Experiencing “The Ripken Experience”
Once again, Chris Chenes here, just back from my trip down to Aberdeen. I don’t get to travel much during the season, but I’m glad I was able to make the trip. From the Aberdeen area, to the complex at Ripken Stadium, to the staff and the fans, I was very impressed with everything. They do it right.
First, I’ll give you an overall sense of the complex they call “The Ripken Experience.” Ripken Stadium, home of the IronBirds, is just one of eight fields that make up the facility. The other seven include youth-sized replicas of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Memorial Stadium, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, and a full-sized replica of Yankee Stadium. Over the past few years, this has really become a popular destination for top-level youth baseball & softball teams around the country. Tournaments take place here all summer long, even extending into November with a Thanksgiving tournament.
The youth-sized replica of Oriole Park at Camden Yards is known as “Cal Sr’s Yard.”
One of the best features of the stadium is the “replica” of the B&O Warehouse on Eutaw street in Baltimore. Here is the real Oriole Park at Camden Yards for a comparison:
Did you know that the B&O Warehouse is the longest building on the east coast?
The Ripken Experience version of this warehouse is actually two hotels, a Courtyard by Marriott and a Residence Inn Marriott. Located on “Ripken Way”, both have views overlooking the field
The playing surface at Cal Sr’s Yard is all turf, except for the pitcher’s mound and home plate:
More views of the park, which has 2,000 fixed seats and concession stands.
Moving along, next we have a full-size (field dimensions) replica of Yankee Stadium:
They made it a point to accurately place the backstop 84 feet from home plate, a catcher’s nightmare.
Next, we have Fenway Park complete with the “Green Monster” and “Pesky’s Pole”:
Wrigley Field with the vines on the left field fence:
Citizens Bank Park & Nationals Park are both softball fields:
The complex also includes numerous batting cages and an Infield Training Island:
Now onto Ripken Stadium, where the IronBirds were host to the ‘Cats this past weekend:
Ripken Stadium opened in the same year as “The Joe”, 2002. It hosted the 2nd Annual New York-Penn League All-Star Game in 2006, and is one of the premier minor league facilities throughout the New York-Penn League and even Minor League Baseball. Like “The Joe,” the concourse is very spacious, allowing for easy walkability and a view of the game all the way around.
As far as concession items go, they have a wide variety to choose from. They have your standard ballpark fare as well as specialty stands such as Seasons Pizza that serves personal pizza, mozzarella sticks, chicken parm sandwiches and more. There is Roma Gourmet that serves sausage and peppers, The Farm League which serves vegetarian friendly options and health foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, corn on the cob, salads, paninis and more. For desert you can have Mini-Melts (compare to Dippin’ Dots), or italian ice, gelati, ice cream sandwiches and cookies. They also have funnel cakes, cotton candy and lemonade.
Then there is Conrad’s Crabs & Seafood Deck (no relation to Conrad Gregor), serving up Maryland fresh steamed crabs and a variety of other local seafood favorites.
There are plenty of group options, including the Picnic Plaza and Party Deck down the left field line:
The Party Pavilion in right field:
Groups of four can reserve a table at the Open Air Cafe located directly behind home plate:
The ValleyCats had a big group of fans come down on a bus trip for the game on Saturday night!
These three made sure to keep the Vamos Gatos chants coming!
Let’s head upstairs to the Aberdeen Club Level, shall we?
Once you get to the top of the stairs, you are greeted by a concierge desk and then a great display of Ripken artifacts and memorabilia:
There’s a bar and buffet:
The entire Club Level has indoor seating available, complete with hightop tables and leather couches:
Then there’s club level seating that can accommodate up to 375 people.
Ripken Stadium also features six luxury suites with indoor/outdoor seating. Quite simply, Club Level is one of the more impressive things I’ve seen at a Minor League ballpark.
Now let’s go behind the scenes in the media/production area of the stadium. Press row and production are intertwined into one large area, but it’s spacious enough to handle that and more.
The show is pretty similar to that at “The Joe.” There’s lots of rally chants and songs, live action on the board, replays and pump-up videos. All of it comes from this room where there are over 20 staff members working during each game.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour of The Ripken Experience! Now it’s time to get ready for our big six-game homestand beginning Tuesday night at “The Joe!” Hope you join us! For full promotional details, visit our website, http://www.tcvalleycats.com.