Skylands Stadium – Sussex County Miners
Mining Success at Skyland Stadium
Skylands Stadium will celebrate 25 years of existence in 2019. The stadium debuted for the New Jersey Cardinals of the Single-A NY-Penn League in 1994 and was fully completed the next season with the addition of skyboxes. The first season the Cards won the league championship and led the league in attendance.
The next three seasons saw crowds around 173,000 attend games at Skylands, but after the 1998 season, the season numbers would shrink to an all-time low of 115,129 in total attendance in 2005. That would be the last season Cards would play at the stadium and relocate to State College, Pennsylvania, at a brand new facility it would share with Penn State. The ballpark would not be vacant for too long with the addition of the Sussex Skyhawks of the Can-Am League the next season, but after only five years of playing baseball, the team ceased operations in 2010.
The Sussex County Miners are now the third baseball team to call the stadium home, beginning operations in 2015. The Can-Am League entry made several improvements that included the installation of a new scoreboard, a refurbished patio featuring a cigar section, a children’s activity area, and the addition of the wheelHouse Kitchen + Bar.
The Miners have attracted an average crowd of 1,549 per game its first four seasons, adding improvements to the facility that is set to celebrate a quarter of a century next season. The stadium also hosts an array of events that include food truck and craft beer festivals, outdoor markets, and the annual Christmas Light Show and Village. There have also been improvements to the exterior of the stadium and the team has attracted single day crowds reminiscent of the mid-1990s; team management hopes that this will be the formula for future success at Skyland Stadium.
Food & Beverage 3
The Miners improved the look and feel of its concession stands prior to the season with three mining-theme booths named Herbie’s Hut, Grizzly Grill, and The Mine Shaft. Each features a colorful and bright logo in team colors and are designed with a rustic look.
The assortment of food includes your usual ballpark delicacies like hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, corn dogs, chicken fingers, popcorn, and peanuts. Customers will also find sausage and peppers, and pulled pork sandwiches at the stadium. On the inner concourse in the seating area, portable stands offer ice cream products.
An interesting little feature down the right field line is the Grinnell Cigar Deck on the newly renovated WH Pavilion that allows for aficionados to enjoy a cigar during the game and an adult beverage at their table.
Skylands Stadium has always provided a very laid back experience, ever since its opening in 1994. The focus here is on the game and when in attendance, one should sit back, relax, and enjoy a part of the state that does not seem to be in such a rush. The ballpark itself is of the same design as Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio, and Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, New York.
The team does employ a mascot named Herbie, along with a dedicated staff who introduce themselves to many in the park. The staff members are active throughout the game leading cheers with certain seating sections and answering questions from fans.
The Company Store provides a nice collection of affordable team gear that includes inflatable bats, foam fingers, t-shirts, caps, and anything else you can slap black and gold colors on. The fitted caps are a popular item. Just across from the store is the wheelHouse Kitchen + Bar offering pub-style menu items of chicken wings, sandwiches, and drinks.
The Backyard Place is a 3-acre play and party area for the children that includes the Miners Express train, Gemstone Mining Sluice, a bounce house, and carnival games. It’s a nice little hands-on activity area for the kids that connects well with the franchise’s identity.
Sussex County is at the tippy top of the state near the Pennsylvania and New York state border. The small rolling hills, two-lane highways, luscious farmland, silos, and foothills are the landscape surrounding the stadium and provide a much different perspective of the state. The ballpark itself turns into the Meadowlands Market, the state’s largest outdoor flea market, on select Saturdays.
Sadly, the Chatterbox is being converted into a Wawa; instead of a Big Bad John sandwich, one can now enjoy an Italian hoagie of your liking. A few nearby places up the road include Gordion Mediterranean Restaurant and the Riviera Maya is a great spot for Mexican cuisine. However, Double S Smokehouse might be the place to visit for traditional barbecue options of ribs, pulled pork, and brisket. The restaurant also offers smoked wings, barbecue nachos, pulled pork egg rolls and barbecue empanadas, and a local favorite, disco fries.
There are also a few small charming towns including Newton and Lafayette that offer quaint little shops and other proprietors to strike your fancy. If you head about 30 minutes north to Milford, Pennsylvania, you can tour the fabulous Grey Towers mansion of former governor Gifford Pinchot. It is now a National Park that offers daily tours on the beautiful grounds.
The fans can be laid back at times, but as the team begins to win, as they finished first in the Can-Am League this past season (2018), you can see the fan interest increase with louder cheers and more boisterous crowds. Then again, many are here to enjoy the promotions and the casual atmosphere that the ballpark exhibits on a regular basis.
Skylands Stadium is not difficult to get to, it is just far away from major interstates and signs are not clearly marked. Unless you have never been to the facility, chances are you might have to make a U-turn. If you are using GPS, the directions will have you make a right off of Route 15, but that street is no longer accessible. The stadium is at the intersection of Route 15 and CR-565 (just look for the Wawa) and surrounded by corn fields during the summer months. It is approximately 18 miles north of the I-80 exit in Stanhope, New Jersey.
Return on Investment 3
The ticket pricing is broken into three levels of price points: $12 for upper level box seats, $14 for field level seats, and $17 for premium level seats. Game day purchases are $2 extra on all ticket prices. All kids under 36″ (3 feet) get free admission to every game.
The Miners offer an interesting way to enjoy the game at the Grinnell Cigar Deck. It runs $68 for a table of four ($96 Friday and Saturday nights) and includes table service from the wheelHouse Kitchen + Bar restaurant.
A few ways to save on the cost of admission and concessions are to attend on Mondays when dogs are admitted for free and all hot dogs are buy one, get one free. Cheap Cheap Tuesdays knock $2 off the price of admission and 10% off merchandise in the Company Store. Thirsty Thursdays offer $2 domestic beers and $3 craft and imported beers, along with $2 hot dogs and sodas.
The Miners have made several improvements to the stadium and the field since arriving in 2015. It includes the improvement on the aesthetics of the concession stands, the inclusion of the wheelHouse Kitchen + Bar, the addition of a new video board, the inclusion of children’s play area, and the hiring of groundskeeper Ricky Tier to manicure one of the best lawns in the league.
The Fire Pit Globe outside of the stadium is a 9,000, 12 foot by 10.5 foot structure that serves as a bonfire. It is a focal point of the stadium and burns up at night after a home game.
The Miners have taken the name of its theme and applied it to several areas of the ballpark including The Backyard Place where a mining train takes kids on a short ride, concession areas that features names such as The Mine Shaft, and The Company Store gift shop.
The team gets a final point for bringing back pro baseball to Skylands Stadium after a five year absence.
They are building a winner at Skylands Stadium and slowly getting back to what made the stadium a success its first few years. Little by little ownership adds something new to the stadium and are committed to the area for the long term. If you are ever in the need of watching baseball in a very surreal area of New Jersey, take the trip to see the Sussex County Miners.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
The Miners are doing some good things with the stadium and have attracted some nice crowds this past season. I just wish The Chatterbox across the street was still open--loved the Big John sandwich.
It is nice to see the ballpark back in business and that winning baseball has returned to Skylands.