womens' facilities all around the main concourse. While they are clean and well stocked, they seemed on the small side, so be prepared for a wait if you need to heed the call of nature between periods!
Mascot: Cocoa the Bear made a few appearances on the ice in between periods, but didn't spend too much time interacting with the fans.

Dance Team: None

Program: The Bears' full-color program, called "No Rest" cost $3.00, and came complete with updated game notes for that evening's event.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Giant Center has a sufficiently sized center-hanging scoreboard which gives all the pertinent game information, as well as a good quality video screen. The main scoreboard is assisted by a large, high-quality video screen which is mounted on the far wall of the arena. This board is used strictly for game statistics and out-of-town scores.
The acoustics are fairly good at the Giant Center, and the music played was of your standard arena type, and were played at an appropriate level. The PA announcer was hard to hear at times, and could have been a bit more enthusiastic.

Arena Staff: All of the people I encountered were pleasant and smiling.

Atmosphere: Having a long history with the game of hockey, Bears fans are discriminating. They don't need a lot of amping up to get in the right frame of mind. The promotions were low-key in keeping with the traditional hockey night vibe. I'm sure the crowd of eight thousand plus would have been more of a factor if the Bears were playing a higher level of hockey.

Overall Rating: While I felt that some of the prices for my visit to the Giant Center were on the high side, the arena itself and the game presentation were of a good quality. If you keep that in mind, taking in a Hershey Bears game is a great way to spend a Saturday night in Chocolate Town, USA.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Perani Arena and Events Center, Flint MI

Basic Information
Team: Michigan Warriors (North American Hockey League)
Game: Warriors vs Port Huron Fighting Falcons-9/24/2011
Team Website: http://www.mywarriors.net/
Ticket Information: (810) 744-0580
Tourism Information:  (810) 232-8900 or http://www.flint.travel/
Online Broadcasts:  WWCK-AM http://www.supertalk1570.com/
Local Newspaper: Flint Journal www.mlive.com/flintjournal

Team History: Now in their second season of play in Flint, the Junior A Michigan Warriors are the latest entry in the long and storied history of hockey in Flint. The Warriors were originally known as the Marquette (MI) Rangers, playing in that city for three seasons before being moved to Flint. Last season, their first in Flint, the Warriors won the North American Hockey League's Northern Division championship.

Arena Capacity: The Perani Arena can hold 4,021 for Warriors games.

How About That Name (And Some History): Originally, it was known as the IMA Sports Arena, Perani Arena was opened in 1969 as the home of the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League. . The IMA Sports Arena was not only the home of the Generals, but also hosted professional basketball, concerts, and indoor football. The Flint-based Perani's Hockey World, owned by former General Bob Perani, purchased the naming rights for the arena several years ago, giving the building its current name. In addition to the hockey arena, the complex also has a 27,000 square foot convention hall.

On The Town: Once an automobile manufacturing center, Flint is an hour north of Detroit and has a population of 102,000, making it the seventh largest city in the state of Michigan.
Once the home of several tribes of Ojibwa Indians, a fur trader named Jacob Smith built a trading post on the shores of the Flint River in 1819. Smith was well regarded by both the natives and the United States government, as he negotiated several land purchases between the tribes and the United States, helping build Flint's success as a overland stopping point on the road between Saginaw and Detroit.

Flint was a thriving lumber center in the late nineteenth century when the Buick Motor Company built their new factory in Flint at the turn of the century, and soon Buick was the largest manufacturer of horseless carriages in the country. In 1908, William Durant, who was brought in to run the Buick plant in 1904, left to form General Motors, who also set up shop in Flint. General Motors still has several plants in the Flint area.

Flint is serviced by two major interstate highways, I-75, which runs south to Detroit and Toledo and north towards Saginaw, and I-69, which heads north to Port Huron and south to Indianapolis.

Notable Flint natives include radio DJ and host of the Newlywed Game Bob Eubanks, 2009 Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram, former star baseball player Jim Abbott, movie maker and political activist Michael Moore, and sixties and seventies rock icons Grand Funk Railroad.
Getting There: From Detroit, take I-75 to I-475 towards downtown Flint (exit 111). Follow for approximately six miles to the intersection of I-69 east (exit 6). Proceed for a mile to Dort Hwy (exit 138). Exit and make a right onto Dort Hwy. Follow for a half mile to Lapeer Rd. Make a left onto Lapeer Rd, and follow for approximately two miles and the arena complex will be on your left.

Nearby Airport: Bishop International Airport is 11 miles southwest of Perani Arena. In addition, Detroit Metropolitan Airport is 81 miles southeast of Perani Arena.

What To Do: This was an "in and outer" for me, so I can't really give any helpful hints there. I would contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: Same answer as above. There is nothing in the immediate vicinity of the arena in terms of food choices. There are several fast food restaurants on Dort Hwy, but the neighborhood might be considered a bit "dicey", especially after dark.

Where To Stay: On this trip, I stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Troy, which is about 55 miles south of Flint. One of the Warriors' sponsors is the AmericInn, which is approximately ten minutes from the arena. I stayed at an AmericInn in Davenport, IA two years ago, and if the one in Flint is anything like the one I stayed at, I would highly recommend it. For more information, call (800) 634-3444 or visit http://www.americinn.com/.

Ticket Prices: Warriors tickets are priced as follows $8.00 (premium) and $7.00 (general).

Parking: The Perani Arena has a large on-site lot that is more than adequate. I do not recommend parking anywhere else, as the neighborhood around the arena is not the best. I arrived early enough so I wasn't charged for parking.

The Good Seats: There are two levels of seating at the Perani Arena: the upper level is permanent seating of the typical arena type, and the lower level, which is on risers, has folding chairs. Nonetheless, sightlines are good all the way around. The arena also has an inner concourse, so if you prefer standing, you can find your favorite vantage point fairly easily.
Getting In: The main entrance to the complex leads you into a large atrium which divides the hockey arena from the convention hall. The box office is located in the atrium.

Arena Food: The Perani Arena recently underwent a million dollar renovation, which included updates to their concession stands, which after my visit, seems to be a good investment.

Three of the four corners of the building have food stands, with the fourth having been into the Bud Light Penalty Box, which serves tap and canned beer and mixed drinks.

The food stands serve the basic arena-style food, with the only real "specialty item" being the "Monster Dog". This one pound dog is served on a hoagie bun covered with nacho cheese and jalapenos. It looked to be a meal in itself, and for $6.00, didn't seem like too high of a price.
I was fairly hungry, so I decided to run the gamut, picking up 2 hot dogs, a slice of pizza, and a large Coke. The total price for the whole thing was a jaw-dropping ten dollars-a total bargain! The food was OK, with the hot dogs being relatively tasty and warm. The pizza could have been a bit better, but it certainly wasn't the worst!

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at Perani Arena:

Hot Dog: $2.50   Nachos: $3.50   Beer: $4.50 (cans)   Pretzel: $3.00   Large Soda: $2..50   Ice Cream: $1.00/$2.00   Pizza Slice: $2.00

Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola products are served at the Perani Arena.

ATM: A "no-brand" ATM is located in the entrance atrium.

Souvenirs: A small table located on the concourse sells a small line of Warriors merchandise.
Restrooms: There are mens and womens restrooms located on the concourse level of the arena. Although I thought they were a bit on the cramped side, they were very clean, functional, and well stocked.

Mascot: "The Warrior" circulates in the stands throughout most of the game.

Dance Team: The "Down the Hatch" Girls, named for a local drinking establishment, pass out programs before the game, and assist in promotions between the first and second periods.

Program: The Warriors hand out a small, free brochure with bios of the home team before the game. It would be helpful, however, if they could insert a roster of the visitors as well.
Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Perani Arena has an adequate sized scoreboard suspended above center ice, which gives all of the basic game information. It's pretty much no-frills, kind of like the rest of the arena. The acoustics are good, and the PA voice is adequate. The music selections were fair, but it was funny to hear the entrance music of former WWF champion The Ultimate Warrior as the team's goal/player introduction music.

Arena Staff: There wasn't a lot of them, but the ones I encountered were pleasant and friendly.

Atmosphere: Well, with maybe three or four hundred (by my guess) in attendance, there really wasn't much of one. It seemed to me that half of the people there made the hour drive down from Port Huron to see their youngsters in action.

Overall Rating: I was pleasantly surprised by Perani Arena. Although the bells and whistles that permeate most arenas were nowhere to be seen, they would not have fit in here. As I had discussed with a few of the people that I met, Perani Arena is a place to watch hockey, plain and simple, which isn't a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Me vs Food #3-The Meat-A-Holic

by Linda Ibbett

The Meat-a-Holic served at Road Ranger Stadium in Rockford is great ball-park fare for meat-loving sports fans. The $5.50 "dish" packs a satisfying array meats onto a wooden skewer: two meatballs, two slices of Italian Sausage, one slice of kielbasa and one slice of hot dog. I've often felt that the bun is just a means for holding the hot dog, sausage, etc., so I though it was a great idea to skip the bun and make more room for more meat! I ate mine plain so as to not cover up the flavors with condiments.
All the meat selections were quite tasty. I'm not sure exactly how they were cooked, but it was hot and fresh. I don't think it was grilled, which would have made it even better; I'm partial to grilling. I'll definitely order another Meat-a-Holic if I make it back to a Riverhawks game in Rockford!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Road Ranger Stadium, Loves Park IL

Basic Information
Team: Rockford Riverhawks (Frontier League)
Game: Riverhawks vs Washington Wild Things-8/20/2011
Team Website: http://www.rockfordriverhawks.com/
Ticket Information: (815) 885-2255 or http://www.rockfordriverhawks.com/
Tourism Information: (800) 521-0649 or http://www.gorockford.com/
Online Broadcasts:  WTJK-AM http://www.espn1380.com/
Local Newspaper: Rockford Register Star http://www.rrstar.com/

Team History: The history of the Rockford Riverhawks goes back to the first season of the Frontier League, when in 1993, they played as the Portsmouth (OH) Explorers. They would play in the south central Ohio city for three seasons before moving to Springfield (IL), where they became the Capitals. In their first three years in Springfield, they won the Frontier League title twice. After the 2002 season, the Capitals would move again, this time to Rockford, which had recently lost it's Midwest League team. The new Riverhawks would play four seasons at Marinelli Field, which was for many years, the home of the Midwest League teams that called the Rock Valley home. In 2006, the Riverhawks moved into the new Road Ranger Stadium in suburban Loves Park. The Riverhawks moved to the Northern League for the 2010 season, but returned to the Frontier League for 2011.

Stadium Capacity: Road Ranger Stadium has a listed capacity of 3,279.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened on May 30, 2006, the home of the Riverhawks has had the Road Ranger Stadium name since May 2007. Based in Rockford, Road Ranger is a chain of gas stations and convenience stores with locations in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.

On The Town: Illinois' third largest city (after Chicago and Aurora), Rockford is located approximately ninety miles west of downtown Chicago. Access is provided by Interstates 90 and 39. The population of Rockford is just under 340,000.
Originally settled in 1834 by three settlers from Galena, IL, the new town was originally known as Midway, but since the location of the settlement provided an excellent crossing (or ford) of the Rock River, the town became known as Rockford.

By the late 1800's, Rockford became one of the top manufacturing cities in the country. An influx of Swedish craftsmen and investors helped cultivate the business, and by the beginning to the 20th century, Rockford was the second largest furniture manufacturing center in the US (after Grand Rapids, MI).

During World War II, Rockford was home to the famed Rockford Peaches womens' baseball team, which played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was made famous in the film "A League of Their Own".

Notable celebrities from Rockford include US Men's National Soccer Team star Steve Cherundolo, actress Susan Saint James, and legendary rock band Cheap Trick.

Getting There: From Chicago, take I-90/I-39 tollway west to the Riverside Blvd exit (IL-55). Make a right onto Riverside Blvd and proceed approximately a quarter mile to Interstate Blvd. Make a left onto Interstate Blvd, and follow for a half mile to the stadium parking lot.
Nearby Airport: Chicago Rockford International Airport is located approximately ten miles south of Road Ranger Stadium. In addition, Chicago O'Hare International Airport is approximately 75 miles southeast of Road Ranger Stadium.

What To Do: Linda and I had an appointment at the Rockford Public Library as soon as we got into town, so we didn't have any time for sightseeing. I would contact the Rockford Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: When in Rockford, I have three words: The Machine Shed. Located on East State St, less then a half mile from I-90/39, The Machine Shed has an amazing amount of good "home cooked" style meals at pocket-friendly prices. Done in a farm motif, The Machine Shed is a chain of restaurants dedicated to the American farmer. We discovered The Machine Shed on our first trip to Rockford a few years back when I was the director of operations for the American Indoor Soccer League, and it is a "must stop" for the girls and I whenever we are in the area. Linda and I both had turkey dinners, which included large chunks of white meat turkey, home made mashed potatoes, rolls, and for desert, I had a large slab of apple pie, and Linda had coconut cream. The total bill for the stomach-expanding meal was an agreeable thirty dollars. For more information or to view a sample menu, visit http://www.machineshed.com/.

Where To Stay: We stayed at the Red Roof Inn on East State St, which was about a ten minute drive south of the ballpark. Like all others in the chain, they are clean, comfortable, and moderately priced. For more information, visit http://www.redroof.com/ or call (800) THE-ROOF.
Across the street from the Red Roof is a Radisson (which is quite good), and about a quarter mile east on State is the Clock Tower Resort (also very good). Both are on the pricey side, though.

Ticket Prices: Riverhawks tickets are priced as follows: $15.00 (Premium Box), $12.00 (Home Plate Box), $10.00 (Infield Box), $8.00 (Outfield Box), $5.00 (Grandstand).

Parking: Parking at Road Ranger Stadium is $2.00 per car. There is a large on-site lot just outside the main entrance.
The Good Seats: Road Ranger Stadium is designed in the traditional ballpark seating design, with seats running from foul pole to foul pole. With just ten rows of seating in the main grandstand, you will be right on top of the action mo matter where you sit. All of the seats in the main grandstand are of the chair back variety. In addition to the main grandstand, there is a smaller area behind the left field line which is dedicated to the "all you can eat" seating plan, a small picnic area behind the right field line, and the Miller Lite Party Porch which is located behind the right field fence.

Getting In: The main entrance at the home of the Riverhawks is directly behind home plate. The box office is located immediately to the left of the main entrance.

Stadium Food: This is one area where Road Ranger Stadium truly shines, as they have a line of concessions which would put a double or triple A team to shame. Not just content with the standard ballpark fare, some of the specialty items served here include Bobak's sausages, Culvers frozen custard, Maciano's pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, veggie burgers, sweet corn, barbecue pork sandwiches, and two of the park's true signature items, the "Codfather" (obviously a fish sandwich), and the "Meat-A-Holic". As I am trying to watch my weight and sodium intake, I passed on the Meat-A-Holic, but Linda was more than happy to oblige (doing her journalistic duties). Her report on the Meat-A-Holic (and photo) will be coming shortly.
I sampled the ballpark hot dog, made by Bobak's. Although it was pre-made, it didn't taste too bad, but it could have been served a little hotter. However, for $2.75, I couldn't complain too much.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at Road Ranger Stadium:

Hot Dog: $2.75   Hamburger: $3.75   Nachos: $3.50   Draft Beer: $4.50   Pretzel: $2.75   Large Soda: $2.50   Ice Cream Dish: $3.50   Fries: $3.00   Pizza Slice: $3.00 

Soft Drinks: 7UP, RC Cola, and Dr. Pepper products are poured at Road Ranger Stadium.

ATM: I did not see an ATM on the ballpark premises.

Souvenirs: The Riverhawks have a souvenir store located just to the right of the main entrance way. The store has a decent sized line of team wear and novelties. At the game we attended, I bought a t-shirt/hat combination for my dad for just 12 bucks.
Restrooms: The restrooms at Road Ranger Stadium are located down the first base side of the park. I thought they were a little cramped, but had sufficient facilities and was clean and well stocked.

Mascot: Rocko the Riverhawk prowls the stands on a constant basis, greeting and entertaining the fans.

Dance Team: None.

Program: The large, informative Riverhawks program is given free to fans upon entering the ballpark.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Road Ranger Stadium has a "standard-type" scoreboard located just to the left of center field, which has an area for the line score and basic game information as well as an average sized video board. The video board is only used for advertising, promotions, and game information. I did not notice any replays or in-game action shown.
The PA announcer was good, and the musical selections were pretty good as well.

Stadium Staff: All of the people I spoke to from the Riverhawks team staff were more than pleasant and helpful. Each fan got a personal welcome from staffers as they entered the park, and to me, that goes a hell of a long way towards a positive experience.

Atmosphere: I thought that it seemed a bit quiet, considering that the game we attended was a scoring fest (thirteen runs going into the third inning). However, the three thousand or so that were there were having a good time, and were supportive of the team.

Stadium Features: After each Riverhawk home run,. a staffer circulates in the stands with the Home Run Bucket, where fans contribute a dollar or two each. The Riverhawk who left the yard would then receive the contents of the bucket. This is an outgrowth of a tradition that started in the southwest where fans would stick dollar bills through the holes in the fence to be collected by their team's home run hitter.

Overall Rating: When it comes to a pleasant night out at the ballpark, Road Ranger Stadium has all of the necessary ingredients...a pleasant evening (until the rain came in the 6th), good food, friendly people, a well maintained facility...I don't think you could ask for a lot more. We'll be back. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CONSOL Energy Park, Washington PA

Basic Information
Team: Washington Wild Things (Frontier League)
Game: Wild Things vs Florence Freedon-8/13/2011
Team Website: http://www.washingtonwildthings.com/
Ticket Information: (724) 250-9955 or http://www.washingtonwildthings.com/
Tourism Information: (866) 927-4969 or http://www.visitwashingtoncountypa.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.msasportsnetwork.com/
Local Newspaper: Washington Observer-Reporter http://www.observer-reporter.com/

Team History: In 2011, the Washington Wild Things are celebrating their tenth season in the Frontier League. Prior to moving to the Pittsburgh suburb, the Wild Things spent four seasons as the Canton Crocodiles, before being purchased by a local investment group and moved to Washington. According to the Wild Things' 2011 program, the ownership group was originally looking to purchase a farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but after that deal collapsed, they looked to the independent Frontier League. One of the team's first employees in their new home was Kent Tekulve, the former star relief pitcher of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who served as the new team's director of baseball operations and pitching coach. Since moving to Washington, the Wild Things have won the Frontier League's regular season championship on four separate occasions.

Stadium Capacity: CONSOL Energy Park has a listed seating capacity of 3,200.

How About That Name (And Some History): The home of the Wild Things was opened in 2002, when the home team lost to the Canton Coyotes (who were moved to the Ohio city to replace the Crocodiles, who became the Wild Things). At the time the ballpark was known as Falconi Field, named after local businessman Angelo Falconi, who's donation helped finance the building of the park. In April 2007, CONSOL Energy, a locally based coal mining corporation, purchased the naming rights to the park. However, a statue of Falconi was erected in front of the home plate entrance to the park, saluting him for his contribution.

On The Town: Located approximately 45 minutes south of downtown Pittsburgh, Washington, PA is the county seat of Washington County. The town, the largest in the county, has a population of 15,268.

In 1781, the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized the creation of a new county, which would be the first in the new United States to be named after George Washington. It was rumored that the county and city were named because the first president spent the night in the region once. However, this was not true.
Washington, PA was the center of one of the first acts of rebellion against the new United States Government. The Whiskey Rebellion, started in 1791 after a tax was levied against whiskey distilled in the region. Local distillers rose up and took up arms, but the rebellion was put down by government forces.

Notable Celebrities who are native to the city include Joe Walker, a test pilot who flew the X-15 rocket plane in the early sixties, NFL Hall of Famer Pete Henry, and former professional wrestler and mixed martial artist Sylvester Terkay.

Getting There: From I-79 South, exit onto I-70 west (towards Wheeling). Exit I-70 at Chestnut Ave (Exit 15). At the bottom of the ramp, turn right. Go approximately a half mile to North Ring Rd (this is the access road to the Washington Crown Center mall). Make a right onto Ring Rd, and follow to the ballpark, which is behind the mall.
Nearby Airport: The closest major airport to Washington is Pittsburgh International Airport, which is approximately 40 miles north of Washington.

What To Do: This was an "in and out" trip for me, so I really didn't get the chance to do much in the area, however Linda and Joan recommend the Meadows Race Track and Casino, located not far from the ballpark. The Meadows features live year-round harness racing, a bowling center, a food court, and over 3,700 slot machines. For more information, call (724) 503-1200 or http://www.meadowsgaming.com/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There are several chain restaurants along Chestnut Ave, and although I can't guarantee it, I would assume that there are food choices at the Washington Crown Center mall.

Where To Stay: There is a conveniently located Red Roof Inn less than a mile from CONSOL Energy Park. As with all other Red Roofs, they are clean, convenient, and fairly inexpensive. For more information, call (800) THE-ROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.
Ticket Prices: Wild Things tickets are priced as follows: $12.00 (premier box), $10.00 (field box), $8.00 (reserved), and $5.00 (general admission). The team also has a "Wild Elephant" ticket, where for $12.00, each ticket holder gets a guaranteed giveaway item (even on non-giveaway days).

Parking: There is a large on-site lot adjacent to the ballpark which is more than large enough for the Wild Things. Parking in this lot costs $3.
00.

The Good Seats: The main grandstand at CONSOL Energy Park hugs the base lines from midway down the left field line around home plate to the right field line. The first five rows of seating are chair back seats, with the remainder of the seating is bleacher seating with backs. There is a small grass berm at the extreme end of the left field line where fans cans stretch out upon.

Getting In: There are two separate entrances to the ballpark. The first entrance is in the outfield at the right field foul pole. This entrance also is where the ticket office is located. There is also an entrance behind home plate.
Stadium Food: The concessions at CONSOL Energy Park is well above average for a park of it's size. The main concession stands are located on the first and third base directly adjacent to home plate. These stands, newly expanded for 2011, carry the standard ball park fare. In addition, there are stands down each line, which specialize in some sinful sweets. The Dessert Stand, located on the right field side, features funnel cakes, ice cream, and deep fried Oreo's. Eskimo Eddie's, located along the left field side, features ice cream sundaes, candy apples, frozen bananas, and make your own slushies. A little farther down the left field line is The Bar Over There, which serves beer and wine coolers.

I sampled the quarter pound "Wild Dog", which I thought was OK at best. It was pre-made, but fairly warm when presented.

I was surprised at the size of the "medium" soft drink. I found that usually, the medium drink was somewhere in the 16-20 ounce range. At this park, the medium was a shocking 32 ounces, with the "large" being a whopping 48 ounces. At $3.75, I found it to be a bargain!

In the middle of the fifth inning. the Wild Things do something special for the young fans. They sell chocolate chip cookies. At $1.00 for two cookies and small carton of milk, they did a brisk business.
Here is a sampling of the concession prices at CONSOL Energy Park:

"Wild Dog": $3.00   Hamburger: $4.25   Nachos: $4.00   Draft Beer: $6.00   Pretzel: $3.00   Medium Soda: $3.75   Ice Cream Sundae: $4.00   French Fries: $3.00   Pizza Slice: $4.25
Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola products are served at CONSOL Energy Park.

ATM: There is an ATM located adjacent to the home plate entrance.

Souvenirs: The all new souvenir store, "The Cage", is located under the first base grandstand and sells a moderate sized line of merchandise.

Restrooms: There are restrooms located on the first and third base sides of the ballpark. They are of an appropriate size and are clean and well stocked.

Mascot: "Wild Thing" is a large, friendly beast of an uncertain species that prowls the stands during the game.

Dance Team: None

Program: The Wild Things informative, full color program costs just a dollar.
Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: CONSOL Energy Park has two scoreboards in use. The left field board displays the line score and basic game information. The right field board is a full color video screen. The right field board is used basically for advertisements and promotions, and had very little use in terms of in-game replays.  The PA voice was good, and the music played was of the typical stadium style.

Stadium Staff: The folks that work at the home of the Wild Things were friendly and extremely helpful. A special thanks to Christine Blaine, Jim Gibson, and Kate Billings of the Wild Things staff for their extra special hospitality.

Atmosphere: Well, with the game being rather one-sided in favor of the visiting Florence Freedom, you would correctly assume that things were a little...low key. I'm sure that if the game were closer or if the Wild Things were in the lead, it would have been a lot more lively.

Overall Rating: CONSOL Energy Park is simply an excellent facility for minor league baseball, one that I'm sure that the locals are quite proud of. The team's proactive ownership invested a million dollars over the past off season to make their park in line with many of the other top stadiums of it's type in the Frontier League. I have no doubt that it will serve the community well for years to come.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Linda K Epling Stadium, Beckley WV

Basic Information
Team: West Virginia Miners (Prospect League)
Game: Miners vs Richmond River Rats-7/3/2011
Team Website: http://www.wvminersbaseball.com/
Ticket Information: (304) 252-7233
Tourism Information: (800) VISIT-WV or http://www.visitwv.com/
Online Broadcasts: Groovy 94.1FM http://www.groovy94.com/
Local Newspaper: Beckley Register-Herald http://www.register-herald.com/

Team History: Now in their second season in the Prospect League, a college wood-bat league, the West Virginia Miners proudly call the beautiful Linda K Epling Stadium home. In their first season in the Prospect League, the Miners finished with a record of 26-30, good for second place overall in the league's Eastern Division. The team's sophomore season has been quite successful so far for the Miners, as they won the Eastern Division's first half championship, and will be hosting the league's All-Star Game on July 13th.

Stadium Capacity: Linda K Epling Stadium has a capacity of approximately 2,500.

How About That Name (And Some History): Built by the Epling family, the Linda K Epling Stadium was opened on June 5, 2010. The park is also the home of Upper Deck Baseball Training Center, and is the "home away from home" for the Marshall University varsity baseball team. The park was named after Linda K Epling, the wife of team founder Doug Epling.

On The Town: The county seat of Raliegh County, Beckley sits in south central West Virginia, approximately sixty miles south of Charleston, and just over forty miles from the West Virginia/Virginia border.

The town, which has a population of approximately 77,000, was named for John James Beckley, who was the first Librarian of Congress. The city was founded by his son, Alfred, who served as a commander in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Notable celebrities from Beckley include bluegrass pioneer "Little" Jimmy Pickems, actor Chris Sarandon, and singer Bill Withers, who sang the late sixties classic "Lean On Me".

Getting There: From I-77: Exit at WV Route 16 south towards Bradley/North Beckley (Exit 42). Turn right onto US Route 19/WV Route 16, Follow to Ragland Rd. Make a left onto Ragland Rd for approximately one mile, and the stadium will be on the left.

Nearby Airport: The closest major airport to Beckley is Yeager Airport in Charleston, approximately 70 miles north.

What To Do Before The Game: Beckley has two interesting tourist attractions, both of which are not far from the ballpark. If you are interested in arts and crafts made by local artisans, then Tamarack is the place for you. Located on I-77 just a few miles north from Linda K Epling Stadium, Tamarack features dozens of small shops which feature everything from candles to quilts to pottery to specialty foods. Tamarack also boasts a large food court which is managed by the world famous Greenbriar Inn. With hours from 8AM to 8PM, the Tamarack food court serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For more information, visit http://www.tamarackwv.com/.
Also located just a few minutes drive from the ballpark is the Exhibition Coal Mine. The largest coal-related tourist attraction in the region. visitors have an opportunity to ride a coal car a quarter mile underground and see how those who mined coal spent their days, often for little pay. In addition, visitors can see the Coal Company house, the home of the mine superintendent, a local church and school, and some of the small shanty houses that the miners lived in. For more information, call (304) 256-1747.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There are many choices in the Beckley area for pre-game dining. Pretty much every chain is represented in the immediate area around I-77 and on the roads approaching the ball park.

Where To Stay: I stayed in Charleston on this section of my trip, but three local motels, the Comfort Inn, the EconoLodge, and the Sleep Inn, all in Beckley, are team sponsors. If you're staying in the area, I would recommend patronizing these establishments. For information, call (800)4-CHOICE.

Ticket Prices: Miners tickets are priced as follows: $8.50 (box seats) and $5.00 (bleachers).

Parking: There is a large on-site lot at Epling Stadium which is free.
The Good Seats: Epling Stadium is designed in the traditional "wishbone" shape. Behind home plate are five sections of chair back seating, which for the most part, are reserved for season ticket holders. Down each foul line are large bleacher sections, both of which allow easy access to the main concourse. As the park only holds just 2,500 fans, all of the seats give a good view of the action.

Getting In: The box office and main entrance to the park is located on the first base side.

Stadium Food: The park's main concession stand, "Mama K's Kitchen", is located under the home plate grandstand, which unfortunately, was not fortuitously designed. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of room for lines under the stand, which clogged up the traffic flow around the park.
The concession line was on the limited side, but for this level, it was quite acceptable. In addition to the standard ballpark eats, "Mama K's", also served chicken and barbecue sandwiches for an agreeable four dollars each. I sampled the ballpark hot dog, which although it was pre-made, wasn't too bad. It was still fairly warm, but the bun was beginning to get a bit soggy.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the "Home of the Miners":

Hot Dog: $2.25   Nachos: $3.00   Pretzel: $2.50   Large Soda: $2.00   Pizza Slice: $3.00

As with the other two parks I explored on this trip, Epling Stadium is "dry", meaning no beer is sold.

Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola is the soft drink of choice at the park.

ATM: There were no ATM's available at Epling Stadium.

Souvenirs: A fairly large souvenir stand is located inside the main concourse between the bleachers and the home plate seating area. The Miners have a surprisingly good line of merchandise at what I feel are economical prices.

Restrooms: The mens and womens rooms are located on either side of the concession stand behind home plate. Like the rest of the park, they are sparkling clean.
Mascot: The Miners have two mascots, one "official", and one "super fan". Miner Mike, the main mascot, is extremely active, circulating throughout the park, greeting fans, leading cheers, and participating in in-game contests and skits. "Big Paul", a Miners season ticket holder who dresses up like a real miner, leads cheers and holds up signs encouraging the players.

Dance Team: None.

Program: The large, informative Miners program is handed out free to fans upon entering the park.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Epling Stadium has a two scoreboard set up, with one in left field that shows the standard game information, and a video screen in right center that is used for player information and short videos. I was surprised that the video board didn't get more use in terms of advertisements and promotions, it was refreshing not to be constantly distracted from the game with commercials.
Keith Thompson, the sports director of ESPN 102.3 is the team's public address voice, and he is a good one. He has an excellent voice, a good delivery, and is just enthusiastic enough.

Stadium Staff: Linda K Epling Stadium has some of the nicest, most pleasant people working for them, which, to me anyway, is a big selling point. Everyone had a smile on their face and an unfailingly welcoming attitude.

Atmosphere: A sparkling clean park, good game presentation, enthusiastic fans, and a picturesque setting all makes for a very pleasant, stress-free night out.

Overall Rating: I was very impressed with the photos of Linda K Epling Park on the team's website, but after walking in, they simply don't do it justice. The Home of the Miners is simply a jewel of a park, and one that I will, without a doubt, return to in the near future.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Boyce Cox Field/DeVault Memorial Stadium, Bristol VA

Basic Information
Team: Bristol White Sox (Appalachian League)
Game: Sox vs Burlington Royals-7/3/2011
Team Website: http://www.bristolsox.com/
Ticket Information: (276) 206-9946
Tourism Information: (423) 989-4850 or http://www.visitbristoltnva.org/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.bristolsox.com/
Local Newspaper: Bristol Herald-Courier http://www.bristolnews.com/

Team History: The Appalachian League has been ensconced in the city of Bristol since 1911. From 1911 through 1925, teams called the Boosters and State Liners have called Bristol home. After the 1925 season, Bristol was without baseball until 1941, when the Appy returned to Bristol, but this time it was for good. From 1942 until 1994, Bristol was aligned with the New York Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, and Detroit Tigers. In 1995, the Chicago White Sox came to town, and have stayed.

Team Affiliation: The Sox are the rookie level affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.

Stadium Capacity: Bryce Cox Field has a capacity of 2,000.

How About That Name (And Some History): According to Sox GM Mahlon Luttrel, DeVault Memorial Stadium was originally built as a high school football stadium, but was retrofitted for baseball. It was originally opened in 1969, and is named after Charlton "Chauncey" DeVault, who served as the president of the Appalachian League from 1957 until his death in 1980. I do not know who Boyce Cox was, but he must have been involved with the Sox or with Virginia High School, who's baseball team play their home games there.
On The Town: It seems rather fitting that the twin cities of Bristol, VA and Bristol, TN have two nicknames, which are equally appropriate. the cities call themselves "the Birthplace of Country Music" and "Thunder Valley".

Bristol, VA, which sits just north of the Virginia/Tennessee border, is serviced by Interstate 81 and has a population of 17,835 as of the most recent census. It was originally called Goodson, but was renamed Bristol (after Bristol, England) in 1890.

In 1927, Ralph Peer, head of Victor Records, started recruiting and recording local music groups, looking to get the "feel" of the traditional music from the area. One of those groups was the Carter Family, who sung traditional songs from the area like "Let The Circle Be Unbroken " and "Wabash Cannonball". One of the younger daughters, June Carter, married Johnny Cash, and their legacy was made permanent.

Ten miles south of Bristol, VA, in Bristol, TN, is Bristol Motor Speedway, better known as "Thunder Valley". One of the few half-mile tracks still in use in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, Bristol Motor Speedway seats over a 160,000, and is the home of two races, the Food Club 400 and the Irwin Tools Night Race, a 500 lap event.

Getting There: From I-81, take I-381 (exit 3) south into Bristol. At the fourth traffic light, make a right onto Euclid Ave. Follow for a half mile, and the ballpark will be on the right.

Nearby Airport: The closest major airport to Bristol is McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, which is approximately two hours east of Bristol.
What To Do Before The Game: This was a real quick trip for me, so I didn't get a chance to really see the town. I would contact the convention and visitors bureau for more information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: I really didn't have a chance to check out what was available for pre-game eating, as I arrived into town just before game time. I can tell you that there is a Subway and a Krystal's, just next to and across the street from the park, respectively.

Where To Stay: I stayed in Princeton, WV for this trip, so I can't recommend any local lodgings, so again, I would contact the convention and visitors bureau for more information.

Ticket Prices: BriSox tickets are priced as follows $6.00 (box seats), $4.00 (general admission-adults), and $3.00 (general admission-youth).

Parking: There is a fairly decent sized lot at the entrance to the stadium complex, and parking there was free.
The Good Seats: After learning that DeVault Memorial Stadium was a retrofitted football stadium, it was a bit easier for me to understand the seating set up, which I originally thought was a bit haphazard. The first four rows along the baselines are chair back seating, most of which are reserved for season ticket holders. Behind the home plate reserved seating is a small section of concrete bleachers and a building which serves as the press box/concession stand/merchandise store. After a small space where the chair back seating ends along either baseline, there are large metal bleachers which holds the majority of the stadium's capacity. Behind the left field bleachers, there is a small hill where fans can stretch out on blankets or use beach chairs, but the view there is obstructed at best.

Getting In: The ticket window is located at the edge of the stadium's parking lot. After getting your ticket, you pass through the gate, and then walk along a path for about a hundred yards until you reach the ballpark.

Stadium Food: There is one concession stand, located in the main building behind home plate, where the concessions are run by the local high school's booster club. The selection of food there was very limited, but was definitely a value, price-wise. The only "specialty" items were Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, TCBY yogurt, and Pizza Plus pizza. The pizza was sold at a small stand opposite the concession stand, and also sold, of all things, 50/50 raffle tickets. The pizza was a bargain at $1.00 per slice, but I think would have been a little better if it was hotter. The hot dog, which was pre-made, wasn't too bad. It was on a fresh bun, but I think would have been better if the wiener was more than luke warm.
Here is a sampling of the prices for concessions at the home of the BriSox:

Hot Dog: $2.00   Nachos: $2.00   Large Soda: $2.00   Pizza Slice: $1.00

As in Princeton, beer was not sold at the game, since the park is located near a high school.

Soft Drinks: Pepsi products are sold at DeVault Memorial Stadium.

ATM: There are no ATM's on site at the ballpark.

Souvenirs: The "Sox Box" is located on the first base side of the home plate building. The team has a small line of merchandise.

Restrooms: There is a large building at the end of the right field bleachers which hosts the men's and women's restrooms as well as the locker rooms for both teams. The rest rooms were adequate, but could have used a bit of an upgrade.
Mascot: The team's website says they have a mascot, a character named "Dingbat", but he was not in attendance at the game I was at.

Dance Team: None

Program: The BriSox program costs $2.00.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: The scoreboard at DeVault was your basic variety, similar to the style used in Princeton, giving just the basic game day information.
The PA voice was a little on the laconic side, and could have used a bit more enthusiasm across the board. There was also very little music played before and during the game.

Stadium Staff: The people I encountered at the Sox game were fairly friendly, but very laid back.

Atmosphere: Even though the team drew a season high crowd of almost 3,500, there really didn't seem like there was much of an atmosphere at all (perhaps many of the attendees were there for the post-game fireworks show).

Overall Rating: DeVault Memorial Stadium is a utilitarian, unpretentious ballpark, that despite it's quirks and drawbacks is not a bad place to watch baseball. It really isn't worth a special trip, but if you're in the area, it's not a bad night out.