Stadium Guide: Great American Ballpark

When I was going to Cincinnati I kept wondering how cocky the team was to name their park the Great American Ballpark. They are saying that the park is great? I later found out that the park is named such because the naming rights were bought out by the Great American Insurance Company which is located in Cincinnati. They have the naming rights for 30 years. Once I left the park at the end of the night I would have agreed with my original thought. This is a Great American Ballpark. It has many things that make it so. I will highlight a few of those in the next few paragraphs.

The first part of the park that I will highlight is the Crosley Terrace. This is located just in front of the main entrance. The have placed statues of Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Joe Nuxhall, and Ernie Lombardi in a game type situation. They are on a mock diamond playing a pick up game of baseball. Nuxhall is pitching to Robinson with Lombardi catching and Big Klu on deck. In the picture on the left you can see Frank and Ernie with the city of Cincinnati in the background. Joe Nuxhall is positioned right in front of the main entrance. The picture of this can be found to the right. This is a great first view of the park, and it gives a nod to the stars of Crosley Field. Right away you get the feeling of some of the history of this ball club. You can enter the park at a few places, but if this is your first trip here, you want to enter here. You will probably want to check out the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum anyway. The Hall of Fame is located next to this, and is another great feature of the park. I have already done a write up on that here. It is worth a visit so plan some time before the game to walk through the museum.

All around the outside of the stadium are banners showing great moments in Reds history. The one pictured to the left is showing the night Pete Rose passed Ty Cobb to become the all time leader in hits. These banners guide you around the stadium, and show you how rich in history this club really is. It makes for good reading, but don’t read to much and run into the next one. The stadium also has two murals located just to the left once you walk through the main entrance. The first of the murals shows the original Reds team with the Wright brothers front and center. The other mural pictures the Big Red Machine in all of thier glory. That mural is shown to the right. Another point of interest when you visit the stadium is the Machine Room. This is a small bar located in left field. They have tons of memoribilia from the Big Red Machine days. If you are into this kind of thing you will enjoy it.

The stadium has three decks from foul pole to foul pole with two decks in left field. A small gap exists in the upper decks between home plate and third base. This gap was left on purpose so that the people working in the high rises in downtown Cincinnati can see into the park. The view that you get from the third deck is tremendous. You can see the Ohio River beyond the outfield. It is this view that is shown in the panorama at the top of the post. This stadium was really designed wonderfully. At the end of the upper deck near the left field foul pole they have the banners showing all of the World Championships on the base of the second deck. In the picture on the left you can barely see the retired numbers that are located on the press box. They have also retired the microphones of three past Reds broadcasters. Those are located in the center.

As per usual I will give way too much info about the scoreboard. This one is massive. It towers over all of the left field bleachers. This scoreboard is massive. It is 138 feet wide and 38 feet high. The clock at the top of the scoreboard is a replica of the old clock at Crosley field. As you can see by the picture the pregame scoreboard gives you the video board in the middle with both lineups on each sides of that. The high def LED screen is used to show replays and other video in game. One thing that they do not do though is to show replays of questionable calls. I guess they don’t want the fans to get too excited. As you can see by the picture during the inning you get the batting order of the team up, and the defensive positions of the team in the field along with the next three up the next half inning. You also can see the mug shot of the player at bat with his season and current game stats. I talk about how some teams make it hard to keep score sometimes on this blog. Here in Cincy they make it easy. They will actually show you the current batters scorecard later in the game. Check it with yours to see if their is a discrepancy. On the back of the main scoreboard is a mural named “4192.” It shows Pete Roses’ bat and a ball on the field of old Riverfront Stadium. A picture of this mural is shown on the right. On the left field wall below the scoreboard is an out of town scoreboard. This board gives more than just scores of the games. You basically get the gameday for each one. You can see the score, current pitcher, current batter, outs, inning, and a diamond with any baserunners shown on the appropriate base. In the picture you can also see the light towers that have been dubbed the toothbrushes. I have never been to Jacob’s Field in Cleveland, but I have been told that they have the same light towers. It must be an Ohio thing. They are different, and give the stadium a unique look.

Two other great features of the outfield are the smokestacks and the riverboat deck. The smokestacks. The stacks are 64 feet high and 34 feet wide, and stand inbetween the riverboat deck and the right field stands. When a Reds player hits a home run fireworks erupt out of the stacks, and they light up. As a person who is still a ten year old inside I always want to see these things in person. This is not as famous as the apple was in New York, but is still really cool. The stacks look even better at night when they are illuminated. Two small paddle wheels are located at the base of each stack. They have small video boards that display Reds logos throughout the game. The riverboat deck is a fairly new feature to the stadium. It is a party area in straight away center field that can accomidate around 150 fans. This two story feature is for private parties, but gives a great view of the park from its upper deck. These two features along with the scoreboard really give the outfield a great look.
Great American Ballpark By the Numbers:
Groundbreaking: August 1, 2000
First Game: March 31, 2003
Ballpark Design: HOK Sport
Cost of Construction: $280 million
Tons of steel used: 10,000
Seating Capacity: 42,271
Restrooms: 35
Home Dugout: 1st Base
Left Field Dimension: 328 feet
Right Field Dimension: 325 feet
Center Field Dimension: 404 feet
Date(s) of visit: 9/25/2003; 6/20/2009

Stadium Guide: U.S. Steel Yard

U.S. Steel Yard might be the closest park to me time wise, yet I have only been to it three times in the seven seasons which it has been open. Why is that you ask? I think the answer is simple. It is in Gary, IN. In all reality the odds of something going wrong are astronomical. That doesn’t mean that you are completely safe though. Gary has always been around the top 10 most dangerous cities in the United States. When I went a few weeks ago I really did not feel too bad. I parked for FREE just outside of the stadium in right field. I could look through the screen and see the field. After I left my FREE parking spot I walked around the block to the main entrance. The police presence was very noticeable. Did I mention the FREE parking. After paying $23.00 at Sox games this season $4-$5 parking is pretty good. Free is even better. Another reason might be the fact that it is a Northern League Stadium. I think part of the fun of visiting a minor league park is the potential that is there. The next big superstar could be developing right in front of your eyes. In the Northern League the dream is just to make it/get back to the Majors. I have been to the park three times though (8/03, 7/06, and 6/09). Based on this information I would guess that my next visit will be around May of 2012. As much as I had on this visit I would guess it would be a bit sooner though.

This stadium is very nice. It has aged well in the short time it has been around. I moved around the entire stadium during the game, and never had a bad seat or view. You can walk the outfield, and except for a short distance for the batters eye you can follow the action. For a truly different experience you can go into the Bennigans that is attached in right field and eat. They also have some table set up so that you can watch the game while you eat. Beyond the left field wall stands the South Shore Train line that the team is named after as well as the U.S. Steel Mills that the park is named for. The Indiana Toll Road can also be seen. With no cityscape in the background you rely on the stadium itself for beauty. While it is cool that you can see the steel mill and the South Shore tracks it does not make a very scenic backdrop. I am not sure that turning the stadium to face Gary would have added anything though. They do have two mascots that spend the game getting in peoples way so that they cannot see the game. They are named Rascal and Rusty, and I think they have a contest to see who can ruin the game most for the most fans. Mascots are nice, but have them play away from the field. I root every time for one of these beings on top of a dugout to get knocked off with a line drive. I paid to see the game, not see a man/woman dressed in a costume re-enact some old Chaplin moves. They had no special promotion the day I went, but they do have some cool giveaways at the stadium throughout the season. It is not listed on their site, but all over the stadium they had flyers for July 13th when Fergie Jenkins would be appearing at the stadium. That is also a dollar Monday so I may have to break the trend and go to that game. I can find nothing on the internet about the promotion so it makes it seem weird to me. If you are having a promotion why keep it secret? The announcer is a little different than at most parks as well. His way of telling the crowd about a lineup change is great. You know something is going on when you hear him start with “People, people, people.”

The scoreboard is very simple by today’s standards, but it gets the job done very well. As someone who keeps score it gives you all of the information that you need. You get the basic line score with a small video board. In a league like the Northern League good communication is key for substitutions. They really did a good job letting you know the player and number when they came in. They did a great job before the game giving out the lineups in a manner that did not require me to use shorthand as well. The clock at the top is simple, but effective. I like the old school look. One thing that I did not see until the fifth inning though was the pitch speed board that is located in centerfield. The main scoreboard is in left-center, so I really never looked that way. I wish I had seen that sooner, but you think after three trips to the stadium I would know where that is.

U.S. Steel Yard By the Numbers:
Broke Ground: June 22, 2001
First Game: May 26, 2003
Cost of Construction: $45 million
Left Field Dimension: 320
Center Field: 400
Right Field: 335
Seating Capacity: 6,000
Date(s) of my visits: 8/20/2003, 7/28/2006, 6/7/2009

Stadium Guide: Parkview Field

At the begining of May I was lucky enough to get to see the finest single A stadium that I have seen to date. That is Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. This stadium is by leaps and bounds a better ballpark than any other single A stadium that I have been to. That list is still short, but I can’t imagine many better than this. The park looks like it could be a Triple A ballpark very easily. They have done a lot right with this park. One of those things has to do with the seating arrangements. Pick a way that you would like to see a ballpark and they have it. You have the normal stadium seats, pinic tables, a lawn area, lawn seats (not the same because they are built into concrete tiers with grass on top to sit on), and suites. This place has it all. I sat in the second row on the first base side, and had a great view of the Fort Wayne dugout while watching the game. No more hidden players. This could be looked at as both a positive and a negative I guess. Another shocking thing about the stadium was the bathroom smell. It smelled like fresh paint, and not underpass hobo. I know the stadium has only been open a month or so, but it is refreshing not having to hold your breath in the bathroom. The stadium has no shortage of picnic areas. Both the first and third base lines have a nice picnic area near the foul poles. They also have a new take on the lawn seating philosophy. They have constructed concrete tiers with grass as a seat. These are not your normal everyday seating in the lawn.

The stadium is fairly easy to get to, and the parking is affordable. It was only $4 to park just across the street from the stadium. Right now they are busy building the surrounding area to the park up, so it takes away a little from your overall view as you walk around the stadium. It also makes it a long walk around the outside of the park.
One feature that I really enjoyed about the park was the fact that they have the batting cages for the players on the concourse. If walk down the right field line you will run into them. It was fun watching the kids eyes get big watching the players get their swings in before the game. The picture on the right shows one such family watching a Tin Cap get ready. Once the players leave the area kids can pay $2 and take some swings themselves. Another cool feature of the park is the menus at the concession stands. They are not the normal jumble of letters put together on the board. They have nice LCD screens that seem a little over the top, but it did give me something to talk about.

As usual the focal point of the guide centers around the scoreboard. This can make or break a game. With this being a new stadium you would expect a great scoreboard. It does not dissapoint. It is not even in the ballpark. It is attached to a parking garage that is located just outside of right field. The board gives you the linescore, the lineups, a great amount of detail of each batter, and even replays! It is really nice to be able to see a replay at a minor league stadium. Unfortunately with only two umpires on the field for Midwest League games this may cause some issues with the umpires. As you can see it has been done in such a way that is matches the rest of the stadium. The one thing that they do not do well with the scoreboard is announce/show the pitching changes. This makes keeping score a little harder if you don’t know both teams. They do encourage keeping score by handing out free programs with scorecards. Lots of families were keeping score on the gorgeous day that I was at the park. This is a beautiful stadium that is not too far from here. Being in Fort Wayne it is not really to bad of a drive from most parts of Indiana. If you can make it to a game here I would suggest that you try it out.

Parkview Field By the Numbers:
Date of Groundbreaking: December 26, 2007
Date of First Game: April 16, 2009
Cost of Construction: $30.6 million
Seating Capacity: 8,100
Left Field Fence: 336 ft.
Center Field: 400 ft.
Right Field: 318 ft.
Date of visit: 5/2/2009

Stadium Guide: Fifth Third Ballpark

Didn’t I just do one of these. It was a Minor League Affiliate of the Detroit Tigers that I just visited a couple weeks ago. That was Fifth Third Field that is the home of the Toledo Mud Hens (not to be confused with the Fifth Third Field that is the home of the Dayton Dragons). Visiting parks can be confusing. This was my second trip to the stadium located in Grand Rapids. The first was in 2005. Since that time they have added the Pepsi Stadium Club, and the Miller Lite House deck in the outfield. It really adds to the stadium. I am going to change up how I do these a little. I decided that maybe a little more info on the stadium is needed. These will constantly be a work in progress I am guessing.

The park was built in 1994 in Comstock Park, Michigan. This is just north of Grand Rapids, and is very easy to get to. A quick trip through town on 131, and once get off on exit 91 you just have to cross the street to be in the parking lot. The original name for the Stadium was Old Kent Park, but was changed for the 2002 season when Fifth Third Bank bought Old Kent Bank. After the 2005 season the stadium underwent another renovation when the Pepsi Stadium Club and the Miller Lite House Deck was installed in the outfield. They have an entrance and ticket office outside of centerfield, but the preferred entry to the stadium for me is at the home plate entrance.

Here are some of my thoughts on the stadium. This is a nice park overall. The two additions to the outfield seating area provide extra seating, as well as give the park a bigger look. Even though it is plastered with an advertisement the lighthouse in right center is a nice touch as well. With a team like name like the Whitecaps you need something like this in your stadium. This was also part of the renovation after the 2005 season. One major drawback as a person who enjoys taking pictures are the wires that come down from the backstop screen. They really get in the way of seeing the batter for most of the baseline. This is a minor point that really does not affect my overall feeling of the park. One great thing about the park is the trumpet player that goes throughout the stadium playing the music between pitches. He is constantly trying to get the crowd to yell charge, or get them fired up some other way. This is another little quirk that is just different enough to be cool. No weird sound bytes, just a man, a trumpet, and a vast array of song knowledge. The team also invites back former Tiger players to help boost attendance. This year they are having Tiger Fridays where a former Tiger player appears every Friday. In 2005 they were celebrating the 1968 team by wearing throwback jerseys, and inviting back former Tigers. They really have some nice promotions to draw the fans in.

The scoreboard in center is not flashy, but very functional. This stadium does a great job of updating pitchers and changes in the lineup which is important for someone who keeps score. I have started to take rosters for the teams because of the way some stadiums treat pitching changes. Here they have an old school board in center with a newer video board in left. Both of these are used well to add to the overall enjoyment of the game. The plunger that you see to the left of the board is an advertisement that will move up and down and light up during breaks in the game. It is not the home run apple in New York by any stretch, but the little quirks of each park is what makes them interesting.

Here are some of the ballpark stats:
Single A Affiliate: Detroit Tigers (Midwest League)
Original Cost of Stadium: $6 million
Groundbreaking: May 1993
Date of first game: April 12, 1994
Seating Capacity: 10,071
RF Line: 327 feet
LF Line: 317 feet
CF: 402 feet
Power Alleys: 375 feet
Height of outfield wall: 8 feet
Date(s) of visit: 6/7/2005; 6/12/2009

Stadium Guide: Fifth Third Field

I started these with a good idea, but then turned it into a project so big that it was taking way too long to finish. I will just take a simple look at stadiums that I have been to, and give my opinion on some of the key factors that would make it worth going to. I think the best one to re-launch this feature on would be Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio.

This field is the home of the Mud Hens of the International league. This is what a minor league park should look like. If you wanted to you could watch the entire game from the street outside the park beyond the outfield. This is very similar to the Mud Hen’s parent club the Detroit Tigers. This stadium has enough to get you to go inside though. The picture above shows the view from the third base line. You can see the right field scoreboard along with ‘the Roost’ out in right. ‘The Roost’ is sometimes reserved for parties, but Sunday I was able to go right up and sit down. You can rent this out to watch a game. The seating that is shown if for your party, and they have rooms inside that you can also use. Below ‘the Roost’ is the main gift shop which is huge for a minor league club. Part of the charm of this park is the fact that they incorporated the older buildings into the park. I have included a panoramic picture taken from ‘the Roost’ above this section. In this paragraph are the views from the 1st base side as well as from behind the plate. In both of these views you get a good look at some of downtown Toledo. This park was very well designed to give you the maximum view no matter where you are sitting. Fifth Third Field is very visually appealing.
The park even allows you to walk around the outfield while the game is going on and still see the game. This concourse includes picnic areas as well as a kid’s zone that is located behind the batter’s eye with plenty of activities for kids too young to be entertained by the game. Fans can be seen throughout the game waiting out on the outfield concourse for a home run ball to take home as a souvenir. A few fans even went home happy. On the left field concourse they have the statue to the right of a group of children going after a fly ball. It is called “I Got It”, and shows exactly what going to a game should be about. In the background you can see the fence that separates the stadium from the street outside. Not a large barrier to stop you from seeing the game. During the game I noticed lots of people lingering outside catching a couple of innings. They were also in a lot of the windows and cat walks around the stadium taking the game in.
Fifth Third Field also has a great variety of food for a minor league stadium. They of course have hot dogs and other ball park food, but you can get burgers, fries, cotton candy, and just about anything else that is fried. On both the first and third base sides you can also get an hot fudge sundae in a Mud Hens batting helmet. This helmet will go proudly with all of the other helmets that I collected as a kid. Looking at all the Major League teams I start to understand why I had to wear ‘Husky’ pants as a child.
Getting to 5/3 Field is not hard at all, and the parking seems to be very easy to come by. Most fans seem to try and find parking on the streets, but I paid $5 and parked less than half a block from the field. In a new city that seems like the best route to go. The park is located a short drive from I-75 which makes getting in and out easy.
No guide would be complete without talking about the scoreboard. Here in Toledo they have two of them. For the most part both boards show similar items when their is no action on the field. When a player is at bat though the left field board shows his picture and name. The board in right does the same, but the far right is the current lineup for the team at bat. They both have very new looking video screens that have a great picture. The picture on the right is of the board that is located in left field, and the picture on the left if of the right field board. Could I have made that any more confusing? The frames of the scoreboards are very similar in style, and they compliment the park nicely. The boards entertain, and they also give you all the information you need to watch the game. Travelling around to different stadiums I have noticed that at times it can be very hard to keep score. They don’t really help you out with substitutions on their boards. If you don’t catch the name over the P.A. system you are done. Here in Toledo you constantly have the lineup of the team at bat. This is a very fan friendly park.
Most of my minor league games have occured in Independant league stadiums, or for single A ball so this stadium really impressed me The people who work their are very nice, and were very willing to let me move around as the game went on. I sat just about everywhere that you could to take in this beautiful stadium from every angle. Most stadiums I visit once to say that I was there, and then never really think of going back. This stadium is located just under three hours from my house, and I am already planning another trip back. During a three hour game I fell in love with the park.
Fifth Third By the Numbers:
Date of Groundbreaking: 2001
Date of first game: April 9, 2002
8,100 cubic feet of concrete in stadium
21 Restrooms
Left Field:32o feet
Center Field: 412 feet
Right Field: 315 feet to 375 feet
Seating in Stadium: 8,943
Seats in the Roost: 282
Dates of Visit(s): 4/26/2009 and 5/31/2009

Stadium Guide: Coveleski Stadium

After attending yesterday’s game I decided to do a stadium guide for Coveleski Stadium. I have been attending games here since 1988. In 2000 I probably hit my peak as far as games attended. I originally loved this team because they were the farm team of my White Sox. That has since changed, but I would still try and make it to see the Sox farm team when they came to town. Now the Sox have no representation in the Midwest League. I still manage to get to a few games every year.
Location B-:
The stadium is very easy to get to. It is right off of Western Avenue which is Indiana Highway 2. The problem is that like most minor league parks it is in a bad area of town. It is right on the fringe of that bad area, but if you are coming in from the west you go right through it. I guess it makes sense that the land needed to build a stadium would be cheaper in a bad neighborhood.
Parking C: There is a small lot next to the stadium that fans can park in for $3. It is very small, and fills up quickly. For the purposes of this guide I paid the money to park for the first time ever yesterday. I then spent the next three hours panicking about my car getting hit with a foul ball. It seems like that lot is a magnet for foul balls. I never noticed it before, but the ushers would call down to the sections what make and model car was just hit. I probably never cared so I tuned it out in the past. Yesterday I was listening intently. The next available option is to park on the streets surrounding the stadium. See the location section for reasons why this is not the optimal situation. It is free and if you do it right you can get out easy.
Tradition A: Any talk of tradition in a stadium that opened in 1988 would have to begin with championships. In left field they have banners on the wall commemorating the championships won by the South Bend team. I can’t say the Silverhawks because some of these titles were won when the team was the South Bend White Sox. I still think they would draw more fans if people knew that some of these guys could make it to Chicago. Once the guys move up it is hard to follow them. In 2000 I met Lyle Overbay and Chris Capuano. I really did not know that they would make it to the show, but I had a couple cool pictures of them that I wanted signed. From then on I have been following their careers. This is part of the fun of watching minor league baseball.
Here are some players that played for South Bend over the years: Tony Pena Jr., Dan Uggla, Lyle Overbay, Chris Capuano, Brad Penny, Jason Bere, David Dellucci, Scott Radinsky, and Carlton Fisk. Okay I guess Carlton really doesn’t count. He came here as part of a rehab stint when the Silverhawks were actually a Sox farm team. Right now Justin Upton is having a great start to the season. He was the #1 pick of the Diamondbacks, and spent most of the 2006 season with the Hawks. He may end up being the best talent to come out of South Bend.
Concessions A-: Right off the bat I want to explain why this gets a minus. No roaming vendors. On nights that they think they will draw a crowd you might see one guy coming around with cotton candy, but for the most part it is a self serve stadium. I am not so lazy that I can’t get my own. Far from it in fact. I just don’t want to miss any of the game. Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely leave my seat during the game. The good about the concessions can be summed up very easily. Dollar hot dogs on Monday nights. They also have small pops for a dollar on Monday’s as well. On any other day the prices are very reasonable. They also have the Budweiser Patio in left field where you can buy beer and freshly grilled food. The prices are a little more out there, but you get what you pay for.
Bathrooms A: This one is hard to grade. The bathrooms seem to be sufficient, but then again the stadium is rarely at capacity. Fairly spacious bathrooms are on each side of the stadium. They are clean bathrooms that get the job done. Not much else can be said here.

Scoreboard A-: For a single A club the Silverhawks have a nice scoreboard. The recently updated the center screen of the board so that they can now play video. I have included two pictures of the board in this guide. The first is from 2000 of the board at that time. The second one is how the current board looks. As you can see the video board adds a little excitement to the game. They can now show pre taped segments. The old board just had the ‘dot matrix’ animations that we grew up seeing in our favorite parks. They also have an auxiliary board in left field that constantly displays greetings and birthday announcements. The reason for the minus is the lack of replay. Not something that you would expect in the minors, but it would be nice to see.

Playing Field B+: The field was in pretty good shape considering the winter we just recently finished. The Kentucky Bluegrass was in pretty good shape considering. I was actually surprised at how green it was. They really must have been working hard to get the field up to speed.
Stadium Design D: This stadium looks exactly like almost any other minor league stadium that I have been to. I know that cost is the reason, but come on make something different. Add a corner or two in the outfield. The outfield dimensions are 336, 405, 336. You can’t get much more symmetrical then that. The stadium seats 5,000, and does the job it was intended to do. I just think that you could add something to the equation. Oldsmobile Park in Lansing is a great example of this. They at least attempted to break the cookie cutter mold.
Tickets A+: Most days you can walk up to the window the day of the game and sit anywhere you want. The prices are not that bad either. A reserved seat is $7, and a general admission seat is $5. On Monday’s you can get in for a dollar. Needless to say dollar Monday’s are usually the most crowded days at the park. If you check the promotions on the Silverhawk web site you will see sponsors for most games. They will usually be giving away free tickets. Sometimes in front of the park. Yesterday a gentlemen had free ticket vouchers, and everyone in line at the time I was got one.
Fans C: The game that I went to yesterday was the first nice day of the year that coincided with a Silverhawk game. The first two games were played in cool damp weather. This game only managed to draw 1,000 fans. For some reason the community will not come out and support this team. The fans that are at the game for the most part are not their to watch baseball. They may catch a play every now and then, but that is just to fill the breaks in the conversation. If you go on dollar Monday it is even worse.
Family Atmosphere A-: They try really hard to make it fun for the kids. They have the kids zone in left field. They also have Swoop the mascot to entertain the kids. They even let a local kid dress up in costume to be Swoop’s sidekick during the summer. Kids can get on the field for promotions during the game as well. If the kids are feeling energetic they can even run the bases and play catch in the outfield after the games on Sunday.
Overall B+: This is a typical low A ball stadium. They are hoping that you enjoy everything else so much that you forget the stadium is blah. I have been lucky enough to have been to a few stadiums in the Midwest League, and this is the worst that I have been to. I love the stadium and the team, but the other stadiums put it to shame. That being said I was panicking when talk of the team moving surfaced a couple of years ago.
Interesting Fact: The stadium is named after Stanley Coveleski who moved to South Bend after his professional days were over. The stadium is known as ‘The Cove’ to many now. Another interesting fact is due to community pressure the team stopped serving beers for a dollar on dollar night in 2005.

Covesleski Stadium By the Numbers:
Date of Groundbreaking: 1986
Date of First Game: 1988
Cost of Construction: $11 million
Seating Capacity: 5,000
Left Field Fence: 336 ft.
Right Field Fence: 336 ft.
Center Field Fence: 405 ft.
Number of real birds named a Silver Hawk: 0
Date(s) of Visit: 7/7/1989 and 29 other visits (so far)

Stadium Guide: Mackey Arena

Last week I attended my 50th game inside of Mackey Arena. It is kind of ironic to me that the game would not involve a Purdue team, and that Notre Dame was the ‘home team’ for the game. The bulk of the fifty games that I have seen inside of Mackey have come in the last 3 years when I became a men’s and women’s season ticket holder. I had only been in the stadium a couple of times before 2005. So without further adieu here is my very biased stadium guide for Mackey Arena. This will have to be redone in a couple of years after the renovation is complete. They are going to do some great things to the old arena. I will post on that when things are a little closer to happening. I wanted to post this last week, but things have been crazy lately. I am trying to balance work, my sports addiction, and this blog. The blog has been losing out.
Location A: Mackey Arena is located on Northwestern Avenue right next to the Purdue football stadium. They have multiple ways to get to the stadium, and if you know the area you can avoid the heavy traffic. You are also close to many highways and I65 is not too far away.
Parking A-: Multiple parking lots and parking on the street is available. You can pay $5 and park in the lot north of the football stadium, or you can park on one of the many streets in between the arena and the local high school. If you park in the $5 lot you may have a small wait in line to get out. The lot is small enough though that the wait is usually not too long unless it is a huge game. The majority of fans with no parking passes park on the streets. This does not get a higher grade because no matter where you park you have at least a half mile walk to the stadium if not more. Not a huge deal, but it is not ideal.
Ushers A: As I said before I am a season ticket holder so I know the ushers in my area very well. The women at the gate I usually enter are so nice that even though you can enter at any gate I will go out of my way sometimes to go through the same gate. If the game is big you can expect to have your ticket checked when you go into the lower bowl of the arena. Other than that the ushers are very friendly. They are employees of Andy Frain who does security for most Purdue sporting events.
Tradition A: Hanging from the rafters of Mackey are banners commemorating every Big Ten title, NIT title, and post season triumph that both the men’s and women’s teams have accomplished. They also have banners for every all american for both teams. The banners are well done. The only problem that I have with them is that there are not more of them. Maybe we can add to that in the next few years. As you walk around the concourse they have small displays for a lot of the olympic sports on the campus. That setup is very similar to the one at Crisler Arena. It is no wonder since both stadiums were built at the same time.
Concessions B+: About every two sections of the stadium has its own concession stand. The prices are fair, and the selection is the normal college game fare. A hot dog will run you $3 as will a water. You can also get a souvenir soda for $3, but the cup is very small. The only time that I have seen long lines is at halftime, or just before the game. If you go any other time you can usually just walk up and order. The stands are run on gameday by local groups who work for tips. During the women’s tournament this past week the local baseball teams had the stands. They were saving for a trip to Cooperstown this year. The groups are always nice, and they will gladly tell you about their cause if you let them. I had trouble giving the concessions an A because of the pricing versus what you get. They are a little higher than some of the other arenas I have been to.
Bathrooms A: Here is one area that this stadium does well in. They have a bathroom every three sections or so. The bathrooms are large, and split in two so that people aren’t cramped in a small area. They really seem to have thought this one out.
Scoreboard A-: Here is another area that I like about the stadium. They have a great scoreboard that hangs down from center court. They also have four information boards that give greater detail than the main one can. I love the video board. They do some great things with it including the ever popular Russian or Rubbish during women’s basketball games. The one thing that makes this an A- is the fact that they now think its cute to show fans making faces when they think a bad call has been made on the court. I want to see the play again, not a pre taped goof off with fans. What should get it an A+ is the addition of Bogdonova doing Russian or Rubbish. The auxiliary boards give the points and fouls of each player during play. When play is stopped they give deep stats for both teams and players. On the picture above you can see the main scoreboard with one of the auxiliary boards in the background.
Tickets B+: Tickets are fairly cheap. If you can’t get into the stadium just find the ‘fat guy’ outside of the McDonalds near the stadium. He gets tickets from Purdue alumni and if you have Purdue on he will help you get into the game. He is now becoming a celebrity on campus. If you want to buy tickets from the ticket office here are the prices. Men’s are $18 for non conference and $23 for Big Ten games. To get into a women’s game it is only $10. That is a bargain.
Fans B+: For the most part the fans are civil inside the arena. For the men’s games the lower bowl is filled with John Purdue Club members who have accrued many points. To do that takes years so the fans near the court tend to be older. This past year the student section called the ‘Paint Crew’ really stepped it up. They were a difference maker in some of the games in my opinion. They really helped get everyone up by their enthusiasm. They are a fairly new group that just seems to be getting stronger. They even tried to camp out five days in below zero weather for a game this year before the university shut it down. Hopefully they can keep growing and become a force to be reckoned with. The women have the ‘Gold Mine’ for their student section. They have about 20 die hard fans that attend every game. The ones that come seem to be enthused though. The women do not outdraw the men, but they do well for themselves. They average about 9,000 a game, and are always in the top ten in attendance. The reason I gave this section a B+ is because of the other fans. Sometimes they just sit on their hands. I want to see some action from the fans. I may be harsh here, but I just want to see some excitement from all the fans.
Local Food and Entertainment A-: Harry’s Chocolate Shoppe is a popular bar on campus that most people make a point to stop at. Near the stadium is a coffee shop attached to the football stadium, a McDonalds, Jimmie John’s, Mad Mushroom Pizza, and a bar that changes hands every season. Being a college town you can find just about anything that you want within a reasonable driving distance. One suggestion is to try McGraw’s which is south of town off of 26. It is a little pricey, but a great place to grab an after game meal. Bruno’s Pizza which is down by the levee is also a great place for a meal. I gave this section the minus because you have to drive a little way to get to a few places. To me it is not a big deal, but to some it could be.
Overall A: As I said in the opening this would almost have to be a biased stadium guide. I just cannot distance myself from all the things that I have seen in the building, and the fact that I graduated from Purdue. I am sure over the next year we will see some more biased guides as I profile some stadiums that I have been to many times. In these biased guides maybe something useful will come out.
Interesting Facts:
The arena originally cost $6 million dollars to build.
The upcoming renovation is scheduled to cost $82 million
Capacity: 14,123
First Game: 12/2/1967 v. UCLA
Originally named Purdue Arena
Renamed Mackey Arena in 1972
Court replaced before 1997-1998 season. Court was renamed ‘Keady Court’ then

Stadium Guide: Crisler Arena

Yesterday I visited the basketball arena on the campus of Michigan. Crisler Arena was dedicated on the same day as Mackey Arena, December 2, 1967. Two Big Ten Arenas opening on the same day. It is fitting then that I saw my first game there against Purdue. One thing that sticks out in my mind from the day was the missing banners in the rafters. In the photo on the left you can see the banners lit up just before the National Anthem was played. It is really sad to see how the mistakes of a few have affected a program so much. I think that you will see Michigan on top again. They have too much clout around the country to just simply fade away. In the next few paragraphs I will give my opinion on the different aspects of the stadium.
Location A: From where I live in Northwest Indiana it was not very far to get to Ann Arbor. The stadium is not very far off of 94 either. Once you are off of the highway you go down a few roads to the stadium. From what I could see they have these four lane roads set up so that you could run all four lanes away from the stadium. It seems as if they have a plan to get you in and out. It helps when you are located next to a stadium that seats 100,000+. They have to have good plans to get all of those people out.
Parking B+: This one is tough to grade. We parked to eat lunch about a mile from the stadium, and decided to make the walk. From where we were there was no direct line from fourth street to Crisler. On the way I saw some lots that were empty that look as if you needed a pass to park in them. From the picture on the left you can see the view from one of the lots right around the stadium. I also saw an $8.00 lot for the public. I would think that it would be hard to find a place to park if the stadium was actually filled. Except for a couple of lots by the stadium the parking is spread out behind buildings. It could be hard to find. That is why the lower grade.
Ushers B: I really had no contact with them except for the woman who scanned my ticket in. During the game they were at every aisle keeping tabs on the fans. We moved down to the lower bowl for the second half and nobody said anything to us. The one black mark that I saw was the fact that the ushers moved two Purdue fans with 2:00 to go in the game because the Michigan fans were sick of them standing. They stood for 38 minutes of game time with no problem, but the ushers decided that the last two minutes were out of the question. The redeeming factor of all of this though was the fact that they moved them directly behind the Boilers bench. When I say directly I mean the chairs behind the players. That would be a pretty cool experience for two students from Purdue.

Tradition A-:To the right you can see the retired jerseys that hang from the rafters. They only have five of them up there, and not one member of the fab five is among them. They also have a banner for each Big Ten Championship, each final four appearance, each NIT win, and the National Championship that they won. As I said earlier with the banners from the fab five era taken down there is a lot more room among the rafters. I do like how they did the banners, and in this picture as well as the picture at the begining of the post you can see how they spotlight the banners during the anthem. This is very nicely done. Another thing that I like is the fact that they have an area around the concourse very similar to the one at the Joyce Center. If you walk around the concourse you can peer into glass cases that contain memoribilia from great moments in various sports. They also have a display case set aside for Michigan Alum Gerald Ford. Every year they give out an award for scholar athletes in his name. The award is a wooden book a picture of that case can be seen below. Overall I think that they do a good job displaying their history. The one problem though is that the concourse is so small that it is hard to get around it to see all the memoribilia. Oh yeah, they also play the school song quite often. They play it fast, slow, and at normal speed. I have never really liked Michigan, so I have grown up hating the song. I would be a bad one to judge it. I realize that it is a great college fight song, but I have trouble saying it is better than other fight songs that I like.

Concessions A: When I went in to the stadium all I wanted was a water. I expected the normal $4.00, but I was shocked to see that it was only $2.50 for a water. A quick look at the other items on the menu showed me that it was the usual food for a college basketball game, but at a lower price. They also had a few carts with various specialty items throughout the stadium. One stand in particular drove me crazy for most of the game. I could smell cinnemon from the second that I walked in the stadium. I never saw the place where they were selling it, but I wanted to find it many times. I gave the concessions an A based on price and selection. I did not eat at the stadium though. The food may be horrible that is why it is so cheap. I think it is hard to screw up hot dogs and nachos so I am going to guess that
Bathrooms C-: I visited a couple of the bathrooms in different parts of the stadium. What I found was that they were very small all around. At halftime a line quickly ended up in the hallway, and then down the hallway. It is an older stadium so I guess that this is to be expected. They just seemed very small, and cramped.
Scoreboard B: From what I have read this scoreboard was put up in 1998. It gives you the current players on the floor, their points, and their fouls. The home team is on the right side, and the away team is on the left hand side. In the middle of the board is a video screen that shows the play live, and also gives instant replays. This is a great feature when you are at a game because you can’t watch everything. They also have boards in the upper arena that give you the time left Another constant that I saw yesterday was the Meijer ad on the scoreboard. If you are in Michigan you will see some Meijer ads. This is a great scoreboard that gives you the information and video that you need during the game. It is a basic design though, and I am getting spoiled by the smaller boards at Purdue that give more detailed specifics during the game.
Playing Surface A-: The court was redone in 2001. The one thing that I did notice during the game was the fact that the coaches box seemed much thinner than some of the other stadiums that I have been too. The coaches had to constantly watch so that they didn’t trip over their players. This category is hard to judge for a basketball game. Most Big Ten floors look the same. All that I can really judge it on is how it looks. It is a very simple design with just the large M in the center. Everything is done very simply, and I think that it is done well. As I said earlier, this category is more for other sports like football and baseball. Only glaring issues would bring this down for a basetball game.
Seating A: Crisler Arena holds 13,751 people. This is the second smallest arena in the Big Ten. I went to the other one about a month ago. It is hard for me to believe that Michigan only seats more people than Northwestern in the Big Ten. From inside the stadium looks like it would seat many more than just under 14,000. I think that this is because of the way that the seats are put in. Every seat is the old movie theater style padded seat. They are huge, and you have plenty of room all around you. The seats are a little older, but they are very comfortable.
Tickets A-: Face value $15 for upper bowl. I found two on Ebay for $27 with shipping. After I bought the tickets I saw plenty of good deals that the university put on trying to get people in. I saw somewhere that for $10 you got a ticket in the nosebleeds, a hot dog, and a drink. That seems pretty reasonable. That is just because they are trying to fill the arena. When the team is playing well I can imagine tickets are hard to come by.
Fans A: Once again I had very little contact with the fans here. In our row we had some fellow Boiler fans. Once we moved down into the lower bowl we ran across some very nice Michigan fans. Except for a car load of youner uneducated (they had no idea where their team was in the Big Ten) fans we never ran into any bad fans. Maybe the Paint Crew has spoiled me, but the Maize Rage didn’t seem all that bad. Another reason is that the team has had such a down year, and hasn’t been to the tournament for a long time. Michigan places their students right behind the media table, and they are right on the court. Spanning the length of the court they can be in the face of the opposing team both halves. This setup could really be intimidating if the fans are into the game. A couple of times during the game they really got into it yelling and jumping, but for the most part they watched the game just like everyone else did. It was so quiet in the stadium you could hear players and coaches on the floor in the upper bowl.

Food and Entertainment A: About a mile away from the stadium is a downtown area with many different choices for food and entertainment. We ate lunch at the Arbor Brewing Company. It was very good food, but if you ever go there just remember that the garlic fries are smothered in garlic. We had a hard time getting the garlic taste out of our mouths after eating there. At the Arbor Brewing company they brew their own beers, and it seems like it is a popular place to be before a game. After the game we ate at the Monkey Bar. This seemed like a nice bar, but nobody was in there. The few people that did come in seemed to know the waitstaff, and appeared to just be there for the free pool. A couple of nights a week they have free pool to patrons who order food and drinks. If I was a college student on that campus it would seem like I would take advantage of that. From what the bartender said they don’t. They must be doing things like studying. The food at the Monkey Bar was good, and the fries did not make my breath so bad that you could smell it over the phone. I gave this an A because there seemed to be tons of places to eat whatever your taste, and plenty of clubs downtown to listen to various forms of music. You could make a night of it if you wanted to.
Overall B+: I really like this stadium. It is over forty years old, but it has its finer points. The one reason that I did not give the stadium an A is because of the bathrooms. It seems like a little point, but it makes a difference overall.
Interesting Fact: The Arena was designed by Dan Dworsky who was a linebacker on the 1948 Rose Bowl team at Michigan. His coach was Herbert Crisler who the Arena is named after.
These are a work in progress, and I hope I get a little better with each one. Over the next couple of weeks I may put out a couple of more from stadiums that I have visited in the past.

Stadium Guide: Welsh-Ryan Arena

This would be a good site to put up a college basketball arena. This is a throwback to all the old style arenas. I am sure that today’s experience was similar to what it would have been like to see a game in the Lambert Fieldhouse. I never was able to see one there, but I would guess it would be similar. To get here you have to go way out of the way through many stop signs and stop lights. It is too bad that you can’t just get off 94 and go down one road to make it easier. Once you get to the arena there is not a whole lot of parking, but you really don’t need the parking. Because of traffic I pulled up to the arena with thirty minutes until gametime. I parked in the little lot very easily and made it into the game very quickly. The arena only seats 8,117 so you are not fighting a whole lot of people. There is a small track that separates the lower bowl from the upper bowl. I sat on both ends of the court just behind this track in a small section of only 3 rows. This would be a cool place to see a game. About ten minutes into the game I had to move though because the rightful owners came to take their seats. The picture at the top with the flag in the foreground is from those seats.
I am obsessed with scoreboards. I base part of my experience at a new stadium on what kind of a scoreboard that they have. At Welsh-Ryan you will get no replays. I am used to that from Notre Dame games. What you get though is the kind of dot matrix type of entertainment that I remember from my childhood at baseball games. The graphics look like something that you could program into an early PC, but something about the experience was kind of nice. Unlike Notre Dame you get to see the five players that are in the game for each team, their points, and how many fouls they have committed. I think any more data would short circuit the board. The final picture was taken from my actual seats. I was 3/4th’s of the way up at center court. I really did not have a bad view. I did have a kid climbing all over me though so I only sat in my seat for the last ten minutes of the first half. I was on a hard bench and moved to the other side of the arena behind the auxiliary press row. I sat in some chairs that reminded me of the old movie theater style chairs. Very soft compared to the wood bench. This was in the fastbreak section of the arena. From what I could gather from the few fans that were around me it is the basketball equivalent to our John Purdue club. The padded chairs were mostly unoccupied though, and by the end of the second half some enterprising Purdue fans (including yours truly) made sure that they were put to good use.
The concession stands can be found at the four corners of the arena, and are very small areas that cannot take the load of a sellout crowd. As I have said before though they are not used to those here. They will have another one next Saturday when IU comes to town so they had better be ready once again. Once you find the concessions and get up to the window they have the normal food that you would find at any high school concession stand. The bathrooms can be found by the concession stands and they are adequate.
Overall this arena is a relic. Here is how it breaks down:
Location D: Hard to get to. For starters from here I have to drive through Chicago. Then I have to backtrack from my exit off 94 in stop and go traffic.
Parking B-: Not a lot of parking, but they don’t need it. Parking lots are next to the arena. $10 seems steep though.
Ushers A+: Very friendly ushers. They were even nice kicking me out of my first claimed seat. They were also very understanding when I claimed my second seat.
Scoreboard C+: Very old, but it gets the job done. Lack of replays hurts it here.
Concessions B-: I am near Chicago. Where is the Connie’s Pizza? Adequate. Prices are the norm.
Bathrooms B-: Adequate, but not abundant. Not very modern either. Very tight quarters.
Seating A-: Not a bad seat in the house. I sat all over the arena, and could not find a bad place to sit.
Ticket Price B-: They only get the B- because of the way the time out on the computer made me buy two tickets. Tickets are $20 for a Big Ten basketball game, but they do tack on a $10 fee for handling.
Fans A: The few Northwestern fans that I found were very nice, but what choice did they have. We outnumbered them. When I saw a football game here I found that the fans were very nice as well
Overall C: This place really reminds me of Slicer Gym. The seating looks similar and the amenities are of high school caliber. I don’t know that I would go too often because of the traffic in Chicago and the path the Northwestern website gives you to get to the stadium. It was a nice place to see a game though, and I would recommend it if your favorite team is there to play.

By the way this is my 250th post on this site. Some days it feels like I am doing something good on here, and other days it feels like nobody is even reading. I have noticed a small surge lately, and I have gone over 800 people on here since I installed the counter a year ago. This is only my second stadium guide, but I think I finally have a plan on how to do them. Some more may show up this year. I will add one for every new place I go to, and I will start doing some of the places that I attend all the time.

Ford Field

On Boxing Day in Canada I was able to see another new stadium. The Motor City Bowl was played in Ford Field in Detroit. When you first hear Detroit you think of the murder capitol of the world, but the area the field is in is very nice. Directly across the street from the field is Comerica Park the home of the Detroit Tigers. I was there in 2003 to watch the White Sox get beat 1-0 by arguably the worst team in baseball history. This trip was much better though. The field itself was very nice, and since I really did not have a long road trip to the bowl this year I bought the better of the two plans on the suite level of the stadium. The amenities up there were very nice, although we could not find one hot dog on the entire 200 level. We had restaurants like Big Boy to chose from. The stadium being fairly new is still in very good shape, and from what I could tell there would not be a bad seat in the house. I may have to go back someday to see my Packers take on the Lions. The stadium holds about 65,000 people, and seemed as if it could get very loud inside. I have not been to many NFL stadiums, but this is by far the best one that I have been to so far.

CSD’s grade: 5 stars