Medlar Field at Lubrano Park – Penn State Nittany Lions
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Nittany Lion Baseball
Penn State baseball is the oldest varsity sport at the University, dating back to 1875. In fact, the school nickname came from a player on the team. Harrison Mason declared the local ‘Nittany Lion’ more ferocious than a tiger during a game against Princeton in 1904. The story soon spread around campus and the Nittany Lion was adopted as the Penn State mascot.
Longevity is great, but what is a game like at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, home of the Penn State baseball team that is traditionally mediocre?
Food & Beverage 1
Penn State baseball plays in a stadium on campus, but it is shared with a local minor league team, the State College Spikes. The Spikes are known for their high prices, especially when compared to other area teams such as the Altoona Curve and Williamsport Crosscutters. This includes the stadium concession stand prices, which are not lowered for the Penn State games.
In addition, the amount of fans at the Penn State game is usually so small that only one concession stand will be open. No all-you-can-eat seats, no wings, no cheesesteak stand, no cupcakes and no creamery ice cream to name a few of the missing options. You basically can get cracker jacks ($3.50), a hot dog ($3.50), a cheeseburger ($4.50), a soda ($3.50/$5.50), or a Gatorade ($4). Beer is not offered during Penn State games, although it is sold in the stadium by the Spikes.
There was no atmosphere. Less than 300 people at a game spread out in a 6,000 seat stadium will do that. Couple it with horrible in-game events and you get a stale environment.
There was a mismanaged dizzy-bat game that had one contestant start well before the other, narrated over a microphone no one could hear. If that is the school’s plan to build an atmosphere, they are always going to have attendance issues.
The extra netting that stops foul balls from reaching the stands is also a major deterrent to the atmosphere. Kids want to catch foul balls. Instead, the nets run all the way down the lines to first and third base preventing balls from reaching the stands unless they roll off of the press box roof.
Also, the kids’ game area and the inflatable bounce toys used during the Spikes game were not in use for Penn State baseball. It was like the school purposefully wanted to keep kids away from the park.
There was a baseball card giveaway, but no one was at the stand. The stacks of cards were just sitting on the customer service desk, but no employees were at the desk.
State College is one of the best college towns in America. The town is separated from the school by College Avenue, making it easy to walk along the town and find exactly what you are looking for.
For a meal, try The Fraser Street Deli, where all of the sandwiches and salads are named after Penn State personalities. You can even get the Harrison Mason or Nittany Lion sandwiches.
For dessert, since the cupcake stand is closed at Medlar Field, try *ndulge cupcakes, which is right around the corner from The Fraser Street Deli. They offer a huge selection of tasty cupcakes and also serve gelato.
If you want a beer, try Cafe 210, the best bar in town, plus they are one of the few with good outdoor seating.
As I mentioned in the atmosphere section, there were no fans. I counted a little less than 300, and over 50 of them were part of a local little league group. No chants, no cheers, no emotion. My seat might as well have been located in a soundproof booth.
Access was great with free parking, a beautiful new stadium, wide gates, even wider concourses, huge chair back seats and no one around you. It is hard to imagine that no one shows up to such a beautiful park. Well, hard to imagine until you realize how bad the atmosphere is.
Return on Investment 4
I was able to attend both a Lady Lion softball game and the baseball game for the same $5 ticket. Softball had a doubleheader so I was actually able to watch the first game, walk over to the baseball park and watch the game there, then go back and watch the last two innings of the second softball game all for $5, a great value.
If the baseball game atmosphere was as good as the softball game, I would have given it a five star rating.
On the night of my visit, the Nittany Lion did make a guest appearance for a few innings before leaving. Unfortunately he didn’t really interact with the fans; he just sat with two females who seemed to know him outside of work.
When you have a college baseball team that hasn’t been to the College World Series since the early 1970’s, you need to create an amazing atmosphere to attract fans. Instead, Penn State does everything possible to drive away fans, especially kids, which are the heart of any good baseball atmosphere.
Until the atmosphere is corrected, the team will always struggle with fan support, even if they start winning.
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