Thursday, April 26, 2012

Me vs Food #3...Good Eating in Charleston

The only problem with the concession offerings at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston is that there is too much good food to choose from! 
The Power Alley Grill (a full sports bar) features Quaker Steak and Lube fare. I tried my best to resist in order to save more room to sample concession stand food, but I had to have an order of delicious ranch wings when it started raining before the game and I needed to get out of the rain. Quaker Steak and Lube ranch sauced wings are my all-time favorite wings! 
Next it was on to a stand that served BBQ pork or BBQ beef brisket sandwiches or nachos. The choice between BBQ pork and BBQ beef brisket is always a difficult choice for me. Since brisket is offered less often than pulled pork, I usually opt for the beef, which I did this time. I thought that the $7.00 price for a beef brisket sandwich with ruffled potato chips and a condiment-sized cup of coleslaw was reasonable. The fresh bun was slightly bigger than an average hamburger bun, but it couldn't quite hold up to the generous serving of juicy beef brisket. (I would have preferred the bun either be toasted or be one that could better hold up to the juicy contents -- I have a fear of soggy bread!) The pulled beef brisket was tender and has an unexpected spicy flavor that tasted like chili, which I enjoyed very much, even with the soggy bun. 
The park also sports an organic food stand that had a very interesting apple and chicken sausage - I really wanted to try one, but I was too stuffed! There's also an Italian stand and a wine stand. I did find room to finish off the evening with a huge serving of vanilla soft serve in a souvenir helmet for $4.00.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Appalachian Power Park, Charleston WV

Basic Information
Team: West Virginia Power (South Atlantic League)
Game: Power vs Greenville Drive-4/14/2012
Team Website: www.wvpower.com
Ticket Information: (304) 344-BATS or www.wvpower.com
Tourism Information: (800) 733-5469 or www.charlestonwv.com
Online Broadcasts: www.wvpower.com
Local Newspaper: Charleston Gazette www.wvgazette.com

Team Information: Professional baseball has been played in the capital of the Mountaineer State on and off for over a hundred years, bouncing back and forth between the Single A, Double A, and Triple A levels. The Power got their start in Charleston in 1986, when the Charleston Wheelers joined the South Atlantic League (Single A) as a "co-op" team, meaning that the team did not have an affiliate, but was a depository for "leftover" players from several clubs. The Wheelers played at Watt Powell Park, which was opened in 1948. In 1995, the Wheelers changed their name, becoming the Alley Cats. The Alley Cats played for ten years at Watt Powell before another name change, this time to the West Virginia Power. The name change was also the end of an era, as in 2005 the Power moved out of their ancestral home and into the sparkling new Appalachian Power Park.

Affiliation: The Power are the South Atlantic League affiliate of the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates.

Stadium Capacity: Appalachian Power Park has a listed seating capacity of 4,500, but according to the team's media guide, the stadium can hold over eight thousand with standing room and suites.
How About That Name (And Some History): Opened on April 13, 2005 with a victory over the Hagerstown Suns, Appalachian Power Park is a true downtown "gem". The park, which is a short walk from the West Virginia state capital building and the Clay Center theater and cultural center, cost $22 million to build. The naming rights of the park were purchased by Appalachian Power, a subsidary of American Electric Power, prior to the opening of the stadium, and has been known as Appalachian Power Park since its opening.

Other Tenants: Appalachian Power Park is also the home of the Marshall University and University of Charleston baseball teams.

On The Town: The largest city in the state of West Virginia, Charleston has a population of 51,400. Charleston is not only the state capital, but it is also the county seat of Kanewha County. The city is serviced by two major interstate highways, I-77, which runs north to Cleveland and south to South Carolina, and I-64, which runs east and west from West Virginia to St. Louis.
In the mid eighteenth century, pioneers started moving westbound from the early settlements on the east coast towards the Appalachian mountains in what was then still part of the colony of Virginia. In 1773, Thomas Bullitt was deeded 1,250 acres near Elk River. Soon after Bullitt’s death in 1782, the deed was sold to a Col. George Clendenin. On this land, the first permanent settlement, Fort Lee, was built in 1787. This fort became the beginnings of a small town, which was originally Charles Town, but eventually was shortened to Charleston.

While most might think of West Virginia as coal country, salt was the first "cash crop" in the area. By 1808, over half a ton of salt per day was being extracted from salt brines in the area. In 1815, while drilling for a new vein of salt, natural gas was discovered, and two years later, coal was found.

In 1877, after several years of shuttling between Charleston and Wheeling (2 hours to the northeast), the citizens of the Mountaineer State voted for Charleston to become the official state capital.

Famous area natives include evangelist T.D. Jakes, former Philadelphia Phillie star and now ESPN commentator John Kruk, NBA legend Jerry West, and country singer Kathy Mattea.

Nearby Airport: Yeager Airport is approximately 8 minutes northeast of Appalachian Power Park.
What To Do: The best way to learn about the history and culture of the Mountaineer State in a few hours would be to visit the West Virginia State Museum. Located in the State Capital Complex near downtown Charleston, the State Museum tells the story of West Virginia from the prehistoric times through colonization through the Civil War all the way up to the present day. The museum features artifacts and multimedia presentations throughout the entire facility, as well as a large museum store. The best part of the museum is that it is completely free except for the metered parking on the grounds. For more information, call (304) 558-0220 or visit www.wvculture.org.

Where To Eat Before The Game: While there isn't a lot in the immediate vicinity of the park, there are several chain restaurants on MacCorkle Ave, where Linda and I stayed on this trip. Within a short walk is an International House of Pancakes, a Bob Evans, a McDonalds, a Wendys, as well as an Italian and a Mexican restaurant (didn't catch the names of the last two).

Where To Stay: As in all of my previous trips to the area, my home base was the Red Roof Inn-Kanawha City. Located less than ten minutes from Appalachian Power Park, it's convenient to get to, has plenty of places to eat, and is wallet-friendly. For reservations, call (800) THE-ROOF or visit www.redroof.com.

According to the Power's gamenight program, the team has a special $69.00 deal with the Ramada Inn-Downtown, which is not far from the ballpark. For information, call the Ramada at (304) 344-4092

Ticket Prices: Power tickets are priced as follows: $7.00 (box seats) and $5.00 (general admission).

Parking: There are several lots surrounding Appalachian Power Park. Linda and I chose one directly across the street from the park on Lewis St. This lot was of a decent size, and for only $3.00, was a bargain. Getting in and out of the lot was a breeze, but finding our way back to the interstate was a bit of an adventure, as there were no signs directing us back to I-77 southbound.

Getting In: Appalachian Power Park has three entrances. The main entrance is at the intersection of Lewis and Morris streets near the large brick building which houses the team's offices, banquet facilities, and the new Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant. This entrance also hosts the box office and souvenir store. There are other entrances behind home plate and at the left field foul pole.

The Good Seats: The APP has seating that runs from foul pole to foul pole, and with only fourteen rows of gray plastic seats, every seat puts you right on top of the action.

Stadium Food: In my opinion, this is one of the places where Appalachian Power Park really shines. In a park that seats just about 4,500, the Power feature a large variety of concessions at very agreeable prices.

At the main entrance of the park, there is a brand new Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant. "The Lube" is well known for its wings, which are available in several different levels of heat and quantity. This restaurant features seating inside the restaurant as well as seating under cover outside.
In the main concourse there are concession stands along both baselines. Each side has a stand run by the locally-owned Custard Stand Chili chain which features the ball park standards. On the first base side, the APP features a Italian specialty stand. On the opposite side there is a barbecue stand and an ice cream/frozen custard stand.

To start off the evening, I sampled a meatball sandwich from the Italian specialties stand. There was no line, and the service was fairly quick and accurate. The sandwich was fairly large with tasty meatballs and sauce. The only drawback was that the cheese was just sliced and added to the sandwich, as opposed to being melted on. With that being said, it was pretty good, and for just $6.50, was a pretty good deal. With a large Diet Pepsi ($3.50), it was an acceptable meal. I also sampled the ballpark's hot dog, which wasn't too bad either. Although it was pre-made, it was served warm, was a pork product (as opposed to all-beef), had a slightly smoky taste, and all in all was pretty good.
Linda had a barbecue beef brisket sandwich, which she will be reviewing.

Here is a sample of the concession prices at Appalachian Power Park:
Hot Dog: $2.75   Cheeseburger: $4.00   Nachos: $4.00   Canned Beer: $4.50   Pretzel:  $3.00   Large Soda (32 oz): $3.50   Soft Serve Ice Cream (in a helmet): $4.00   French Fries: $3.00

Soft Drinks: Pepsi products are featured at Appalachian Power Park.

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

Souvenirs: The "Power Outlet" is located just inside the Morris St entrance to the park next to the new Quaker Steak and Lube. The Power have a moderate sized line of merchandise available.

Restrooms: There are mens and womens restrooms located on each baseline. They are clean, of an appropriate size, and are well stocked.

Mascot: "Chuck" is a large furry yellow creature which spends the game circulating in the stands.

In addition to "Chuck", the Power have their own "superfan", Rod Blackstone. Known to all as "The Toast Man", Rod is the assistant to the mayor of Charleston when not at the ballpark cheering on the Power. Rod has been a fixture at baseball games in Charleston for over twenty years, and leads the cheers of "You are toast!" when an opposing player strikes out.
Blackstone has become such a fixture, he even has his own electrical outlet near his seat so he can plug his own toaster in, which provides a supply of burned white bread which he tosses to the crowd after a Power "K".

Dance Team: None

Program: Each fan recieves a Power program free as they enter the ball park. The Power program is very informative and contains an updated roster for each series.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Appalachian Power Park has a large scoreboard located in left center field just to the right of dead center. It features a large video board which provides player data, advertisements, and contests, but no replays. Under the line score area, there is a small message area which gives more in-depth information.
The Power have a good PA announcer and a very good selection of music. Instead of the normal "Jock Rock", the Power play more of an eclectic mix of classic rock, country, and modern hits.

Arena Staff: Extremely pleasant and helpful. Everyone I encountered had more than a little time to talk a little baseball and welcome a visitor. A special thanks goes out to Power GM Tim Mueller for his hospitality and assistance.

Arena Features: Under the scoreboard in left center field are two rows of yellow seats which were brought over from Watt Powell Park.
Atmosphere: Although the weather kept the attendance down to about (my guess) a thousand or so, those that were there were only somewhat into the game. I'm sure that with a larger gathering, it would have been a lot livelier.

Overall Rating: Quite simply, Appalachian Power Park is one of my favorite minor league ballparks. While it might not be the fanciest park you can visit, it has so many positives that the lack of the "special effects" really have no effect. The APP is a terrific park in a terrific town and is definitely worth a visit!