J.I. Clements Stadium – Georgia Southern Eagles
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A Gem in Georgia
Follow the rural back roads through southern Georgia into a tiny town about 50 miles inland from Savannah, GA and you’ll pull into Statesboro. The town is unremarkable enough although not without some quaint southern charm. On the southern edge of town you’ll turn down beautiful tree-lined streets onto the Georgia Southern campus, an oasis of southern charm amidst back roads and cotton fields.
Georgia Southern University is a public university of a little over 20,000 students that opened its doors in 1906. The Eagles baseball program is steeped in more tradition than you might expect at first glance, with College World Series appearances in 1973 and 1990 and 12 NCAA Regional appearances. Clements Stadium played host to its first Eagles game on February 12, 2005. The park has a capacity of 3,000 and was named in honor of J.I. Clements, the Eagles coach from 1949-1968. The stadium itself does him honor in its simplistic beauty.
Food & Beverage 3
The food selection at Clements Stadium is surprisingly robust. Hot dogs, chili dogs, sausage dogs, burgers and chicken are some of the big items on the menu. They all come in combo platters with chips or fries and a drink all for under $10. And it just wouldn’t be the south without boiled peanuts on the menu. For a smaller Division I team, it’s a pretty varied menu. Alcohol is not an option on the menu, but that’s to be expected at a southern college athletics venue.
That’s the good news. Unfortunately, it’s just about all sold out of one concession stand with two lines. For a venue that ranks at a relatively high 48th in attendance in the country and has such a robust menu, having only two concession lines can be quite hampering. The wait can span an entire inning if you choose to go just before first pitch. There is a second concession stand located just up the 1st base line, but here you can only buy candy and drinks.
Surprisingly nice is the phrase I’d use to describe the atmosphere inside Clements Stadium. It blends perfectly into a beautiful campus, with a shading tree growing inside the park just above the bleachers on the 3rd base line. You’re not far from Savannah at Clements Stadium, both in name and atmosphere. There are 530 comfortable seats with backs behind home plate and bleachers lining the 1st and 3rd base lines. The field is sunken and the outfield fence is tree-lined with only faint views of the road far beyond. This only adds to the intimate feel of the park. The concourse is wide with comfortable views of the field and leaning against the railing to watch the game under an old shady tree on the 3rd base line couldn’t be nicer. The park is clean and feels new while maintaining its intimate character. It’s not going to win any awards as the best park in college baseball, but I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you walk through the gate.
There are two neighborhoods to consider when measuring the area around Clements Stadium. The more immediate neighborhood is the campus of Georgia Southern. The campus is beautiful. As you turn in from South Main Street onto Southern Drive you’ll feel like you’re driving up to a beautiful plantation mansion. The street is lined with trees and the building at the end has giant columns and a huge grassy square in front of it. Although it’s nestled in the middle of southern backgrounds, the campus is beautiful.
The other side of the neighborhood equation is the city of Statesboro. It really just is a pretty typical southern town, but that doesn’t leave a lot to do. There are some very local type restaurants with pub food in the immediate vicinity of the campus (including some cool names like Gnat’s Landing and Dingus Magee’s). You’re really not going to find anything in Statesboro more upscale than Longhorn or Shogun. Hotels are fairly limited too. There are plenty of two or three star hotels in the area, but don’t expect a whole lot on the upscale side.
The Georgia Southern fans are a loyal bunch and definitely deserve to credit. In a sport full of major conference teams and growing stadiums, Georgia Southern remains in the upper half of attendance in college baseball. The fans cheer appropriately, know their baseball and show up to support their teams. You’ll hear some incredibly savvy baseball chatter and see GSU gear all over the park. The small town atmosphere of Statesboro translates to loyal and passionate fans in the stands. It’s a refreshingly comfortable park in large part due to the fans there in support.
For someone travelling to Statesboro for the game, there’s no easy way get to the park. The nearest big city is Savannah which is about an hour away. Lightly traveled I-16 runs about 10 miles south of the city, but it’s not on a direct route from anywhere specific. I-95 is 45 minutes to the east for access from the south or northeast. If you’re coming from points north you’ll find a drive through South Carolina and Georgia backroads in front of you. It’s a pleasant drive, but not the most efficient.
Inside the stadium you’ll find wide concourses with easy sight lines to the field. Restrooms are located behind home plate and are large enough to accommodate the crowd. The only potential stopping point is the concessions line. Parking outside the stadium is free with plenty of spots, so there’s nothing to complain about there either.
Return on Investment 4
Parking for an Eagles home game is free and tickets won’t cost you more than $10. You can get an excellent combo meal for under $10 as well. So for less than $20 you can enjoy a ballgame and a meal in a beautiful baseball park. There’s really not much to argue about here, for a baseball fan it’s a pretty good deal. The only expense you’ll incur is the gas money spent to find your way to Statesboro.
There are a few unique items here that deserve some credit. Unmentioned so far is probably the best use of audio clips I’ve seen (or heard) in baseball. The window crash or clapping effects are staples at any ballpark you travel to, often so much that they are just ignored. But this park includes movie and tv clips so appropriately and creatively used that it generates laughter from the crowd almost consistently. Caddyshack, Old School and The Simpsons quotes are used flawlessly at the right time. It’s a really nice touch.
Your next bump in score here is for the very cool tree inside the ballpark. It adds a very coastal Georgia feel to the park and is incredibly apt for the area. The final star comes for just the beautiful Georgia Southern campus which sets the mood for your experience on the drive in.
Clements Stadium isn’t going to rank atop any college baseball rankings. But it is a hidden gem in a sport of growing popularity and stadiums. If you’re ever headed down I-95, take a lazy weekend afternoon to relax in the shade and bask in the charm at an Eagles game. It’s definitely an unexpected baseball experience you won’t regret.
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