Review 3 of our Ballpark Tour : Sovereign Bank Stadium, York PA
Like Lancaster, York had once upon a time been a baseball town, home of the White Roses team that was affiliated with MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. Oriole great Brooks Robinson once played for the White Roses, and was one of the owners credited with returning semi-pro baseball to York in 2007. This is the planned ballpark on our tour that I had never been to, so I didn’t know what exactly to expect. By a stroke of luck, it turns out that I know the guy that for this game, ran all the sound effects and music for the team (even though he usually does camera or replay), and was able to score free tickets to the game through this connection. Amped for my cheapest review yet, I rallied my friends Thurston, The Secretary, and Scarlett O’hara to go to the game with me. Of course, both Henry Kissinger and Scarlett dropped out, leaving Thurston and I to try and fill seats to not let free tickets go to waste. Fortunately, via a Twitter advert by myself, my friend Susan Calvin who attends nearby York College had an afternoon free (in other words, it was an excuse for her to not do homework or study) and attended with us. The York Revolution were slated to face off against the Long Island Ducks (again), in which the Revs blew a dominant 2-0 lead en route to a 4-2 loss. With one ticket sadly going unused, we walked into unfamiliar territory in York and started our third ballpark review.
1. Accessibility and Parking
Sovereign Bank Stadium is located just off Route 30 in pretty much the downtown of York. So, unless you live in York city or know of a parking lot to park in nearby, you’re going to do stadium parking. Which, they charge you for. And, isn’t adjacent to the stadium, being a good 5 minute walk across the railroad tracks (literally). On a close, packed out game, traffic is probably a nightmare, as even on a hot day with a sparse crowd 30 was a bit backed up as we took it toward Lancaster. Dr. Calvin was charged $3 to park a little further away, and we were charged $4 for prime parking. In comparison to the easy access of Harrisburg, and the freedom that Lancaster offers, this is going to amount to our poorest category score yet. 5/10
FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Well, at least it was for us (my man Dru gives his employer bonus points for this review). Otherwise, we would’ve paid about $12 a piece for the seats that we had. Lawn seats are $8, so prices were about $1 more per seat than in Lancaster. Just as at Clipper Magazine Stadium, the views were great and the action close. If you aren’t getting free tickets, pay the man the extra $2 for the field box seats ($14 for the frontish row seats) and you won’t regret it. The only problem was because this Sunday afternoon game started at 2:05 instead of the usual 5:35, the hot summer sun beat down on us for a good three and a half innings, and sitting further front on the third base side would have kept the sun on us longer. Physically, the tickets are a pretty dreadful mess of blue and white, with a random coupon on the back. Without the free tickets, this score would have warranted a 7, but without having to mess with a service charge, mailing fee, or any fee at all, thanks to Dru, York gets a points bump to 8.5/10.
3. Beer and Hot Dogs
First things first, the beer. Being a putrid hot day, asking for anything that’s not a light beer should and would throw red flags of potential alcoholism. That being said, at York’s stadium, if you’re a fan of beer, you should definitely go here. There’s every domestic on tap ($5.50), and several classier local beers such as Troeg’s and some other ones that I haven’t even heard of for $7. They have 12 and 16 ounce cans for cheap ($4.25 for a 16 ounce), which include Corona, Pabst’s Blue Ribbon, Molson, and a smattering of domestics as well. There’s also “The Hop Corner”, that during Thursday, Friday, and Saturday games features microbrew bottles of Dog Fish 60 Minute, Spring House Seven Gates, Roy Pitz Best Blonde, Kona Hawaii Beer, Wolavers Wildflower Wheat, and Magic Hat all for $7. There is enough beer to make even the pickiest beer drinker happy, and even a wide enough selection to satisfy the snob. And, it’s all the cheapest we’ve seen yet. As far as hot dogs go, it’s standard fare. Although they do have an interesting chili dog, they’ll charge you $2.25 for the normal sized Downtown dog, or $3.50 for the all-beef jumbo dog. Fantastic beer, average hot dogs warrant a 7.5/10.
4. Architecture and Design
Featuring the highest outfield wall in baseball with the Arch-Nemesis at 37 feet 8 inches, the Nemesis is higher than even Fenway Park’s Green Monster by six inches. Just like Fenway, the left field scoreboard is also hand-operated, which is a really neat feature. At the home plate entrance of the park is Brooks Robinson Plaza, with a lot of benches around a life-size statue of Brooks Robinson, which is a cool touch. Although almost identical to Lancaster with the brick home plate entrance, it is nonetheless a nice design (coincidentally, both ballparks were also designed by the same architect). Again similar to the Barnstormer’s park is “Capitol Hill” in right field, a grassy knoll with bleachers to offer a different view of the game, with the name alluding to when York was the capital of the United States during the American Revolution. The seating design isn’t nearly as nice as Lancaster, and the architecture of it feels a bit too similar. The Arch Nemesis, manual scoreboard, and Plaza get this score rather high. However, the unoriginality of the Nemesis and poorer (in comparison) interior architecture prevent this score from being perfect. It almost feels like the architects tried a little too hard to make a few aspects totally unique, whereas everything else in the park feels overlooked making it seem simply ordinary. 9/10
Right off the bat, my friend Dru who was operating the sound was getting some demerits for playing Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus at the game’s warm ups. However, he had a chance to explain himself later when explained that he was simply playing off a predetermined playlist, and that he isn’t he usual sound operator. He (or the playlist) more than redeemed himself by letting some Kanye West and Rise Against off the chain during the opening innings. Unfortunately, Mark Teahen’s (yes the same one that played for the Royals, and the ChiSox signed to a hilarious three year $14 million deal back in 2009) walk up music was “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke which is rather disappointing for a player I used to like. The Revolution are family friendly, but not overtly, which is nice in that it seems they try and cater to more than just families. There are several of options for kids (which I’ll go into detail a little further down), but the ballpark on a whole it seems appeals to a vaster demographic. Although it wasn’t a predominantly young crowd at the game, it was a good mix of families, teens, young adults, and the older generations. People didn’t seem as fanatical about wearing team merch, and the absence of Yankees jerseys and such garbage was a nice sight to behold. Although I question a few of the sound effects that Dru played (burping and farting noises for the beefier opposing players?) up to this point, the game Atmosphere would warrant a 6.5 or 7.
And then, the cannon happened. In right field, operated by Cannonball Charlie (who happens to be a professor at York College for his other job), is a cannon that although it doesn’t appear very large, is the most memorable thing about the ballpark. Test fired during the beginning of the game, whenever a Revolution player hits a home run, Cannonball Charlie lights the cannon and it goes off. And I mean it seriously goes off. I jumped the first time he lit it, and the noise is deafening, and totally awesome. According to Dru, it’s so loud that when it went off during an All-Star game held at Sovereign Bank Stadium, the visiting right fielder hit the grass in the fetal position in reaction to the blast. I wanted the Revoution to win on a walk off home run just to see how much he would stuff that bad boy and how loud it would go off. It’s seriously the coolest thing ever, and instead of giving it bonus points I’m going to award this category a 10/10.
For some odd reason, I wasn’t hungry during the game, or maybe my wallet just didn’t feel like opening up and dumping its contents out into food. I wish I was hungry, because the basic smorgasboard that York lays out in front of you is fantastic. In left center field are Bricker’s famous french fries, on the third base side is the Downtown Alehouse and a Pizza Hut stand, along with your regular ballpark concessions. There are salads, speciality sandwiches named after every team in the Atlantic League, local Turkey Hill ice cream (soft and hard serve) and teas, Martin’s Potato Chips, and even a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There’s walking tacos, kettle corn popcorn, hand twisted pretzels, and even hot or iced coffee or frappes. It’s the widest selection I have ever seen, and for decent prices too. A cheeseburger is $5, or you could get a bacon cheeseburger or grilled chicken sandwich for $1 more. I’m almost thankful that I didn’t buy anything other than a hot dog and beer, as if I would’ve been hungry and tempted, I would have wanted to try everything, and been considerably poorer because of it. 9.5/10
7. ADD Generation Appeal
This is in the middle of York City, so if you’re going outside the ballpark just remember to hide yo’ kids and yo’ wife, cuz you in da hood son. I don’t remember what it’s like to have the mindset of a kid, so I do not really recall how long it takes for something to get old, but it seems that if I were a child at York I might get bored. Sure, in centerfield there’s the Downtown Playground with a carousel and bouncy houses and some other kiddie games mixed in, but other than the obligatory overpriced souvenir shop and begging for snacks, you’re pretty much out of options unless you like playing on the grassy knoll in right field. There could be enough to occupy a child for a good part of a ballgame, but then again, I’m not really sure. Maybe the Playground is enough, but in my opinion, there should be more options. 5.5/10
York sports a friendly staff who didn’t question as to why I was in the Press Box at game’s end, and that checked on a family near us when a foul ball created a large wake. As in Lancaster, the program was free and horrible, and came without a writing utensil yet again (this time I was prepared though). Bathrooms are spacious, clean, and without lines, and the seats were again nearly identical to Lancaster by being spacious and cushioned the better the seat you had. It wasn’t as fun as an intangible experience we had at the Barnstormers stadium (with midget ushers and a nice downpour), but when I don’t have any major complaints (other than the program), this score will always be high. 8.5/10
9. Warm-Up Entertainment
I hate the Revolution’s mascot, Downtown. He’s anthropomorphic and strange, and has a stupid name. Also, the MC isn’t nearly as fun as IM FUN, and is rather forgettable, as he needs a wider variety of outfits to be interesting (a Cat in the Hat hat would be the perfect touch). However, there’s an applesauce chugging race which I found to be very entertaining and creative. Being York College day at the Sovereign Bank, a lot of the between innings games featured York College kids which I feel like they should have taken advantage of. Am I the only one that wants to watch drunk college kids make fools of themselves by playing dizzy bats in between innings? This needs to happen somewhere. 5.5/10
10. Game Quality
I’m a fan of the all-white Revolution jerseys, although the Ducks I’ve already taken some shots at for making some of the portlier players look like The Great Pumpkin. As far as quality of play, I know that Atlantic League baseball isn’t well-played. But, with the presence of several actually good ex-major leaguers such as Lew Ford and Mark Teahen, I had some higher hopes. And, these were met in what seemed to be a good game that was low on walks, mistakes, or Little League-esque plays. Until, the Revolution catcher started to throw the ball around, and eventually into right field opening the gates for runs to come in, and eventually what would be the loss. This was the only major bonehead of note, but was just an ugly reminder of the semi-professional play of the Atlantic League. 6/10
EC: I want to add more points for the cannon, but I really shouldn’t. +1 for getting Lew Ford to smile and wave at me though when we were touring center field. +1 as well for the Press Box tour by Dru, and another +1 for free tickets.
Final Score : 78/100
Conclusion : I can’t call the food prices “low”, but they were “fair enough” along with an amazing selection, free tickets, and THE CANNON. If I had a car full of friends going to a game, I would choose to go to York. If I had to meet a bunch of people at the stadium, I’d go to Lancaster. $4 to park just makes that much of a difference to me (and everybody else), which totally kills the wrap-up. With a good MC and better parking options, Sovereign Bank Stadium would be a practically immovable object atop our rankings. Instead, it ekes out a victory over Clipper Magazine Stadium by just one point. It’s safe to say that I will plan on returning to this ballpark at some point next year, simply because of the lower prices on the whole, and spread of food that York offers. The other thing is, if I hadn’t been given free tickets, the ticket rating would have dropped at least a point, perhaps even a point and a half, putting it at a tie or slight loss to Lancaster. Maybe if the revenue stream that they develop outside of parking fees increases, Sovereign Bank Stadium could realize true ballpark greatness. Until then, they merely teeter on the edge, not yet achieving their total potential as a venue.
1. Parking (split) – $2
2. Downtown Dog – $2.25
3. Bud Light Lime Draft – $5.50
Total Expenses : $9.75
Don’t let this price chart deceive you. Although it is obviously the lowest sum of any outing yet, it’s also the least I have consumed at any park, and excludes the price of a ticket. For $15 more, I could have eaten like a King (additional beer, sandwich, snack), and with the $12 seat we were in still came out beneath the price total of Lancaster by four or five dollars, even with parking cost. Take into consideration that Lancaster was a beer special night, and it becomes obvious that York’s prices are superior, for a vaster variety and the same if not better quality. Unfortunately, what Lancaster lacks in higher priced concessions, York makes up for in slightly more expensive tickets and paying to park. In comparison to Harrisburg, parking and the ticket were more expensive (although the seat was better), but beer was cheaper and normal concessions are about the same, if not slightly cheaper with more variety.