State Mutual Stadium – Rome Braves
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Rome If You Want To
Hidden in rural (and I do indeed mean rural) northwest Georgia is the small town setting of Rome. With a population of about 36,000, Rome is far from one of the larger towns in minor league baseball. In 2003, the Macon Braves took the 60-mile back road trek to claim Rome as their new home.
The Rome Braves are a Class-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, playing in the Southern Division of the South Atlantic League. State Mutual Stadium was built for the relocation in 2003. Seating 5,105 people and with an average attendance of around 2,600, the park is ranked right in the middle of the South Atlantic League in both figures, despite its remote location.
Food & Beverage 4
The biggest win of State Mutual Stadium is the food. It’s all here, from your typical ballpark food to outrageously unique menu items. Start your tour on the third base line at Bubba’s BBQ. Try a fried bologna sandwich, boiled peanuts or go all out and get the barbecue sundae full of cornbread, pork, and coleslaw. Other options include your more reliable ballpark items, such as sausage, burgers, hot dogs and pretzels. Prices for all of these items are generally under $6, with combo options (including fries) coming in under $9.
The truly unique part of this park is the upscale restaurant named the Three Rivers Club located behind home plate and accessible immediately as you enter the park. This would be a cool enough feature at a larger park in a big city, but in the tiny town of Rome, it just adds to the charm.
Down the left field line, you’ll find the refreshments. Just behind a berm is the “Marina,” where you can consume some craft brews while taking in a game. I’m particularly fond of Terrapin Brewery (located not too far away in Athens), but there are plentiful options.
There is a little good and a little bad about the atmosphere at a Rome Braves game. Starting with the good, the small town and isolation from major highways add a certain pride in the team from the locals. It’s apparent they love their Braves in Rome and support them as one of the highlights of the city culture.
The park itself isn’t anything monumental, but the statues as you walk in are a reflection of the local pride in the team. Some of the cooler features of the park include berms, stools, and picnic tables in both left and right field, making it a nice place to relax and watch a game, even without premium seating. The main concourse and stands are pretty average, if not boring. The walkable concourse doesn’t have views of the field, although you can lap the stadium on a narrow walkway through the stands. The field is pretty average, but a good-sized scoreboard stands out in left-center field.
Overall, the marks here have to fall right in the middle. There’s just enough charm to make it worth the trip, but the stadium isn’t going to blow anyone away with its grandeur.
The niceties of this category are a bit hidden. At first glance around the stadium, it’s just parking lots and fields. But if you do some investigation, you’ll notice Miracle Field directly across the parking lot. The Braves funded this field for physically-challenged children to enjoy the great game of baseball, so I couldn’t let this category go without marking up for this noble venture. Rome is also a sleepy-seeming town, but the locals are incredibly friendly and happy to talk about their Braves. The Brewhouse downtown is particularly friendly, with good food and good company. That staff is more than willing to talk about the city, and the locals are welcoming of out-of-towners. The city itself isn’t going to win any awards for nightlife and excitement, but it won’t lack for its welcoming qualities.
The fans are surprisingly impressive. A lot of parks in bigger cities have large turnouts for everything but the game. The people of Rome genuinely care about their Braves. Turnouts are great for such a small town, and they fill over half the park, on average. On top of everything else, they are a very friendly bunch. Short of selling the park out every night, there’s nothing else to rate them down for here.
Getting to Rome feels like you might be lost at times. Drive up I-75 for about 30 minutes from Atlanta, and then head west towards the Alabama border through back roads that will make you wonder whether your GPS is misguiding you. Rome really is the largest town in the middle of a large area of few small towns. To make a trip to see these Braves, you’ll definitely be off the beaten path.
Once in the park, you’ll find access about the same as the trip to Rome. There are jewels of areas within the park, but the concourse is obstructed from view from the field, and quite simply a walk to your seat. The walkway around the park is narrow and a bit congested, and the seats are a long row of stairs walking up. The bathrooms are simple enough to be about average for a park of this size.
Return on Investment 4
Overall, a Rome Braves game is a pretty good deal. Food and drinks are relatively cheap, especially for the quality. Even the specialty barbecue sundae can be had for $5. Tickets max out around $12 for your normal seating options, which is a solid deal at any park. For a genuine small-town America baseball experience, it’s more than worth the cost of admission.
I’d be completely crazy to not award at least one point for the Miracle Field project. It’s the kind of project that major league teams should leverage more often with their minor league clubs. Points also for the outstanding food selection that one would not expect to find at such a hidden-away park. There’s a lot of pride in Rome for their Braves, and if you’re ever willing to take a foray off the interstate, you could do a lot worse than a day at State Mutual Stadium.
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