Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Convocation Center, Athens OH

Basic Information
Team: Ohio University Bobcats (MAC)
Game: 11/16/13 vs Heidelberg College
Team Website: www.ohiobobcats.com
Ticket Information: (800) 575-2287 or www.ohiobobcats.com
Tourism Information: (800) 878-9767 or www.athensohio.com
Online Broadcasts: NA
Local Newspaper: The Athens News www.athensnews.com

Team History: The final charter member of the Mid American Conference still in the league, Ohio University has had a men's basketball program since 1907. The Bobcats have won 6 Mid-American Conference tournament titles in 1983, 1985, 1994, 2005, 2010, and 2012. As well as 9 MAC regular season titles in 1960, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1985, and 1994. In addition, Ohio has qualified for the NCAA men's basketball tournament thirteen times, most recently in 2012. The have played in the National Invitational Tournament four times, with their best finish being runner-up in 1941.

Seating Capacity: The Convocation Center is the largest arena in the Mid American Conference, with a seating capacity of 13,080.

How About That Name (And Some History): The Convocation Center was opened on December 3, 1968 when the Bobcats defeated Indiana University 80-70. The arena, which cost over eight million dollars to build, is directly across Richland Ave from Peden Stadium, the home of the Ohio Bobcat football team. Recent renovations of the building have included new offices for the men's' and women's basketball programs, expanded locker rooms, and a new playing surface and scoreboard.

Other Tenants: The Convo is the home of both the men's and women's basketball teams, women's
volleyball, and wrestling squads. The building has also been the host of many concerts, including Led Zeppelin in 1969.

Getting There: From US-50 West, take Exit 17, for OH-682 North. Turn right at the first traffic light, onto Richland Ave. Follow for less than a quarter mile. At the traffic circle, make a right. The Convocation Center will be on your immediate right. Turn right into the second parking lot.

On The Town: Located in south central Ohio on the banks of the Hocking River, Athens is approximately an hour south east of Columbus, 45 minutes south of Zanesville, and 45 minutes from Marietta. As of the 2010 census, Athens has a population of just over 23,000.
The area that is now known as Athens was the home of aboriginal tribes for over a thousand years, with the Adena and Hopewell, and later on, the Algonquin tribes residing in the fertile valley. The first white settlers came in 1797, but Athens did not become an incorporated village until 1811. The learning institution which would become Ohio University began in January 1802, when the governor of the Northwest Territory (part of which would become the state of Ohio in 1803) approved a bill from the territorial legislature establishing what was then called the American Western University. In 1804, the name was changed to reflect the new state, and Ohio University was born.

After the city passed five thousand residents in 1912, the state of Ohio granted Athens city status.

Well known Athens natives include long time Major League Soccer star goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, Austin Page, the founder of video game outfit Xbox, and artist Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

Major Airports: The largest airport near Athens is Port Columbus International, approximately sixty
miles from Athens.

What To Do Before The Game: This trip was an in-and-out for me, so there wasn't any real time for sightseeing in the area.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There wasn't anything immediately near the Convocation Center, but if you go south of Richland Ave, there are several fast food restaurants (McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's) as well as a few smaller local pizza shops and other restaurants.

Where To Stay: I didn't stay in Athens on this trip, having decided to stay in Parkersburg, WV for the night. However, if you're planning on being in the area, I would check with the local visitors  bureau for lodging information.

Ticket Prices: Bobcat men's basketball has tickets in all price ranges. My seats were in the fifth row of the upper level at the top of the free throw arc. This seat, which cost $15.00 (with a one dollar service charge, gave a very good view of the action.

Getting In: The main entrance and ticket window is located on the east side of the arena.

Parking: There are several lots on the Convo grounds, as well as a large lot across the street at Peden Stadium. I chose to park at the football stadium, and for $5.00, was not too bad, and made for easy egress after the game.

Arena Food: While the Convo doesn't have a huge line of concessions, what they do serve is actually pretty good. I ordered two hot dogs and a diet Pepsi for my pre-game meal. The hot dogs were of a good size, and although they were pre-made, were fairly warm and pretty tasty. The whole meal cost a total of ten dollars, which, in my eyes, wasn't a bad deal.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the Convo:

Hot Dog:  $3.00   Nachos: $4.00   Pretzel: $3.00   Souvenir Soda: $4.00   Personal Pizza (Donatos): $4.00

ATM: There is a "no brand" ATM located in the lobby of the building near the ticket booth.

Souvenirs: The "Coach's Corner" is a small alcove near the main entrance which sells a (in my opinion) tiny line of team merchandise.

Restrooms: There are several restrooms located along the arena's concourse, but signage is non-existent. I just happened to stumble across a men's room, which was fairly clean and in good working order.

Mascot: Rufus the Bobcat prowled the stands during the game.

Dance Team: The Bobcats have both a dance team and a co-ed cheerleading squad.

Program: The Bobcat's basketball yearbook is a large-format color magazine which covers both the men's and women's squads. For a cost of $5.00, it is a pretty good deal.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice:  One of the more unusual features of the Convocation Center is the scoreboard system. Instead of the standard center-hanging scoreboard, the Convo has the score and video boards on the floor level behind each baseline. Each side has a scoreboard that has the basic game information and a small video screen opposite. The video screen, while seemingly capable of showing video replays, is used sparingly, only showing "rah-rah" messages and advertisements during the game.

The Convo's PA announcer is good, having a good voice and delivery style. The music is of the standard style and the building has good acoustics.

Stadium Staff: Didn't see a lot of them, mostly yellow jacketed arena ushers who basically stood around and smiled.

Atmosphere: I'm sure that if the game was a mid-season game against a better known opponent, there would have been a more lively atmosphere. However, a Saturday afternoon against a Division III school wasn't much of a draw, with only about three thousand in attendance. The people there were loyal fans who were into the game.

Overall Rating: The Convo for an Bobcats game is a pleasant way to spend time if you're in the area. With ticket and concession prices reasonable, the Convocation Center is something the people of Athens can be proud of.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The England Adventure-Part One

Game 1: Blackpool at Millwall 9/17/13

“You’re going to Millwall?” was the most commonly heard response when I told people that we would be attending that night’s match.  I admit that reading some stories about the old Millwall stadium, it was a place that foreigners feared to tread.  However, the experience was much more pleasant and stress-free than I expected.
As our cab driver, a wonderful Cockney, (I wish I had gotten his name) navigated the streets of East London, he told us that the Millwall area was where the “real Londonder’s” lived.  By the way, we had no intention of driving to the stadium.  Driving in London is just simply something you don’t do if it can at all be avoided. 
The “new” Den, now in it’s 20th year is in a rather dicey neighborhood, with the approach to the stadium with middle income housing and some ramshackle-looking tire shops.  We were concerned about getting back to our hotel, but fortunately our driver said he would come back for us and wait for us until the end of the match. 

Right before you enter the stadium, there is a small open air cafĂ© which serves (meat) pies, hot dogs, beer, etc.  Our first stop was the Millwall club shop, a small while building under one of the grand stands.  The store had a good-sized line of team merchandise and was doing a brisk business.  The club’s soccer shops in the UK are located outside the stadiums and close before their games start. No merchandise is sold inside the stadium.
It look a while to find the correct window to pick up our tickets and then finding the right entrance.  Unlike most stadiums in the US, your entrance is marked on the ticket and that is the only one that you can use.  Some of the more plump fans will have trouble getting through the very narrow turnstiles at UK stadiums (but they will let you in another door). 
Once inside the stadium, your movements are restricted to the area near your section; you cannot walk completely around the stadium.  The New Den is made up of four separate stands of seating which enclose the pitch.  All four of the seating sections have wind screens on either end and have covered roofs.  There is a video score board in the East corner, which shows game action and advertisements.   It was almost impossible to read the time and the score of the game from where we were sitting because they were so small, and there was no auxiliary scoreboard.  If there were any “luxury boxes”, we could not see them from where we were sitting.  The stadium was “basic”, not having the “bells and whistles” that were have been accustomed to in newer US stadiums.  By American standards, the layout would be considered quite basic, but with that being said, it is every utilitarian and services the needs of the fans quite well.  We enjoyed not being overwhelmed by advertising at every turn, not outside the stadium, inside the stadium, on the scoreboard, or over the PA system.
As opposed to stadiums or arenas in the U.S., concessions at the Den were quite limited.  There was a larger variety of food available outside.  In our area, there were a hot dog stand, a (meat) pie stand, and a burger stand and a beer stand.  (When we were leaving and were able to more freely walk around the stadium, we did notice some additional types of food stands, but those were not accessible to us during the game.) 

The hot dog stand advertised “New York Style” hot dogs.  This was slightly untrue.  The hot dog was good sized and served on a hoagie bun, but tasted like a kielbasa.  My travel companions who like kielbasa said it was very good.   They also said the steak pie was very good. One of the more interesting things was that although beer was available in the concourse, it must be consumed in the concourse.  You cannot take your beer to your seat.  Many fans rushed out to have a pint at the half, just finishing it as the second half whistle blew. 

I found the staff to be friendly and helpful, especially after they found out how far we’d come to see the match.  I found the fans we spoke to were the same.  After mentioning that we were Americans that had come to see the game, broad grins spread across their faces. 
Our seats were approximately 6 rows from the field giving an excellent view of the match.  We seat between the center line and the top of the penalty area.  The seats were of the plastic flip up type but were comfortable and had good leg room.

The crowd was working class regular people and we felt very comfortable with them.  They were very genuine fans.  The crowd was mostly men with few women and fewer children.  We didn’t hear any racial slurs but some of the language was unique- the security and ushers didn’t respond. We were impressed at how many times they could use the “F” word in one sentence!  Some of their other language and cheers were a little colorful as well. This was interesting because there were signs down by the field saying anyone using foul language or racial slurs would be expelled. 
The crowd of 8,415 (about half the stadium’s capacity), was treated to an unexpectedly exciting game.   Millwall was in last place and the opponents, Blackpool, were in first place; it seemed that the home fans didn’t have great expectations for the game.  Blackpool got the first goal of the match, and a sense of dread came over the fans.   However, Millwall could equalize in injury time of the first half on a penalty kick and would score twice in the second half to ice the match.   The Millwall faithful absolutely exploded in cheers after equalizing and again after the go ahead goal was scored in the 71st minute.  After they scored the third goal, they went absolutely bonkers.  We really enjoyed the home fan’s cheer of “We scored 3 goals, you must be shit!”
Blackpool, on the northwest side of England, brought travelling support of approximately 300-400 who were seated in the upper level behind the goal, separated from any local fans.  They were vocal and boisterous and made a good counterpoint to the home fans. There was a substantial police presence around the visiting support, but other than some verbal jabs, there were no issues.
We left a few minutes before the game ended in hopes that our faithful cabbie was waiting for us.  The stewards and security were more than helpful in getting us to the main entrance and after a 5 minute walk we were happy to find that our ride was waiting.  (The roads right near English stadiums are closed down before/during and after a match, so you always had to walk a ways to where you can catch a cab.)
Overall, my first experience with soccer in England was a more than positive one.  The new Den is a fine facility and despite a few drawbacks a terrific place to catch the atmosphere of English soccer. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bowman Field, Williamsport PA

Basic Information
Team: Williamsport Crosscutters (New York-Penn League)
Game: 7/20/13-Crosscutters vs Lowell Spinners
Team Website: www.crosscutters.com
Ticket Information: (570) 326-3389 or www.crosscutters.com
Tourism Information: (800) 358-9900 or www.vacationpa.com
Online Broadcasts: www.crosscutters.com
Local Newspaper: Williamsports Sun Gazette www.sungazette.com

Team History: Nestled in the rolling hills of north central Pennsylvania, the city of Williamsport has hosted baseball since the early part of the 20th century, when clubs named the Millionaires, Billies, Grays, and Tigers made "Bill-Town" home. The most recent portion of pro baseball history in Williamsport started in 1987, when the Cleveland Indians placed their "AA" affiliate at Bowman Field. That team lasted until 1990, when the Bills moved to Hagerstown, MD. The Eastern League quickly moved their foundering Pittsfield (MA) franchise to Williamsport as an affiliate of the New York Mets. After two more years, the Mets moved the "new" Bills to a brand new stadium in Binghamton, NY. After a three year hiatus, the Chicago Cubs moved their affiliate in the single-A New York-Penn League to Bowman Field. The Cubs stayed in Williamsport until 1998, when the Pittsburgh Pirates took over, and renamed the team the Crosscutters. The Philadelphia Phillies took over the affiliation in 2007.

Affiliation: The Crosscutters are the short season A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Seating Capacity: Bowman Field has a seating capacity of 4,200.

How About That Name (And Some History): "Historic" Bowman Field was opened in 1926 when the Williamsport Grays started play in the New York-Penn League. The park was named for local booster J. Walton Bowman, who was a part owner of the Grays. This New York-Penn League is not to be confused with the current league in which the Crosscutters play. The "original" league was the precursor to the current Eastern League.

Bowman was beginning to show its age when pro baseball returned in 1994. Fortunately, the city fathers decided to help renovate and improve Bowman field, and in the almost 20 seasons since 1994, the park has undergone twelve renovations, which included a complete renovation of the concourse, expansion and renovations to the clubhouses, a new scoreboard, and a picnic deck. These renovations have turned Bowman Field into a true jewel of minor league baseball.

Other Tenants: None at this time, but for a short span in the winter of 2012, professional ice hockey was played at Bowman Field. A temporary rink was set up along the first base line for the Williamsport Outlaws of the Federal Hockey League. The Outlaws encountered some financial issues during that first season, and the rink was repossessed by the company that built it, and the team folded soon after.

Getting There: Take Interstate 80 to Route 220 North into Williamsport. Take the Fourth St. exit. Follow for approximately four miles. Historic Bowman Field will be on your left.

On The Town: With a population of just under thirty thousand, Williamsport is the largest city in Lycoming County. Williamsport is located in the northern part of Pennsylvania, just over 230 miles east of Youngstown, OH and 85 miles north of Harrisburg. The city is serviced by three major
highways: Interstates 80 and 180 and US route 220.

Incorporated in 1806, Williamsport was at one time known as the "Lumber Capital of the World", due to the town's thriving lumber industry. At the same time, it was the home of more millionaires per capita than any place in the United States due to the strength of the timber industry. However, something which has a little connection with timber is probably the best known contribution to American and world culture is Williamport's true "claim to fame".

In 1939, Williamsport resident Carl Stotz started a three team baseball league for boys in the area. The program exploded, and the world famous Little League Baseball program began. Every August, the best little league teams come to Williamsport to find out which is the best program in the world. The focus of children throughout the world is Lamade Stadium, on the south side of Williamsport. Built in 1959, Lamade Stadium seats an incredible 40,000, with the vast majority sitting along the outfield berm. The actual grandstand seats approximately 15,000.

Notable Williamsport natives include former star pitchers Mike "Moose" Mussina and Jamie McAndrew.

Nearby Airport: Williamsport Regional Airport is located just east of downtown Williamsport, but
the largest "major" airport is Harrisburg International Airport.

What To Do Before The Game: Although Linda and I didn't have time on this trip, a visit to the Peter McGovern Museum at the "World of Little League" is a must if you're in the area. The museum tells the story of how the three team circuit became the world wide experience that it is today. For more information, call (570) 326-3607 or visit www.littleleague.org.

Where To Eat Before the Game: There wasn't much in the immediate area of the ballpark, but there were several chain, local, and fast food restaurants on W 3rd St, near our hotel.

Where To Stay: On this trip, we stayed at the team's official hotel, the excellent Best Western Williamsport. Located ten minutes from Bowman Field, this property, while not particularly large, had everything you could need. The hotel had large, up to date sleeping rooms, a complimentary hot breakfast, an outdoor pool, and a TGI Friday's restaurant on site. While the room was a bit more than we would normally pay (the final bill was a little over a hundred dollars), the excellent service and quality accommodations were well worth the cost. For more information, call (570) 326-1981 or visit www.bwwilliamsport.com.

Ticket Prices: Crosscutters tickets are priced as follows: $8.00 (reserved box), $6.00 (general admission), and $5.00 (children 5-12 and seniors).

Parking: Bowman Field has a large grass lot adjacent to the grandstand, which costs $2.00 to utilize.

The Good Seats: The majority of the seating at Bowman Field is under a large covered grandstand which runs from first base to third base. This grandstand has 16 rows of seats, five of which are flip down seats, and the remaining are standard backless bleachers. While the bleachers can be a little rough on the spine, they give a good view of the action.

Getting In: During one of the many renovations of the park, Bowman Field received a face lift which included a new entrance rotunda and concourse. The main rotunda features the ticket window, and after entering, has the souvenir store and the customer service booth.

Ballpark Food: While Bowman Field will not be confused with Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park for their concession lineup, what the 'Cutters do sell is of a fairly good quality and of an agreeable price.

Linda sampled the pulled pork sandwich, and said it was quite good, and definitely worth the price (I believe it was $5.00). I had two hot dogs, and while they were pre-made, they were pretty tasty but could have been served a little warmer. The team also serves a bucket of French fries with Old Bay seasoning, and Hersheys' ice cream.

Here is a sampling of the Bowman Field concession prices:

Hot Dog: $2.00   Hamburger: $3.00   Nachos: $3.50   Draft Beer: $6.50   Pretzel: $3.25   Bottled Soda: $2.50   Ice Cream: Various Prices   French Fries: $3.00   Pizza Slice: $3.25

ATM: There is an ATM located in "the Sawmill" merchandise store.

Souvenirs: "The Sawmill", located just inside the main entrance on the first base side of the concourse, has a nice sized line of merchandise in a well organized store.

Restrooms: Located just under the grandstand behind home plate, they are clean and serviceable.

Mascot: "Boomer" is a large blue furry animal of an unknown species.

Program: The 'Cutters game night program is packed with information about the team and the history of the club, and for $2.50, a good deal.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Bowman Field has a average-sized scoreboard in right center field, which provided the basic game information, and had a smaller board above it which was used for promotions, player information, and the like.
It was "Irish Heritage" Night at Bowman Field the day we attended, and through the entire game, Irish-themed music was played and the PA announcer spoke an Irish accent. It had to make you chuckle a little bit.

Stadium Staff: Despite the steamy temperatures, everyone I encountered at the park was more than helpful and friendly.

Atmosphere: A decent sized crowd of about two thousand attended the game, and despite the 'Cutters not playing up to snuff, it was a lively gathering.

Overall Rating: A wonderful old ballpark which has stood the test of time, Bowman Field will hopefully serve the good folks of Williamsport for years to come. A pleasant drive, great hotel, and a positive ballpark experience...yup, it was a good weekend.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

McBride Stadium, Richmond IN

Basic Information
Team: Richmond River Rats-Frontier League
Game: 6/15/13-River Rats vs West Virginia Miners
Team Website: www.richmondriverrats.com
Ticket Information: (765) 935-RATS or www.richmondriverrats.com
Tourism Information: (800) 828-8414 or www.visitrichmond.org
Online Broadcasts: www.pal-item.com
Local Newspaper: Richmond Palladium-Item www.pal-item.com

Team History: Richmond, IN can boast a long history of professional baseball, going back to 1908 when the Richmond Quakers played in the Ohio-Indiana League. The modern history of pro baseball in Richmond starts in 1995, when the Richmond Roosters joined the Frontier League. The Roosters made Richmond their home until 2005, when new ownership purchased the team and moved them to Traverse City, MI. McBride Stadium was without baseball until 2009 when several former small market Frontier League teams decided to give the sport another go, and formed the Prospect League, a summer "showcase" league for college players who wanted to play in the summer yet keep their eligibility.

Seating Capacity: McBride Stadium has a seating capacity of 1,787.

How About That Name (And Some History): McBride Stadium was built in 1936, and is located west of downtown Richmond on Northwest 13th St and Peacock Rd. It has hosted pro baseball since 1948 with teams named the Roses, Robins, and Tigers in addition to the Roosters and River Rats. Future major league legends Joe Nuxhall, Leroy "Satchel" Paige, Bob Feller, and Jim Bunning got their starts in Richmond.

Other Tenants: McBride Stadium is also the baseball home of Richmond High School and Earlham College.

Getting There: Fron I-70 West, Take to Exit 149A. Exit ramp will loop around and put you southbound on Williamsburg Pike. Follow this road (name changes to N.W. 5th St) to the seventh traffic light to West Main St. Turn right onto Main St and follow for approximately three quarters of a mile. Go past the Armory to the stop sign at N.W. 13th Street and turn right. McBride Stadium will be on your right side.

On The Town: Richmond, IN is located less than fifteen miles from the Indiana/Ohio border in east central Indiana. Richmond is approximately 75 miles east of the state capital of Indianapolis, and 92 miles due south of Fort Wayne. Richmond is serviced by three major highways, I-70 and US Routes 27 and 40. The 2010 census shows that that Richmond has a population of 37,000.

While the area had been inhabited by Native Americans for centuries, the first European settlers came to the area in 1806, when a group of Quakers from North Carolina moved to the bank of the Whitewater River. To this day, Richmond is still the home to several Quaker institutions, including Earlham College and is the home to the Friends United Meeting, an association of Quaker ministries.

Richmond was linked to the east coast when the "National Road" was opened in the mid-nineteenth century. Now known as US-40, the National Road was the route many pioneers took during the westward expansion during that time.

Richmond is known as the birthplace of legendary New York Jets and Baltimore Colts coach "Weeb" Eubank and former Los Angeles Ram defensive star Lamar Lundy.

Nearby Airport: While Richmond does have it's own small airport, the closest "major" airport is in Dayton, an hour east of Richmond.

What To Do Before The Game: This was an "in and outer" for me, so I didn't have much time for sightseeing. However, there is a National Road welcome center located at the exit for Richmond off of I-70.

Where To Eat: McBride Stadium is located in an residential neighborhood, so there really isn't a lot in the immediate area of the ballpark. However, along Williamsburg Pike and US 40, there is a good selection of fast food and "family style" restaurants. I did find an excellent ice cream stand along US 40 called Ritter's Frozen Custard. I had a delicious strawberry sundae, which was a treat on a warm early summer day, and for $3.99 was worth the short stop.

Where To Stay: On this trip, I stayed in Dayton, an hour drive east. I would check with your favorite chain to see what locations are in the area.

Ticket Prices: The River Rats have two ticket prices: $8.00 (box seating) and $6.00 (reserved seating).

Parking: There is a good-sized grass lot adjacent to the ballpark with sufficient free parking.

The Good Seats: The majority of the seating at McBride Stadium is located in a large covered grandstand which runs from first base to third base. The first four rows are chair back seats, with the remainder of the seating being wood bleachers. The only drawback is large posts in front of the grandstand which hold up the roof. However, they are avoidable.

Getting In: The ticket booth and entrance to the park are located on the NW 13th St side of the park. After entering, the restroom building, concession stand, and merchandise stand are located in a "plaza" in front of the actual ballpark.

Ballpark Food: When coming to a park as small as McBride Stadium, I've found that food quality and price can be a toss up. Some places have had really good, economically priced concessions...and others...not so much. However, McBride Stadium falls into the first category most emphatically.

My pre-game meal of two hot dogs and a large Pepsi cost an very attractive six bucks. The hot dogs, although obviously pre-made, were better than average taste-wise, and were served good and warm. The Rats serve a better than anticipated line of concessions, and with just about all of the items costing less than five dollars, having a meal at the ballpark was a definite bargain.

Here is a sampling of concessions at McBride:

Hot Dog: $2.00   Hamburger: $3.00   Nachos: $3.00   Bottled Beer: $4.00   Pretzel: $3.00    Large Soda: $2.00    Ice Cream: various items priced between $2.00 and $3.00   Pizza Slice: $3.50

There is a small water ice cart next to the concession building selling the east coast favorite. I purchased a Tampa Bay Rays mini-helmet filled with orange flavored ice for $5.00, which as the night got steamier, was refreshing.

ATM: None

Souvenirs: There is an appropriately sized souvenir stand as a part of the main entrance/ticket office building. The River Rats have a nice sized line of merchandise for very attractive prices. I purchased a souvenir baseball and a Rats game cap for just $21.00. Considering I spent $40.00 for a Cincinnati Reds batting practice cap on at trip there in April, I was very happy with my purchase and the price.

Restrooms: Located in a cinder-block building next to the main entrance, the rest rooms are serviceable and are of a decent size.

Mascot: "Ribby" (RBI) the River Rat prowls the stands throughout the game.

Program: The River Rats do not produce a program, instead handing out a free roster sheet to fans entering the park.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: McBride Stadium has an average "high school/small college" scoreboard located beyond the fence in left center field. The board shows the basic game information.

The stadium's PA announcer is good and the music runs towards the traditional ballpark music with some recent country mixed in.

Stadium Staff: The Rats' staff, which was made up of a bunch of friendly younger folks, was accessible, helpful, and had big smiles on their faces.

Atmosphere: I'm sure the thousand or so that attended the game had a good time, but the fact that the River Rats were getting blown out kind of put a damper on things!

Overall Rating: While it will never be confused with Dayton's Fifth Third Field or Indianapolis' Victory Field,  McBride Stadium has an old-time charm that you simply can't build into a park. A night at the River Rats will turn the clock back to a time where the "small park" was the place to go on a warm summer night, and wouldn't hurt your wallet.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wuerfel Park, Traverse City MI

Basic Information
Team: Traverse City Beach Bums (Frontier League)
Game: Beach Bums vs Rockford Aviators-5/25/2013
Team Website: www.tcbeachbums.com
Ticket Information: (231) 943-0100 or www.tcbeachbums.com
Tourism Information: (800) TRAVERSE or www.traversecity.com
Online Broadcasts: www.tcbeachbums.com
Local Newspaper: Traverse City Record-Eagle www.record-eagle.com

Team History: The Traverse City Beach Bums can trace their lineage all the way back to the Frontier League's inaugural campaign of 1993, when they played as the Kentucky Rifles. After two years playing in the Bluegrass State, the Rifles were sold and moved to Richmond, IN, where they were renamed the Roosters. The Roosters were a member of the FL from 1995 through 2005, playing at McBride Stadium. In August 1995, the Roosters were sold to John and Leslye Wuerfel and moved from Indiana to Northern Michigan, and the Beach Bums were born.

Seating Capacity: Wuerfel Park has a seating capacity of 4,685, but with standing room and outfield berm seating, the club drew a crowd of 8,211 on September 5, 2010.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened on May 24, 2006, Wuerfel Park is located
just south of downtown Traverse City in the Chums Village commerce park. The stadium, which cost $6 million to build, was named after the Wuerfel family, who purchased the Beach Bums and engineered their move from Indiana. The Beach Bums are the first professional baseball team to represent Traverse City in over ninety years.

Other Tenants: None.

Getting There: Wuerfel Park is located just north of the intersection of  US Route 31 and M-37.  The park is visible from the highway, and a large sign points you towards the correct route in.

On The Town: Located in picturesque northwest Michigan, Traverse City is one of the area's largest tourist attractions. With it's fine freshwater beaches, vineyards, and forests, Traverse City is the destination of thousands of Michiganders during the summer months.
Traverse City is in the heart of the "Cherry Capital", as the region is the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States. Traverse City is located just over four hours northwest of Detroit and two hours north of Grand Rapids. US-31 is the main road servicing Traverse City, which has a population of just over 15,000.

The city gets its name from the Grand Traverse Bay on which Traverse City sits. The bay was named by French voyagers, who in the 18th century made le grande traverse ("the long voyage") across the bay.

In 1847, a Captain Boardman purchased a parcel of land on a river near the mouth of the bay. Boardman and his sons built a saw mill on what is now the Boardman River. After selling the saw mill a few years later, the group that purchased the mill began investing in the mill, and more settlers moved into the area. In 1852, the owners of the saw mill petitioned the United States Post Office to build a post office at their new settlement. Originally, the new post office was going to be called Grand Traverse City, but the government convinced the owners to shorten the name to Traverse City.

Nearby Airport: Cherry Capital Airport is located to the west of Wuerfel Park, but the largest major airport would be in Grand Rapids, two hours south.

What To Do Before The Game: As I had mentioned, Traverse City is located in an area graced with great natural beauty, with something for all tastes. Unfortunately, I didn't have any time for real sightseeing in the area, so I would recommend visiting the Traverse City visitors bureau website for ideas.

Where To Eat: Immediately around the ballpark on US-31, there are several fast food restaurants, but I would consider waiting until you get into Wuerfel Park, since the ballpark food is of a high quality.

Where To Stay: Before I go any farther, I do have to say that lodging in the Traverse City area is not exactly wallet friendly. Before making this trip, I investigated some of the larger chains that had locations in the area, and the least expensive I could find was in the $150.00 range. Granted that this was a holiday weekend, but the popularity of Traverse City as a summer vacation hotspot is proven by the "sellers market" in terms of lodging.

Ticket Prices: Beach Bums tickets are priced as follows: $12.00 (chairback) and $6.00 (lawn seating).

Parking: Wuerfel Park has a large lot behind home plate which is more than serviceable for a park of it's size. Parking in this lot costs $2.00, and is easy in and out to US-31.

The Good Seats: The main grandstand at Wuerfel Park is in the traditional "wishbone" shape, and runs from halfway down the right field foul line to halfway down the left field line. A large berm goes all the way around the outfield wall, which makes for a great way to watch a game under the stars on a warm summer night.

Getting In: The main entrance and box office is located just behind home plate. After passing through the "wind tunnel" (as team staff call it), a large main concourse opens up to the seating bowl.

Ballpark Food: Everything I sampled here was definitely a cut above the normal stadium fare, with some items ranked as "outstanding". In addition to the traditional ballpark menu, Wuerfel Park has a microbrew pub, which sells some items from local breweries, a sandwich shop, and a cheesesteak stand. I sampled the ballpark hot dog, which although was probably pre-made, was very tasty, served warm, and on a fresh bun. The pizza, made by Michigan pizzeria chain Jets, was fairly good as well. The stadium's signature pretzel (which came highly recommended by Bums GM Leslye Wuerfel) was as good as she recommended.

However, my highest compliment, interestingly enough, was for the soda served. It wasn't your
standard Pepsi or Coke, but was made by a local company, Northwoods Soda and Syrup. I tried the orange cream soda with my meal, and WHOA! Now, I know I'm trying to cut back on the sugared soda, but this was so good, I couldn't stop myself from having a second.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the home of the Beach Bums:

Hot Dog: $3.00   Nachos: $4.00   Draft Beer: $6.00   Pretzel: $3.00   Large Soda: $3.00   Ice Cream: $3.00   French Fries: $3.00   Pizza Slice: $3.50

ATM: There is a Fifth Third Bank ATM located on the main concourse near the souvenir shop.

Souvenirs: There is a good sized souvenir shop located just to the left of the main entrance, which sells a larger than expected line of merchandise.

Restrooms: Located on the first and third base sides, all are impeccably clean and in good working order.

Mascots: Two large, loveable bears named Suntan and Sunburn.

Dance Team: None.

Program: The Beach Bums sell a large, full-color magazine at their games, which tells all about the team and about some of the community-based programs that they are involved with. At a cost of $2.00, it's a good deal.

Scoreboard: Wuerfel Park has an appropriately-sized video scoreboard in left center field. The video
portion gets a better than anticipated amount of use, as prior and in between innings, it plays music videos and well timed movie clips. The PA announcer is good as well, and the music selection is appropriate and played just loud enough.

Stadium Staff: Three words: very nice people. Everyone I spoke to was more than friendly and helpful. A special thank you to owners John and Leslye Wuerfel, PR director Chad Cooper, and merchandise director Dana Quigley for their warm welcome and hospitality.

Atmosphere: It was a quiet night for Wuerfel Park, as the unseasonably cool weather (although the sun was shining brightly) kept the crowd down to about fifteen hundred or so. Those who were there were intensely into the game.

Overall Rating: Wuerfel Park in just about all facets is one outstanding ballpark. It was definitely worth the trip, and with a little planning, should be on the "bucket list" of any fellow ballpark aficionado.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh PA

Basic Information
Team: Pittsburgh Power (Arena Football League)
Game: Power vs Orlando Predators-5/4/2013
Team Website: www.pittsburghpowerfootball.com
Ticket Information: (888) 769-2011 or www.pittsburghpowerfootball.com
Tourism Information: (800) 359-0758 or www.visitpittsburgh.com
Online Broadcasts: www.sportstalk.triblive.com
Local Newspaper: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review www.triblive.com

Team History: The second attempt to bring top-flight indoor football to the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Power were granted an AFL expansion franchise on August 10, 2010, as a group of local businessmen, including former Pittsburgh Steeler great Lynn Swann were awarded one of four expansion franchises for the 2011 season. The Power would be one of the charter tenants in the new Consol Energy Center arena, which opened the previous fall. The Power have had their struggles on the field, winning just 14 games in their first two seasons.

Seating Capacity: The Consol Energy Center has a seating capacity for Power games of 16,280.

How About That Name (And Some History): The $321 million Consol Energy Center was opened on September 21, 2010 with an exhibition game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. The new arena replaced the venerable Pittsburgh Civic Arena (better known to all as "the Igloo"), which was the home of the Steel City's indoor sports teams since it's opening in 1961. It is believed that the building of the Consol Energy Center was vital to keep the Pens in town, as it was rumored that they were being pursued by Kansas City interests, who looked to purchase the team and move it to the new Sprint Center in KC.

Other Tenants: The NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins are currently the only other full-time tenant at the CEC, however the arena has hosted many major concerts and other events.

Getting There: From Pittsburgh International Airport: Exit the airport, and take I-376 east towards downtown Pittsburgh. Take I-376 to Grant St (exit  71A). After exiting, make a right onto Forbes Ave. Follow for a quarter mile and make a left onto Chatham Square. Follow for a quarter mile to the arena.

On The Town: Known for many years as the "Steel City", the past three decades have seen a renaissance for the city of Pittsburgh. No longer is it just known for smoky iron and steel foundries, Pittsburgh has become a home for high finance, computers, and green technology.

With a population in the metropolitan area of over two million, Pittsburgh is the second largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, and the 22nd largest in the country. Physically, it is located in the western half of Pennsylvania, 300 miles from Philadelphia and 130 miles from Cleveland, and is located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers.

Originally the home of the Shawnee native tribe, French explorer Robert de la Salle is generally considered to be the first European to visit what is now Pittsburgh. In 1669 while traveling down the Ohio Rover from Canada, de la Salle first mapped out the area. Seventy years later, the French sent another expedition, this time in an effort to unify the French in Canada to their fellow settlers along the Mississippi River.

Naturally, the British in the colonies weren't too thrilled, and they sent General George Washington to tell the French to withdraw. In 1754, the British built Fort Duquesne at the tip of the peninsula. This would be subsequently replaced by a larger fort, named after the British Secretary of State William Pitt. The area would soon be known as Pittsborough, and would be a flashpoint for the French and Indian War.

In 1768, the descendants of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, purchased most of the area owned by the native tribes, and in 1769, the settlement got it's permanent name of Pittsburgh. Both Virginia and Pennsylvania laid claim to the new town, but in 1780, the states agreed to extend the Mason-Dixon line westward, and Pittsburgh officially became part of the Keystone State.

During the early part of the nineteenth century, Pittsburgh became a mecca for manufacturing, as the War of 1812 cut off the importing of steel and iron from Britain. This forced America to start producing their own supplies of these products, and by 1815, Pittsburgh was producing much of America's need for iron, steel, tin, and glass.

In 1901, United States Steel was formed, and during the boom times of the early 20th Century, Pittsburgh would produce up to half of all the nation's steel.

In the 1970's, the city realized that it needed to reinvent itself, and the Renaissance project was born. This effort helped revitalize the run down and older parts of the city. This effort paid off years later as Pittsburgh was named one of the "top cities to live in".

Famous Pittsburgers include: Henry Heinz, founder of the H.J. Heinz Company, Fred Rogers, who for years told children "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood", on his television show "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood", legendary actor/dancer Gene Kelly, and Olympic gold medalist and TNA wrestling star Kurt Angle.

Nearby Airport: Pittsburgh International Airport is approximately 20 miles northwest of the Consol Energy Center.

What To Do Before The Game: Pittsburgh has become a popular tourist destination over the past few years, and with places like the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, Fort Pitt, the Pittsburgh Science Center, Station Square, and others, you'll definitely find something to do during your travels. For more information, contact the Pittsburgh Visitors Bureau for more information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: I wasn't too familiar with the area around the Consol Energy Center before I arrived, so I didn't know what to expect. The area around the arena has several bars and restaurants which might interest you, so I would arrive early and see if anything piques your interest. In addition, there is a TGI Friday's and a Subway on the Fifth Ave side of the arena if you want to play it safe.

Where To Stay: There is just about any kind of hotel or motel you could want in the Pittsburgh area. On this trip, Linda and I stayed at the Red Roof in Monroeville, which was about 15 minutes or so east of the arena. It was clean, comfortable, and fairly inexpensive with several restaurants within 5 minutes of the hotel. For more information, call (800) THE ROOF or visit www.redroof.com.

Ticket Prices: Power tickets run are priced anywhere from $150.00 to $15.00. Linda and I chose the $15.00 seats (naturally), and the seats (end zone) were more than acceptable. I wouldn't worry too  much about buying your tickets through the team's website (which sends you to Ticketmaster). Several ushers gave me the impression that you can walk up and get good seats up to game time.

Parking: There are several lots within a short walk of the arena. We parked at a small street lot five minutes from the arena for ten dollars. The only issue was that only the main box office was open, and that was a hike up a rather steep hill!!

The Good Seats: As I walked around the arena, the first thing that I noticed was that the building was built with hockey in mind, as all of the gray padded seats gave a good view of the ice, which works for arena football as well.

Getting In: The main entrance to the Consol Energy Center is located at the intersection of Washington Pl and Center Ave. This entrance, called the Trib Total Media gate, has the main box office and entry point. After purchasing your ticket and going through security, you ascent one of two escalators, which take you to the concourse level.

Arena Food: Being a still-new NHL quality arena, you would assume that the Consol Energy Center has all the bells and whistles in terms of concessions. Well, you would be right. In addition to the standard arena favorites, the home of the Power has stands with such eclectic choices as sushi, top flight sandwiches, barebecue, and that Pittsburgh staple, Primanti Brothers sandwiches. Well, sadly, for the Power game we attended, all of those were closed. To be honest, with a crowd of maybe two thousand, I could see why.

The good news is that the Power have a promotion with Smith's hot dogs and RD/Seven Up beverages in which Power fans get dollar hot dogs and dollar 12 ounce sodas for the night. Naturally, Linda and I went the cheap route and sampled these offerings. Despite being pre-made, the hot dog was quite tasty and had a nice char. It was served relatively hot and in a relatively fresh bun. I've had some better hot dogs, but for a dollar, it was well worth it. We also sampled the ice cream, which was served in a waffle cone. For five dollars, you got a fairly large serving of soft serve, which I thought was quite good.

Here is a listing of some of the concession prices at the CEC for Power games:

Hot Dog: $1.00   Cheeseburger: $5.00   Nachos: $7.50   Draft Beer: $8.25   Pretzel: $5.50   Souvenir Soda: (comes with 1 refill) $8.00   Ice Cream: (Waffle Cone) $5.00   French Fries: $5.50   Personal Pizza: (Pizza Hut) $9.75

ATM's: There are several First Niagara Bank ATM's located throughout the main concourse.

Souvenirs: The Power have one souvenir table in the main concourse. While the souvenir line isn't exactly huge, the prices are fairly good, with most t-shirts going for about $20.00, and a golf shirt costing $35.00

Restrooms: Large and convenient. All are very clean and in good working order.

Mascot: None

Dance Team: The Sparks dance team not only participate in the in-game entertainment, they also hand out the programs and any promotional giveaways as fans walk into the building.

Program: Every fan receives a complimentary copy of the "Surge", a large format newspaper which contains information on the night's game, the team, and upcoming events.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: As with all new arenas, a large video board is standard equipment, and the CEC is no exception. The large, center hanging scoreboard has four large HD video screens which show all the action as well as pertinent score information. Above and below the main screens are smaller ribbon boards which assist the main board. There are ribbon boards along the fascia of the upper level which also display the pertinent game information. The Power's PA voice is a good one, enthusiastic, but without being a shill. The music selection is good, while leaning a little on the "heavy metal" side, which Linda approved of. I mean, how often do you hear Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" at a sporting event?

Arena Staff: While team staff were non-existent, arena staff were incredibly helpful and friendly. Just about everyone I encountered was more than helpful to answer questions, provide info, or just chew the fat. Before the game, I asked the usher at my section if I could go down to the first row to take some photos of the player introductions. He (I'm sorry I didn't get his name), said "sure, as long as no one is there, go for it".

Atmosphere: Sadly, there wasn't much. Granted, a combination of crowd of around two thousand (and I think that was being generous) and a sub-par effort by the home team didn't exactly make the roof blow off the place, but for most of the night, you could hold a conversation quite easily with the person next to you.

Overall Rating:  The Consol Energy Center is a top-class arena in just about all facets. I'm sure that on a Penguins game night, the place is insane. But, if you still want to experience the CEC, and can't get a Pens ducat, the Power is a great way to spend an inexpensive, low stress night out in the Steel City.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Basic Information
Team: Rochester Red Wings (International League)
Game: Red Wings vs Pawtucket Red Sox-4/20/13
Team Website: www.redwingsbaseball.com
Ticket Information: (585) 423-9464
Tourism Information: (800) 677-7282 or www.visitrochester.com
Online Broadcasts: WHTK-AM 1280AM www.whtk.com
Local Newspaper: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle www.democratandchronicle.com

Team History: One of the longest lived franchises in all of American sports, the current International League franchise known as the Rochester Red Wings has been playing in the Flower City since 1885. The team was known as the Rochester Broncos until 1928, when they became affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, and changed their name to the Red Wings. They would win the IL title their first year affiliated with the Cards.

In 1956, after over three decades, the Cardinals ceased to operate the team, and the Red Wings were in danger of leaving town. Enter local businessman Morrie Silver. Silver engineered what is now known as the "72 Day Miracle", where he sold stock in a corporation which would take over the operation of the team and stadium. The team continued to be affilated with the Cardinals for another four years, when the team became affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, who stayed in town for 41 years until 2003, when the Red Wings hooked up with the Minnesota Twins.

The Red Wings are only the second "community-owned" professional sports team in the US, along with the Green Bay Packers.

Affiliation: The Red Wings are the AAA affilate of the Minnesota Twins.

Seating Capacity: Frontier Field has a seating capacity of 10,840. With stading room, the stadium can hold over thirteen thousand.

How About That Name (And Some History): After playing for 47 years at their old Silver Stadium home, the Red Wings moved into their new home on July 11, 1996. The new stadium, built for 36 million dollars, is located just on the fringes of downtown Rochester, not far from the picturesque High Falls district. The stadium, which has also hosted professional soccer and lacrosse, is named for Frontier, a local telephone company which purchased the naming rights for the stadium in 1996 for 20 years.

Other Tenants: The Red Wings are currently the only tenant at Frontier Field.

Getting There: From the NY Thruway, exit at I-390 north towards Rochester. Follow for approximately 15 miles to I-490 east. Take I-490 east to Broad St/Stadiums (exit 12).  After exiting the expressway, you will come to a traffic signal; continue straight on to Allen Street. You will come to a traffic signal; keep left and continue across Broad Street past the Fire Station (follow the Frontier Field signs). As you approach, Frontier Field will be on your right. Parking is available in the D Lot, located on your left.
 
On The Town: Known as the "Flower City", Rochester is the largest city in central New York. With a population of over 210,000, Rochester is the third largest city in the state, trailing Buffalo and New York City. Rochester is located in central New York on the shores of Lake Ontario, approximately 70 miles east of Buffalo, and 200 miles west of Albany. It is serviced by the New York Thruway (I-90), which runs 15 miles south of Rochester.
The area was originally the home of the Seneca indian tribe, who lived in the area until ceding the area to the United States in the Treaty of Big Tree in 1797. The tribe was aligned with the British during the American Revolution, and after the treaty, the British allowed them to move into Ontario on a land grant on the Grand River.
 
In November 1803, a group led by Col. Nathaniel Rochester purchased a hundred acre plot along the Genessee River, and by 1817, the three surveyed the land and laid out streets and tracts, and along with other settlers nearby, formed the settlement of Rochesterville. Less than a decade later, the Erie Canal came through town, making Rochesterville a vital port on the major transportation line between New York City and the east and Buffalo on the west.
 
In the late eighteenth century, innovators like George Eastman, who formed Eastman Kodak, and German immigrants John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb, founded the optical company which bears their names, moved to Rochester and made the town a booming industrial center.
 
Notable Rochester natives include noted golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Susan B. Anthony, who led the woman's suffrage movement in the early 20th century, Lou Gramm, lead singer of seventies rock legends Foreigner, actor John Lithgow, and US Women's National Soccer Team star Abby Wambach.
 
Nearby Airport: Greater Rochester International Airport is approximately seven miles southwest of Frontier Field.

What To Do Before The Game: This trip didn't afford us much time for sightseeing, so I would recommend checking with the convention and visitors bureau for ideas.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There really isn't much in the immediate area of the stadium in terms of dining, so I would recommend checking with your lodging choice for dining choices.
Where To Stay: On this trip, I stayed in Buffalo, but there are many hotel choices in the immediate area, both in downtown and in the suburbs.
 
Ticket Prices: Red Wings tickets are priced as follows: $11.00 (premium), $9.50 (upper box), $7.00 (reserved). There is a one dollar surcharge for tickets purchased at the box office on the day of the game.

Parking:
There is a large lot just across the street from the ballpark which costs $6.00 per car.
 
The Good Seats: Frontier Field is designed in the traditional "wishbone" style which starts two thirds of the way down the left field line and ends approximately the same place down the right field line. The stadium has approximately 25 rows from top to bottom, and all give a good view from all angles.
Getting In: The main entrance is located behind home plate on the Allen St. side of the park. The main entrance also is where the box office is located. There is a seperate entrance on the left field side near the intersection of Allen and Plymouth.
 
Stadium Food: One of the places where Frontier Field really shines is in it's concession list. According to the team's game day program, the park has no less than 13 concession points featuring everything from typical ballpark favorites to pizza and italian specialties and barbecue.
 
Sadly, most of these stands were closed to the inclement weather (it was 39 degrees and lightly snowing at first pitch).
 
However, Linda and I found a real winner on the left field side at the Red Osier roast beef stand. A well known local brand, Red Osier beef is sliced thicker than your normal roast beef sandwich you might find at Arby's, and is served hot and basted in a delicious au jus. It is served either on a fresh kaiser or kummelweck bun. For $6.50, it was a definite winner on a frigid afternoon.
 
I also sampled the Zweigel's "Red Hot", a local brand of hot dog. Sadly, this didn't really (to use a pun) "cut the mustard". It was over cooked (nearly incinerated), and was sitting in the steam box for a while, which didn't do much at all for the taste of presentation.
Here is a selection of the Frontier Field concession prices:
 
Hot Dog: $3.25 Hamburger: $4.25 Nachos: $4.00 Draft Beer: $6.00 Large Soda: $4.25 French Fries: $3.75 Pizza Slice: $3.50
Soft Drinks: Coke products are poured at Frontier Field.
 
ATM: There are several Summit Federal Credit Union ATM's at Frontier Field. Two are on the first base side, and one is on the thrid base side.
 
Souvenirs: There is a nice sized souvenir store located in the main concourse just off the main entrance on the third base side. The store (which was nicely heated) had a good sized line of merchandise with a friendly and outgoing staff.
 
Restrooms: Mens' and Womens' rooms are located on both sides of the main concourse. All of the mens' facilities were of an appropriate size and were clean and in good working order.
 
Mascots: Two large friendly birds named Spikes and Mittsy.
 
Dance Team: None
 
Program: The Red Wings "yearbook" is a bargain at just a dollar. The large format magazine has plenty of information on the team and ballpark, and contains a handout with the team stats and game information.
 
Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Frontier Field has three scoreboards. The first is a large HD video screen located in left center. It gets a good amount of use without being "over done". On the left field fence there is also a small scoreboard which has the basic linescore and other game information. In right center, the ballpark has a black and white matrix board with in depth statistical information.
 
The ballpark has a solid PA system, announcer, and plays a good variety of music. Frontier Field also has a live organist which plays during the game.
 
Stadium Staff: There wasn't a lot of them, and the ones I encountered ranged from sweet and friendly to extremely disinterested. I can put some of that due to the lousy weather.
 
Atmosphere: Due to the weather, I don't think there were more than 300 people in the stands.
 
Naturally, there wasn't going to be a lot of "energy" in the park. However, in previous trips on nights with significantly better weather, the park would be packed with good, smart baseball fans.
 
Ballpark Features: The park features statues of Morrie Silver, the man who "saved" baseball in Rochester, and Joe Altobelli, a long-time Red Wings player, manager, and broadcaster.
 
Overall Rating: Frontier Field is a top flight facility which deserves a visit from any ballpark fan.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hartman Arena, Park City KS

Basic Information
Team: Wichita Wings (Major Indoor Soccer League)
Game: Wings vs Milwaukee Wave-1/25/13
             Wings vs Chicago Soul-1/26/13
Team Website: www.wichitawingsindoorsoccer.com
Ticket Information: (316) 927-3999 or www.wichitawingsindoorsoccer.com
Tourism Information: (800) 288-9424 or www.gowichita.com
Online Broadcasts: KGSO-AM 1480 www.kgso.com
Local Newspaper: Wichita Eagle www.kansas.com

Team History: The second incarnation of the legendary soccer team, the new Wichita Wings are in their second season in the Major Indoor Soccer League, having joined the league in March 2011. The original Wings played in the first MISL from 1979-92 and in the National Professional Soccer League from 1992-2001. The first Wings team played just across I-135 at the Kansas Coliseum, drawing frequent sellout crowds during indoor soccer's heyday in the mid-eighties.

Seating Capacity: Hartman Arena seats approximately 5,000 for indoor soccer and has a total seating capacity of 6,500 for concerts.

How About That Name (And Some History): Originally designed strictly as a home for the Wichita Wild indoor football team, it was the brainchild of local businessman Wink Hartman. The building was originally scheduled to be built in 2007, but budget constraints forced a redesign, which delayed the opening of the arena. The building was finally opened in late March 2009, after twelve months of construction.
Other Tenants: In addition to the Wings, the Hartman Arena is the home of the Wichita Wild indoor football team, which has played their since the arena's opening in 2009.

Getting There: (from downtown Wichita): Take I-235 north for approximately 12 miles until I-235 merges into I-135. Follow I-135 north for approximately three miles to exit 16 (77th St). At the top of the ramp, make a left onto 77th St, and proceed for a half mile, making a right onto Hartman Arena Dr. Follow Hartman Arena Dr to the arena and parking.

On The Town: A suburb of Wichita, Park City is located 14 miles northwest of the city, and has a population of just under eight thousand. It is easily accessed by I-135 from Wichita to the south and Salina to the north.
Park City was originally founded in 1870, and the city founders hoped that it would become a major rail hub and would overshadow it's rival Wichita. However, the railroads never came through Park City, and the city evaporated.

A new Park City began to be developed in 1953 on farmland purchased by developers. In 1981, Park City elected it's first mayor.

Nearby Airport: Mid-Continent International Airport is located just west of downtown Wichita, approximately fifteen miles from Hartman Arena.

What To Do: Wichita has a surprisingly diverse list of places to visit which would satisfy just about any interest.
On this trip, I spent a few hours at the Mid-America All Indian Center, which is located on the Arkansas (pronounced R-Kansas) River on the west side of downtown. The Indian Center is a cultural center which celebrates the art and culture of the native tribes which lived in the area. One of the featured artists at the center is the late Blackbear Bosin, who spent much of his life illustrating the life and times of his people. Several of Bosin's best paintings and drawings line the walls of the museum, but what is most probably his best known work is just outside the museum's walls.

"The Keeper of the Plains", a forty foot high iron sculpture of a native American offering supplications to his gods, is located on the confluence of the Little and Big Arkansas Rivers. Designed and built by Bosin, the Keeper is surrounded by fire pits which when lit for fifteen minutes every evening, gives the sculpture an even more dramatic effect. For more information, call (316) 350-3340 or visit www.theindiancenter.org.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There is nothing in the immediate vicinity of the Hartman Arena, but one exit south of the arena on 61st St, there are several restaurants, both fast food, and "sit down".

Where To Stay: On this trip, I stayed at the Days Inn-Wichita West. Located less than five minutes from Mid Continent Airport, this hotel has nice sized guest rooms, nerby access to several restaurants, and at $45.00 per night, was a real bargain. For more information, call (316) 942-1717 or visit www.daysinn.com.

Ticket Prices: Wings tickets are priced as follows: $25.00 (club seats), $19.00, $16.00, and $12.00.
Parking: There is a large lot which surrounds the arena. Parking in this lot is free.

Getting In: The main entrance to the Hartman Arena is on the east side of the building (the side that faces I-135). This entrance contains the box office as well as the entrance to the Coors Light lounge.

The Good Seats: Hartman Arena is designed in a "U" shaped configuration with seating hugging the field with the exception of the west end of the building. The majority of the seating is blue plastic flip-up seats which give a good view of the field. The main concourse is located above the seating bowl.

Arena Food: There are two main concession stands at the Hartman Arena, both of which are located on the main concourse along the sidelines. Arena food is of the basic variety, without a "trademark" or "signature" item. With that being said, the food served at the home of the Wings isn't too bad of a quality and isn't too obnoxious, price-wise.
On Friday, I sampled the arena hot dog, and to my pleasant surprise, was the well-known Nathan's brand. While the dog itself was tasty and fairly hot, it obviously sat in the steamer for a while, since the bun was mangled and very soggy. Before Saturday night's game, I ordered the Hartman's personal sized pizza. It was fairly good and hot, with a bit of a spicy kick. At $6.00 for a ten inch pie, I thought it was a good value.

Each concession stand has a seperate section selling barbecue items, but these were not open either night I attended.

Here is a selection of the concession prices at Hartman Arena:

Hot Dog: $4.50   Hamburger: $5.00   Nachos: $4.50   Draft Beer: $6.50   Pretzel: $3.50   Large Soda: $5.00   French Fries: $3.00   Personal Pizza: $6.00  

Soft Drinks: Interestingly, both Coca Cola and Pepsi are served at the Hartman Arena.

ATM: A "no-brand" ATM is located on the main concourse on the south end of the arena.
Souvenirs: A souvenir stand is set up on the northeast corner of the arena, selling a moderate sized line of merchandise.

Restrooms: Located on each side of the concession stands, they are all clean and of an appropriate size.

Mascot: The Wings have a big orange bird (P.C. Phoenix) in addition to drummer/cheerleader Sgt. Soccer, and the two "Wing Men", who circulate in the stands.
Dance Team: The Wichita Wings Angels do several dance routines during the games, help distribute giveaway items, and toss soccer balls into the stands after a Wing goal.

Program: Fans recieve a full-color program as they enter the arena. The program contains the basic game information.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Hartman Arena has a "video wall" on the west side of the arena, which is used as a scoreboard. While the board has a good clear picture, it does not have full video capability. The main scoreboard is assisted by two "ribbon" boards above the main concourse.

Don Hall is the Wings' PA voice, and he is a good one. Hall, a local DJ, is also the voice of Wichita State University basketball, and was the announcer for the original Wings during their final campaign in Wichita.

The music selections are good and are played at an appropriate volume.

Arena Staff: The arena staff were friendly, pleasant, and helpful.

Atmosphere: Both nights had a fairly lively crowd in the area of two thousand each evening. The fans that attended had a good knowledge of soccer, and were a factor in the team's comeback on Friday evening.

Overall Rating: While the Hartman Arena is definitely "no-frills", it's a good building for indoor soccer and a place where the new Wings can hopefully grow and thrive.