Thursday, July 19, 2012

Riverwalk Stadium- Montgomery, AL - Southern League

Posted by William Lee Coleman III | Thursday, July 19, 2012 | Category: |

You will find after visiting several of the newer Minor League stadiums, they all start to blend together. This isn't the case with Riverwalk Stadium.  Every visit I find something new that sparks my interest. On this trip I got to experience the first major upgrade to the stadium: a new video board and the in-ballpark television system. The video board is now the largest in the Southern League. Sadly, my last trip revolved around me wanting to get Greg Halman, who passed away too early this off season, on a couple of items when he was playing with the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx. I was also flirting with the idea of keeping up with my stadium visits and my first review wasn't all that great and the pictures were disappointing. A 2012 visit to Riverwalk Stadium was a must!  Riverwalk Stadium was completed in 2004 and I still wonder what took so long considering I first heard of  affiliated baseball coming back to Montgomery way back in 1997. It seats 7,000 with another 4,000 in the picnic area if needed. Riverwalk Stadium is located in downtown Montgomery and is the home of the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League. Since their inception into the Southern League, the Biscuits are still affiliated with the Tampa Rays.

Random Fact: Montgomery is also home to another park: Paterson Field which is worth a visit if you have the time. While it hasn't hosted professional baseball since 2003, high school and college teams still use the park

Stadium Rating : 5

It doesn't feel like you're going to a baseball game until you are inside Riverwalk Stadium. The majority of the stadium was built around a historic train station. The exterior and Main entrance to the stadium looks old and it should. The train station was over 100 years old! It makes for one of the more interesting entrances in Minor League Baseball.  The stadium features a total of twenty suites. Six of the suites are built into the old train terminal along the first-base line and the remaining fourteen extend along the third base line. The balconies to the suites resemble the balconies you see up and down Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

The design template for the seating areas is pretty simple. The concourse is a 360 degree open concourse with no main plaza. The seating bowl features all green fold down chairs with 15 rows of seating, so expect a great view of the field. One of the common beliefs with modern baseball parks is that they do not feature a bad seat in the house. I wish that was the case with Riverwalk, but that is not the truth. My view behind home plate was blocked due to a man wearing a larger than life hat and his kid playing with a foam finger. If the seating sections were elevated higher, this wouldn't happen  People with long legs like me will appreciate that there is plenty of legroom in all seating areas which really makes watching the game more enjoyable. On this visit for the first time, I noticed that the seating areas down the baselines are not angled correctly. They are angled towards the outfield and with the completion date of Riverwalk Stadium, there is no reason for this. You are going to leave Riverwalk Stadium with a sharp pain and stiffness in your neck if you choose to sit away from the grandstand. The outfield berm seating is shaded nicely by some trees, but the fields other berm area doesn't offer that great of a view.

The new scoreboard is huge and is still located in left field. The old scoreboard was difficult to see from the third baseline seating areas. The ribbon board which acts like an auxiliary scoreboard runs along the left field wall is nice. All stadiums should have one of these !

One of the most annoying things that I find about minor league stadiums is that some concourses can be very crowded offering a lack of walking space and limited concessions.  This is expected for older stadiums but can still plague the newer stadiums. Rivrwalk Stadium does not have this problem. With it being a Summer Fun Day and surrounded by a ton of summer camp kids, there was plenty of room to navigate from one side of the stadium to the other with ease. 

For me, the most enjoyable place in the stadium to watch the game is the Locomotive Loft. This section is on top of the left-field wall which has an operational train track and the Alabama River behind it. The left field wall is elevated about 15 feet above the field and allows you to chat with the left fielder in between plays. I was told the locals call this elevated walkway is called "the bowl" . There was no breeze from the river today.  Around the 5th inning, a train came blowing its horn bringing a lot of excited to the kids. The backdrop is of downtown Montgomery.

At the start of the 8th inning, I continued to walk around the "bowl" and  watched a inning from the picnic area. Most stadiums have their picnic area in some absurd spot inside the stadium away from the field itself to fill space in my opinion. However, sitting on top of the picnic table to me was just as enjoyable as sitting on the 1st row behind home plate.

 The only thing that I noticed that would eventually bother me about the stadium if I was a local is the bar area called the Club Car Bar. During games, its only open for season ticket holders.  It has to be one of the nicer looking bar areas I have seen in a minor league stadium. The gift store is stocked well and had a lot of Tampa Ray affiliated merchandise. The children’s playground didn’t look like it offered that much.

I love stadiums that allow free access and for the most part today I was allowed to explore every nook & cranny of this stadium.

Baseball Atmosphere: 5

 Riverwalk Stadium has the feel of a major league stadium and at no time do you need to be reminded that you are at a baseball game. It does offer plenty for the children with short attention spans. The Biscuits can get crazy with “in game” promotions that could distract you from the game. Their mascot is “Monty” (which looks like an anteater) makes no sense in regards to the branding. Music was predictable and the PA announcer does a great job. The PA system is strong and clear. At times, I was wishing for some silence between innings.

  Autographing: 3

I doubt the architect that designed this stadium had autographing in mind but it used to be a gold mine to the autograph seeker. That isn't the case now. Both baselines still have no objects or ushers limiting your access. You still have easy access to both teams' bullpens. The problem now is graphing the lower porch areas near both dugouts. You had access to the players entering and exiting the dugouts. On the Biscuits side, they would even allow me to walk further down the tunnel to get the visiting team walking to their dugout under the grandstand. On my last visit,  no one said anything to you if you were in these spots. I am being honest with you that everyone of the game day crew gave me a lecture on where the best place to get autographs. What they were really wanting to say is "you can't be here". The new parking deck also makes graphing after the game difficult. Recent Biscuit call ups will park in the parking deck. Other Biscuits will park in the old parking area. Good luck guessing which exit they are going to use! I attempted to graph the visiting team (Mobile) as they were boarding their bus and they were having none of it.

Pricing: 4

I do not mind paying for parking if its reasonable and convenient. The original plan was to park twenty yards away from the main stadium entrance but the meter wouldn't go over two hours. I eventually used the parking deck that was being constructed the last time I visited Riverwalk. After four hours in downtown Montgomery, my total parking fee was $3.75. My box seat ticket was $8.00 which is reasonable considering the ushers said I could sit anywhere I liked once inside the stadium. I had two undercooked hot dogs for $4.00 and a souvenir cup drink for $4.50.  The Biscuits were giving out free water drinks during the game and that kept me hydrated. I didn't eat a lot inside the stadium because I had planned to eat at Dreamland after the game since is now located across the street from the stadium. I don't usually mention businesses on the blog but do yourself a favor and try Dreamland after a Biscuits game. You will not be disappointed if you like BBQ ribs.

 I have lived the majority of my life in Alabama and until this stadium was built, never thought of spending a couple of hours in downtown Montgomery.  Even my updated pictures don't show how enjoyable a game is inside Riverwalk Stadium. It is still one of my favorite Southern League stadiums to watch a game. Honestly, even without the stadium, Biscuits management offers what the winning formula is for an enjoyable baseball experience the minor league way. Some teams don’t get it, the Montgomery Biscuits do!

Currently have 1 comments:

  1. that stadium looks so old fashioned