Harmon Stadium – North Florida Ospreys
Shore Birds Swinging for the Fences
The University of North Florida is located in Jacksonville, Florida and has a student body of more than 16,000 students. It is a relatively young school within the Florida University System, as it opened in 1972. A majority of the student body comes from the surrounding Jacksonville/Duval County area. It offers more than 52 areas of study and 28 different master’s programs.
The UNF athletic program is even younger than the school, as sports were not added at the university until 1992. The school teams compete at the Division I level as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference and are known as the Ospreys (a hawk-like raptor native to the coastal regions of Florida). The Atlantic Sun Conference includes such neighboring schools as Jacksonville University, Stetson University and Florida Gulf Coast University.
The baseball program at UNF has been quite successful in its short existence. The team has won six conference championships at the NAIA level, six conference championships in Division II (finishing #2 in the country in 2005) and one Atlantic Sun Conference Championship since joining Division I. The Ospreys call Harmon Stadium at Dusty Rhodes Field their home stadium. The facility was built in 1988 and has a capacity of 1,250. It is located within the athletics complex on the UNF campus. Five Osprey players have gone on to play in the MLB.
Food & Beverage 4
There is one central concession stand for Harmon Field. It is located on the outer concourse of the stadium, and is staffed well enough that no backup should occur. While the items sold at the stand are your typical fare, we award one extra point for having a person on hand to grill your order to your specifications .
The menu includes hot dogs ($2.50), burgers ($4), chicken sandwiches ($4.50), nachos ($4), pretzels ($4), popcorn ($5), fries ($4), peanuts ($4), and candy ($1.50). Beverages include Coca-Cola brand sodas ($3), bottled water ($2), 16 ounce domestic drafts ($5) and 24 ounce domestic drafts ($7).
Harmon Stadium is one of the nicer stadiums in the Atlantic Sun Conference. It features the gray and blue colors of the school throughout the park. The facility includes a concession area, a very spacious press box, a newly installed video board/scoreboard and seating elevated above the field. The seats immediately in front of the press box and behind home plate are chair backs, while the remainder of the stadium features bench back seating.
A special seating area, the Osprey Nest, is located along the first base line. The Osprey Nest features an enclosed, climate-controlled environment, with space for groups or VIPS up to 100 people. This provides a wonderful break from the hot and humid spring days along the Florida Coast. This facility also houses the Osprey Baseball Wall of Fame.
The University of North Florida campus is very isolated, as a substantial portion of its acreage is dedicated as a nature preserve, so there is no development except university-related buildings. That being said, the campus is extremely modern, with less than 50% percent of its buildings more than 10 years old. It is a beautiful campus, with wonderful landscaping, fountains, nature trails and eye-catching architecture. It offers plenty of support facilities for the portion of the student body that does live on campus.
Two popular forms of transportation on campus are using bikes or the popular shuttle bus system. The bus system also has routes that take students to the nearby St. John’s Town Center shopping complex.
Despite its very successful baseball history, the Ospreys have difficulty in filling the stadium. Even though the students can attend games free of charge, the stands are often only 30% full. There are a number of reasons why the program does not draw well: 1) more than half of the student body are commuter students who leave campus once their classes are over, 2) the Atlantic Ocean and Jacksonville Beach are less than 5 miles from the campus (which would lure any college student away), and 3) due to the relatively young age of the school there is not a large number of alumni to attend the games. Most alumni are still of working age and cannot get away for afternoon games.
Harmon Stadium does draw well for specific games. UNF and Jacksonville University are only a few miles apart. The two schools take part in what is known as the River City Rumble. This is an academic year-long competition where points are awarded for victories in every competition held between the schools, no matter what sport. Since baseball is a spring sport, if the competition is close… the stands are full.
The UNF campus is located more than 10 miles from downtown Jacksonville. However, as long as you have a car, it is easy to get to. The school is located just off I-295, the ring road around Jacksonville. The exit is shown as the University of North Florida /Town Center Parkway and the entry gate for the school is just a few feet away.
Once on campus, there is an information kiosk where you can pick up a campus map. There is a parking deck across from UNF Arena that also is used for baseball parking. There is no charge for baseball parking.
Return on Investment 5
UNF baseball games provide an excellent return on investment. Seating is all General Admission, with a ticket cost of $5 ($3 for seniors) You will usually not have to fight anyone for a good seat and the bench back seating allows you to spread out. The concessions at Harmon Park are very reasonably priced and parking is free.
The field at Harmon Stadium is named for Dusty Rhodes, a former major league ballplayer who coached the Ospreys through their first 20 seasons.
The St. John’s Town Center shopping area is located just a mile from the campus entrance. This open-air mall is a major shopping destination for the Jacksonville area. It has more than 150 stores and restaurants ranging from Tiffany’s to Walmart.
In case of a nice spring day, you can enjoy a day at the nearby beach and still have time to make the first pitch at Harmon Stadium.
The University of North Florida is one of the fastest growing schools in the Florida university system. In just a short time it has proven itself to be a power to reckon with in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Being a new school has its advantages as the sports facilities found at UNF are sure to enable recruiting of a higher caliber of athlete in the near future . Harmon Stadium celebrates its past with exhibits about its past successes, but it is always looking forward to the future. The Osprey Nest along the first base line is sure to attract the attention of athletes within the UNF recruiting zone.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
The game I attended was between the two city rivals, Jacksonville University and UNF. Even with that, there wasn’t much excitement and very few fans attended. I believe most of the fans that did attend were related to the players therefore, it was almost like a high school game. I will say that they did have a good mascot and also they did throw some tee-shirts in the stands, which they didn’t do at JU.