Monday, August 6, 2012

Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, State College PA

Basic Information
Team: State College Spikes (New York-Penn League)
Game: Spikes vs Williamsport Crosscutters-7/21/2012
Team Website: www.statecollegespikes.com
Ticket Information: (814) 272-1711 or (877) 99-SPIKES
Tourism Information: (800) 358-5466 or www.visitpennstate.org
Online Broadcasts: WZWW-FM 95.3 www.3wz.com
Local Newspaper: Centre Daily Times www.centredaily.com

Team Information: One of the New York-Penn League's most successful teams at the gate, the State College Spikes have had an history that has taken them from one geographic end of the league to the other. The team got it's start in 1981, when they joined the NYPL as the Erie Cardinals, where they played until 1987, where they were sold and moved to Hamilton, ON. Their stop in Ontario was a short one, as they lasted just four years in Canada's steel capital. After a one-year stop in Glens Falls, NY, the Cardinals finally landed in Augusta, NJ where they played for eleven seasons as the New Jersey Cardinals. After the 2005 season, the Cardinals were sold to the ownership of the Altoona Curve, who moved them to State College, where they became the Spikes. During their five previous seasons in State College, the Spikes have never finished higher than third place.
Seating Capacity: Medlar Field at Lubrano Park has a listed seating capacity of 5,570.
How About That Name (And Some History): Located in the shadow of legendary Beaver Stadium, the home of the Spikes opened for the 2006 Spikes season. The idea for the ballpark was that of Penn State alumnus Anthony Lubrano, who originally suggested upgrading the baseball facilities of the Nittany Lions in 1995. After recieving a $2.5 million donation from Lubrano, the owners of the Altoona Curve approached the college about bringing in a professional minor league team to share the new park with the Penn State baseball team.

The naming rights to the park are shared with Lubrano and "Coach" Chuck Medlar, one of the athletic trainers at Penn State for 35 years, and served as the Lions' baseball coach from 1963 to 1981.

Getting There (From I-80): Take I-80 to I-99 South via Exit 161 toward US 322.Take US 322 toward Innovation Park / Penn State University. Merge onto Park Avenue and turn left onto Porter Road.

Other Tenants: Lubrano Park is also the home of the Penn State Nittany Lions baseball team.

On The Town: Located in central Pennsylvania, approximately three hours from Pittsburgh and four hours from Philadelphia, State College is best known as the home of Pennsylvania State University since 1853. State College is also known as "Happy Valley", a name that has been given to the area by sports commentators.

State College has a current population of just over 42,000, and is the largest township in Centre County. The town is served by two major highways, Interstate 99 and US Route 322.

Mount Nittany is one of the area's most famous landmarks. With an elevation of over two thousand feet, it is one of the highest mountains in the state of Pennsylvania.

Nearby Airport: University Park Airport, located about five miles from State College, services the area with commuter flights on US Airways, United Express, and Delta.

What To Do: Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of time to explore the area around State College, so I would contact your hotel or the local visitors bureau for information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There are several fast food restaurants on South Atherton Street, where my hotel was located, and on the approach to the Penn State athletic facilities.
Where To Stay: On this trip, I stayed at the team's official hotel, the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center in State College. This hotel, which is located about ten minutes from the home of the Spikes, is an older, yet clean and comfortable facility, which I was able to get for the very attractive team rate of $64.00 per night. The hotel features all of the necessary creature comforts that a traveler would need. My only complaint was that the WI-FI connection wasn't the best. The hotel also features PJ Harrigans Bar and Grille on site, which has a fairly good menu of pub-style food. For more information, call (814) 238-3001 or visit their website at www.ramadasc.com.

Ticket Prices: Spikes tickets are priced as follows: $12.00 (Diamond Club), $10.00 (field box), $8.00 (bullpen box), and $6.00 (outfield reserved).

Parking: There is plentiful parking in the area around Lubrano Park. I parked in a lot just adjacent to the main parking area for the ballpark. It was a three minute walk from my car to the main entrance, and for $3.00, it wasn't a bad deal at all.

Getting In: There are two entrances to Lubrano Park, one on each side of home plate. The entrance on the first base side was the larger one, and seemed to be the "main" one. The first base entrance brought you into a large "courtyard" which housed the customer service area, the ticket booth, anf the "Off the Rack" merchandise store.

The Good Seats: The main grandstand at Lubrano Park extends from halfway down the left field line around home plate to approximately the same position along the right field line. There are two good sized party decks which extend from the end of the seating bowl to each foul pole. There is also a small bleacher section above the right field fence which gives an excellent view of the entire field.
Stadium Food: The Spikes have a very good concession set up with a fairly diverse line up of ballpark munchies at fairly agreeable prices. Along the main concourse, there are the two largest concession stands, each called Flashpoint Grilles. Both of these stands sell your standard ballpark fare. The stand on the first base side also sells Jersey Mike's sub sandwiches (I wish I had seen THAT sooner!). Directly behind home plate there are smaller stands, one selling popcorn, another called Nachoville sells Mexican Specialties, and the third, Smokie's Sausage Shack, sells foot long hot dogs and Italian and Polish Sausages. And, if that wasn't enogh, down the third base line, the team has a Steakadelphia stand, which as you might expect, sells cheesesteaks, and at the extreme end of the stand is Franx, the hot dog stand which I raved about in my May review from Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing, MI. Down the first base side, the park boasts Sweet, which sells candy and ice cream, and Burgertopia and Good Hops, which sells gourmet hamburgets and microbrewed beers.
I sampled the ballpark hot dog, which is made by Philadelphia's Dietz and Watson. It was served fairly warm and on a fresh bun. For $3.25, I don't think it was too out of the way price-wise. I also sampled the ice cream at the Sweet stand along the right field line. The ice cream was made at the Berkey Creamery, which is a well known establishment on the Penn State campus. Berkey has been featured on several shows broadcast on the Travel Channel.
Here is a sampling of the concession prices at Lubrano Park:

Hot Dog: $3.25   Cheeseburger: $4.00   Nachos: $4.75   Draft Beer: $6.75   Pretzel: $3.50   Large Soda: $4.00   Ice Cream: $3.75   French Fries: $3.50   Pizza Slice: $3.50

Soft Drinks: The home of the Spikes serves Pepsi products.
ATM: A Nittany Bank ATM is located inside the Off the Rack souvenir store.
Souvenirs: “Off the Rack” is a fairly large and well stocked souvenir store located on the main concourse near the main entrance. The team also has a smaller stand located on the third base side of the concourse.
Restrooms: Located liberally throughout Lubrano Park, they are all clean and in good working order.
Mascots: The Spikes have three mascots who make their way around the park. The first two are Ike the Spike (a large friendly deer) and the Nookie Monster (a furry blue beast who appears from a hole in the outfield fence called “the Nook” after each Spikes’ run).

The third and probably the most popular is Bob the Baseball Dog. A four year old yellow Labrador, Bob spends much of his time in the Spikes’ office, except on game days, where he and his handler walk around the fans getting pets, treats, and hugs from the fans.

Dance Team: None
Program: “Spikes Illustrated”, a small format, full color program which is updated for each home stand, is free to all fans entering the park.
Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: The Spikes have a large scoreboard/video screen located in left field. The scoreboard has a large area which shows the linescore and pertinent game information, a small message center, and a large high definition video board. The video board gets a good amount of use, showing film clips, player data, and advertisements as well as upcoming game information. The public address system is good, with a solid announcer and good choices for game music.

Stadium Staff: It must be something about folks who work at the ballparks in central Pennsylvania…everyone I’ve encountered at those parks have been just plain pleasant and very helpful, and State College is no exception. Even when I was taking a break and sitting in the exclusive “Rail King” seats, the usher who asked to see my ticket was very genial and almost apologetic when he told me that I would have to move.
Atmosphere: Quite good. The Spikes game I attended, which had the home team facing their Keystone State rivals the Williamsport Crosscutters, drew a season–high crowd of 5,106. It was a very lively and enthusiastic gathering, which no-doubt helped the Spikes to a win.
Ballpark Features: The dimensions and fences at Lubrano Park are virtually identical to those at PNC Park, the home of the Spikes’ “big club”, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The only exception is the height of the right field fence. In Pittsburgh, the fence is 21 feet high, which honors the legendary Roberto Clemente, who wore number 21. In State College, the right field fence is exactly 18.55 feet high, which honors the opening of what is now Penn State, who opened their doors in 1855.

Overall Rating: My rating is simple. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is a gorgeous ballpark in a gorgeous setting. You can’t beat it. It’s a great place to spend a summer evening.