Is the Harrisburg Senators Stadium Money in the (Metro) Bank?

Review 1 of our Ballpark Tour : Metro Bank Ballpark, Harrisburg PA

This past weekend, my esteemed colleague Mr. Thurston Howell and myself hit the Capital City of Pennsylvania for a day baseball game on Harrisburg’s city island for a Harrisburg Senators (AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals) game, who they played host to the Akron Aeros (AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians). In our first stadium review, we ate, we drank, we were merry, and we were hot as hell’s half-acre, burning up in the afternoon sun. The consensus of Metro Bank Park is mixed, some very surprising and some very typical of semi-professional baseball.

When as a kid I went to Senators games, I always got a scorecard and kept score, and knew all the names of the prospects of both teams (from Vlad Gurerro to Ryan Howard to Pat Burrell to Bryce Harper (except I wasn’t a kid for that last one)) playing. Although my major league knowledge has significantly expanded, I can say that I’m much more apathetic to the Senators and their version of baseball being played on the banks of the Susquehanna River. The one thing that I do remember as a child though, was that whenever I went with my parents we never spent any money. I was raised very frugally, and getting one hot dog at a game was a complete gift that was hardly to be expected. From what I recalled then, was that the food was good and it was cheap, two things that made everyone who went happy. It wasn’t quite a Dollar Dog Night, where in Philadelphia one time my father stood in line for three innings waiting to get hot dogs (bless him), but they were relatively inexpensive for most ballpark concessions. I was hoping, that coming into a conscious review and having a good sum of money of my own, that I would find the same thing as I remembered.

Metro Bank Park Panorama

1. Accessibility and Parking

City Island is very accessible in Harrisburg, whether you park in the downtown part of the city (or live there) and walk across the river on the bridge to the park, or if you’re driving in from either shore of the Susquehanna. If it’s a busy game, parking and traffic can get a little backed up on the bridge, but we had no trouble at all and got a very close spot when we showed up about 50 minutes prior to game time. Parking is a flat fee of $3 which is negligible, but if you have to park in the Parking Garage in the far back of the lot, you get kind of screwed. It’s easier to get out if you park there, but the walk back and forth isn’t exactly what I’d call fun. It’s not perfect, but if you know what you’re doing, you have no problems what so ever. 8.5/10

2. Tickets

We bought our tickets online for $10 a piece, in the “200” section on the first base side behind home plate. Pretty darn good seats (you have to try really hard to get a bad seat), and for about six bucks more you can get some really great box seats. That’s still a lot of money to see semi-professional ball, so you really shouldn’t be $16 passionate about it, so $10 is a good fit. However, since everyone orders tickets online, they feel that it’s necessary to tack on a $3 convenience charge. Honestly, screw that. I’m making their life easier, not just mine. It should be like 25 cents a ticket, not $3 per transaction. You can print your tickets if you don’t want to stand in line at will-call, but they’re really ugly and boring. However, as it ended up, so are the actual tickets. The only real color in them is advertising the stadium sponsor, and the coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more at Dick’s Sporting Goods on the reverse side. Not worth it. 6/10

3. Beer and Hot Dogs

These are the two main ballpark staples, so I thought that I’d group them into one category by themselves. As far as the beer goes, I was impressed. All your domestics are on tap, including the dreaded Michelob, with many more found in big cans, ranging from Twisted Tea to Mike’s Hard Lemonade to Bud Light Lime, Labatt Blue Light,  etc. Pabst’s Blue Ribbon is also (strangely?) featured on tap, along with some fantastic IPAs from the local Troegs brewery and Appalachian Brewing Company. Fantastically, Angry Orchard hard Cider is also on tap, which is worth a point by itself. It’s cold, it’s plentiful, and it’s easy to find…..just not cheap. $6.50 for 20 ounces of any type, or $7.50 for a can of light or weaker beer. As far as hot dogs go, a Yelp review claimed there was such thing as an “Ollie Dog” that had to be tried, but we couldn’t find it despite asking around. So, we instead each got one hot dog, I got a regular and Mr. Howell got a “jumbo dog” for a dollar extra. The difference is size is hardly noticeable, so save your money and get the regular one. The dogs themselves weren’t anything special, and the buns actually kind of rather stale. Props for having a special kind of salsa mustard available though. Hot dog quality and beer prices kill what could be a great score, instead…..7/10

4. Architecture and Design

The ballpark is pretty ugly. A lot of steel and concrete, with the obligatory ads populating the fence and a huge blow-up Ollie from “Ollie’s Discount Warehouse” dominating the left field seats. The boardwalk/deck is made of that recycled  polyurethane crap that playgrounds are made of in the projects. The seats are very plasticy and kind of pathetic feeling. Since it is right next to the river, the May Flies can get really bad, and when it rains the field is very susceptible to flooding which is pretty much just poor planning. At least some of the stadium decorations and the ability to stand out above the center field fence, and walk in a ring around the field are nice features. 3.5/10

5. Atmosphere 

A sparsely attended day game on a weekend with a first place team? The stadium is designed to hold 6,187 (even though the record crowd with Stephen Strasburg pitching was 8,637)  and the paid attendance was announced as 3,357, which means that at peak there were probably 2500 people actually there. And, with the game ending up as an Akron slaughter of Harrisburg (11-2), at the end of the game the total butts in seats was probably about 1000. The fans we sat around seemed rather knowledgeable about the team, a few admittedly being regulars to the park. Although they didn’t really seem terribly knowledgeable about Major League Baseball, because the only conversation they joined in of ours was about how we were supposedly not allowed to have beer in our section. If you can’t talk about the 1997 World Series with me, you’re not a baseball expert. Major props go to the sound crew though, who played the theme from The Walking Dead when the opponents lineups were announced. Demerits however for using the FOX Sports theme for the hometown lineup announcing. Other quality music played was “Help” by the Beatles and “Call Me” by Blondie when going to the bullpen, and Rick Ross and Kanye West being played during some walkups. More congrats are due for Cee Lo Green’s Forget You (edited of course) being played during an Akron three run homer, and a nice, NHL reminiscent home run siren for the home team. FOX Sports music is a major negative, and sparse attendance doesn’t help…..but an otherwise good ballpark DJ bails this score out from being downright terrible…..5/10

6. Concessions

Another mixed bag here. Having reasonably priced normal ballpark-fare will get you a score of a five. Which, The Senators had plenty of. Mediocre prices for nachos, soft pretzels, soft drinks, peanuts, popcorn, pizza, chips, etc etc. The ballpark specialties are Hershey’s Ice Cream (which has NOTHING to do with the Hershey Chocolate Company), and local bar Arooga’s wings. Honestly, Hershey’s Ice Cream is nothing special, and a dollar for a wing ($6 for half a dozen) on a hot day isn’t very enticing. Where this score increases is their grill, which has a very solid grilled chicken sandwich and 1/3 pound burger, both for under $6. DO NOT make the mistake of putting ketchup on the chicken sandwich, the piece I got was massive and seasoned wonderfully, and saves this concessions score from mediocrity. 6.5/10

7. ADD Generation Appeal

The ballpark located on city island. There’s pony rides, mini golf, batting cages, an arcade, a miniature train that goes around the island, all within two minutes walking distance from the ballpark entrance. Inside, there’s the obligatory speed pitch, bouncy castles, mascots galore, on-field activities, scoreboard activities, and colorful stuff to look at. Plus, ice cream in a baseball helmet? Kids love that stuff. AND there’s the game, which can hold some kids short attention spans, depending on their interests. The ONLY thing that is a drawback is the souvenir shop. There isn’t anything terribly creative and interesting, and everything is priced ridiculously high. 8.5/10

8. Intangibles

No bathroom lines (at least not on a sparsely attended game like we attended), although not the cleanest things you’ll ever run into with overflowing trash cans by the ninth inning. The seats though plain suck. Both Thurston and I are rather slender individuals and we found the seats bothersome. I can’t imagine how they would feel if you were, let’s say, “shapely.” At least there were cupholders. The staff was very outgoing and friendly, and in fact quite bored because of the amount of people there and the score on the scoreboard. Maybe some of them should have been sent to go clean the bathrooms instead of watching the game, but that isn’t exactly my call. We could have traded up to behind home plate with ease, but at that point in time it didn’t really matter. No major food lines either, and the condiments were always full and plentiful. Plus, we got a free bobblehead of Roger Bernadina. The only other thing was that the program really sucked. Thankfully it was only $2, but it’s all black and white and full of ads not to mention about 10 pages long. Uninteresting, and their pencils suck.  The seats and disorganized bathrooms aren’t exactly the greatest, but there wasn’t anything that obviously stuck in our craw. Not an exceptional experience, but one that didn’t really piss us off. 6.5/10

9. Warm-Up Entertainment

There’s the hot dog races by little kids on field, the Red Robin burger shuffle, t-shirt launches, The Kiss Cam with Love Shack playing (and a hilarious moment when at the end they put Akron’s bullpen on the Cam). And of course, during the seventh inning stretch a fairly bland version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” followed by something a little more original, “Cotton Eye Joe.” Mostly played safe without anything terribly creative, props for Cotton Eye Joe and putting the Kiss Cam on the Aero’s pen. I like dangerous and exciting things during innings though, like launching bottle rockets out of the MC’s butt at targets on the field (which would grant an automatic 11/10). 6/10

10. Game Quality

Surprisingly, even though this is semi-professional baseball it was a fun game to watch. The starter for the Sens was cruising through the first four and seemed to be rather talented, but then the flood gates opened and he got torn apart. A few plays of questionable effort on defense for both sides, but no errors or plain boneheaded moments. Both teams had very nice jersey designs, with the Senators being very reminiscent of the Nationals home unis, and Akrons away numbers looking like the purple Colorado Rockies alternates which I absolutely love. It was a pitchers duel for the first half of the game, but when the Aeros started tearing into Harrisburg’s pitching, you could tell that on a hot summer afternoon that they started to tire quicly. If you were an Akron fan like the many wearing Cleveland jerseys at the game, I’m sure you had a good time. The game was still fun and well-played, so….8/10

EC (Extra Credit) : Free Roger Bernadina bobblehead that is actually well made gives the Harrisburg Senators their only point and aspect of extra credit. 1

Final Score : 66.5/100

The good thing about the Senators? It’s a small park where you can find everything, there is plenty to do, and you are always going to be close to the action. The bad parts? You’re going to pay pretty dearly for anything of quality, and for a team that’s in first place, the general apathy of the crowd was somewhat surprising. Not to mention that the park isn’t particularly pretty, and that the seats are uncomfortable. And, if you plan it wrong, you end up going to a game where all the May Flies gather by the outfield lights, and die in droves, littering the seats with dead bugs. If you’re local, and you have money to blow, and you pick the right game to go to with a bunch of friends I guarantee you’ll have a good time. Other than that, Metro Bank Park simply isn’t terribly special. Especially when you consider our list of expenses below, which amounts to about four hours of entertainment.

Thurston Howell’s Expenses

1. Ticket – $10

2. Convenience Charge – $1.50 (split)

3. Parking – $1.50 (split)

4. Jumbo Hot Dog – $3.50

5. 1/3 Pound Burger – $5.75

6. Troeg’s Beer – $6.50

7. Angry Orchard Hard Cider – $6.50

Thurston’s Total Expenses – $35.25

My Expenses

1. Ticket – $10

2. Convenience Charge – $1.50 (split)

3. Parking – $1.50 (split)

4. Program – $2

5. Hot Dog – $2.50

6. Grilled Chicken Sandwich – $5.50

7. Shock Top Beer – $6.50

8. Angry Orchard Hard Cider – $6.50

My Total Expenses – $36

I could drop $36 on a pretty darn good date (and pay for two people), and have more to walk away with than seeing a semi-pro baseball game and a Roger Bernadina bobblehead. I’m not saying it wasn’t fun, it was just that in order to have fun consistently there I need to have the wallet of Jay Gatsby. Two beers and two concession items isn’t unreasonable for a hot afternoon at the ballpark, but the prices just seemed a bit outlandish. We’ll see how it compares to the next park when we review it soon, stay tuned for more details!

Ballpark Review #4 – Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), Baltimore MD

Ballpark Review #3 – Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution), York PA

Ballpark Review #2 – Clipper Magazine Stadium (Lancaster Barnstormers), Lancaster PA

Ballpark Review #1 – Metro Bank Park (Harrisburg Senators), Harrisburg PA

3 thoughts on “Is the Harrisburg Senators Stadium Money in the (Metro) Bank?

  1. Pingback: You Say You Wanna Revolution? : A York Ballpark Review | All We Are is Entertainment

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  3. Pingback: A Trip Down Memory Lane: Ballpark Review of Orioles Stadium at Camden Yards | All We Are is Entertainment

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