Why Going to a Baseball Stadium Is About More Than The Game

September 15, 2017

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Fans expect more than a win when they go to a baseball game, and that is evident when it comes to the New York Yankees.

While the Yankees are one of the most successful sports franchises in history, Yankee stadium is rated No. 26 out of the 30 baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball.

That’s according to the new 2017 Voice of the Fan Report by ReviewTrackers, which shows that the stadium of the Yankees, an iconic baseball team, doesn’t deliver an experience that meets fan expectations, even for a team that is likely to make the 2017 playoffs.

E.J. Fagan, host of Yankee fan podcast, It’s About the Money, says the new Yankee Stadium, which was built in 2009, is too “corporate.”  

“I live out of town. I’ve lived out of town for a very long time, and I see other stadiums about as much as I see Yankee stadium,” Fagan says. “Almost every good stadium on that list has something special about it, something niche about it, and Yankee stadium has none of that.”

The original Yankee stadium, however, had that something special.

He says, “I used to get seats once in a while (at the original Yankee stadium) that were right on the third base line and you were thereDerek Jeter could fall in your lap.

“But with the new stadium, everything is a little farther away.”

To improve the fan experience, the Yankees could work to make the stadium a place where all the factors of a great baseball game come together — good food and beer and stadium character.  

“The Yankees, if they wanted to, could easily take the bones of the stadium,” Fagan adds. “They have the history and the wherewithal to create a really great fan experience, but they just haven’t tried.”

What Makes a Baseball Stadium the Best in the Major Leagues?

We took a close look three more stadiums from our research. One is Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field, which scored at No. 1 for food and drink, but fell down to a No. 20 overall in fan ranking. We found out why that wide gap exists from South Side Sox podcast host Josh Nelson.

We also spoke with team bloggers to help us explain why Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the No. 1 stadium on the list in overall fan sentiment, and why a stadium that comes out lower on the list, Rogers Centre, is ranked No. 28.  

The new White Sox stadium was built in 1991, a year prior to the No. 1-ranked Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Guaranteed Rate Field has the food, but it’s not quite Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

“People throughout baseball — fans, media, and the like — say they love Camden Yards because it’s unique and it has character,” says Nelson. “None of those things are said about Guaranteed Rate Field, unfortunately.”

He says that the very basic, cookie-cutter Guaranteed Rate Field stadium doesn’t have a lot of character. “This is disappointing especially to the White Sox fans who have been fans since the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. They loved the old Comiskey Park.”    

He adds, “It was one of the oldest stadiums in the league. It was very unique. It had upper deck bleachers, it had a roof, so you could say that a player hit a rooftop shot for a home run. To go from something that had a lot of character and was unique in the league to something that is cookie-cutter was a bit disappointing.”

In addition to the stadium’s design, the South Side location is another factor that puts Guaranteed Rate Field at No. 20 on the list.

“If you talk to anyone that lives in the city of Chicago and mention the word South Side, there’s some pretty negative stereotypes going on there,” Nelson says. “I know many people who are surprised that I go to White Sox games at night because of what they watch and what they read in the news about the crime that happens in the South Side. Unfortunately for them, they’re missing a whole part of Chicago that I think is incredible. I think that what you read in the newspapers and what you watch on TV, that doesn’t happen by the stadium. It’s perfectly safe to go there.”

The Food at Guaranteed Rate Field

The food at Guaranteed Rate Field is ranked No. 1.

While the White Sox do a great job of offering delicious fan favorites like hot dogs and Polish sausages, they’ve also concentrated on bringing unique items to the ballpark.

“In the Craft Kave, the new bar located in the right field, they now have craft burgers,” Nelson says. “So they have more than eight choices of different types of burgers you can have that go along with the more than 75 different beers they serve at the bar. And the burgers are quite good.

“One of my favorite food items is the Cuban sandwich that you get on the 100 level.”

There’s also a variety of Mexican food options at the stadium. You can go to TexMex and build your own nacho helmet – and then keep the helmet.

And if you like dessert like ice cream, for example, it might be worth it to go to a Sox game and get one of the ice cream helmets, even if you’re not a Sox fan.

According to Nelson, “They have stations all over the ballpark where it ranges from you can get your ice cream cone to an ice cream sundae in a mini helmet to a full-on batting helmet ice cream sundae (three pounds of ice cream) that no human being can eat on their own.”

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a ‘Modern Classic’

It seems like Oriole Park at Camden Yards has everything a baseball fan dreams of. The stadium has friendly staff, and the fans love neighborhood in which it’s located. The ballpark is described as a “modern classic” by Chris Slade, senior content manager at Orioles Hangout.

The stadium is significant in the history of modern baseball stadiums because it caused a revolution in new stadium building since it opened 25 years ago.

Slade says, “The location offers a prime view of the business district in downtown Baltimore and is situated right along Eutaw Street, which features the historic Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Warehouse, the longest brick building on the East Coast.” 

Oriole Park at Camden Yards also has plenty of character. And it consists of the culture of Baltimore, Maryland – which has influenced the stadium’s food, facility, history, and even vendors.

“Many of the vendors there have been working for the Orioles for years and love to engage with the fans, many of whom they know on a first name basis,” Slade says. “One vendor in particular named Clancy is something of an icon to Oriole fans, having worked as a beer vendor for over 40 years. You won’t find many people more passionate about the Orioles than Clancy.”

Clancy. (Photo Credit: Austin Kirk)

Baltimore is famous for crab, so it’s not a wonder why some of the standout food items at the stadium are crab-related.

“The stadium atmosphere is uniquely Baltimore, with many food items you won’t find anywhere else, such as crab cakes, French fries and chicken tenders with crab dip, National Bohemian Beer (Natty Boh for short), and, of course, Boog’s BBQ.”

Since Camden Yards opened, Boog Powell, the former Orioles player who won the 1970 American League Most Valuable Player award, has been serving up sandwiches on Eutaw Street at Orioles games. His barbecue is the most popular in all of baseball, according to our research. Boog’s BBQ is even more popular than the barbecue at the southern stadiums of both the Texas stadiums and Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.

“Most people enjoy it plain, but there is also a wide variety of toppings available, such as Boog’s homemade barbecue sauce, onions, vinegar, and a local Maryland favorite: Old Bay Seasoning,” Slade says. “It also comes with a choice of homemade coleslaw and baked beans on the side.”

The Rogers Centre

The Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays, is ranked No. 28 overall on our list, and is even lower for food and drink and family experience.

The low ranking may be due to the number of fans who have consumed too much alcohol and can be rude or rowdy. According to Alyssa Cohen, a blogger who writes about the Toronto Blue Jays, this type of behavior can cause a negative first impression for a family or a child who are visiting the Rogers Centre for a game for the first time.

“The seller has the right to limit someone wanting to buy another beer, especially if they look like they have had too much to drink,” says Cohen. “However, none of the employees ever say no to anyone.”

For the food and drink part of the experience, the Rogers Centre sells food at high prices, which don’t necessarily match the quality of the food.

“The Rogers Centre sells a lot of food items that may be quite pricey for the quality that they are,” Cohen adds. “For example, a bag of plain popcorn is around $8. Which I think is very high for popcorn. Believe it or not, a pizza slice is cheaper than a medium-sized bag of popcorn.”

The Rogers Centre can implement a few changes to improve the fan experience, which, for Cohen, can include hiring more employees.

“This way, employees can be responsible for a smaller section of the fans so that they will be able to keep a closer eye on everyone when they are walking up and down the stands to sell food. This should help the Jays with having a better rank, as far as fan experience goes.”

To improve the food and drink experience, the Blue Jays could come up with more items specific to Canadian or baseball culture. For example, the Blue Jays made a grilled cheese stand in honor of Jason Grilli, a fan favorite pitcher, to raise money for the Jays Care Foundation. But this event only occurred at the beginning of the season.

“For every game that I went to in April and May, the lineup was always humongous to get a grilled cheese, and it was nice to know that all proceeds were going to charity,” Cohen says. “Campaigns like that are so successful in Toronto, especially at sporting events.”

While the stadium ranks low for family experience, the Blue Jays do a great job of providing events for children.

According to Cohen, “Every week, they run an event for children under 13 called Jr. Jays. Kids have certain events they can participate in before the game and can run the bases like the big leaguers after the game has finished.” 

The proceeds from Jr. Jays tickets go to the Jays Care Foundation.

For more information on the top baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball, check out the 2017 Voice of the Fan Report.

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