Chronological Tour: Stop 52

No Longer the Mini-Vet

Home plate entrance to PNC Field, Apr-2013.

The renovation makes it look like a new park ... indeed, like too many new parks.

Beyond the outfield is a mountain; in the outfield is grass that replaced artificial turf in 2007.

Quick Facts: Rating: 3 baseballs
Lackawanna County built this stadium for the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A farm club as well as for other events, including high school and college football. The team arrived in 1989 after having spent five years in Old Orchard Beach, Me.

The original team’s name was an amalgam of the old Wilkes-Barre Barons and Scranton Red Sox, active teams in the 1940s. In 1997, the club logo was modified to emphasize the aviation aspect of the nickname “Red Barons”. The team cap, with an interlocking “SWB”, became a classic.

The park was built, in part, to mimic Veterans Stadium, the home of the Red Barons’ parent Philadelphia Phillies from 1971 to 2003. The biggest problem with a park that otherwise worked well was the artificial turf – a function of the Vet having had it as well as the county’s overuse of the field.

In 2007, as part of a series of affiliation changes occasioned by the 2008 transfer of the Ottawa Lynx franchise to Allentown, Pa., Scranton became a New York Yankees farm club. The Yankees promptly substituted their name for “Red Barons”, and they also renovated the field, installing new grass for their Bronx-bound players. But with ticket sales not as robust as expected during the first five years of the Yankees’ affiliation, the team rebranded itself once again and returns to the park as the RailRiders for 2013.

The park closed for major renovations during the 2012 season. The club operated out of Frontier Field in Rochester, playing some home games there and utilizing other nearby opponents’ fields for “home” games, often playing an extended set as the home team for some games and as the visiting team for others. The steep-pitched upper deck was completely removed and replaced, and new skyboxes were installed above the existing lower bowl. The park also saw the addition of a wrap-around concourse along the base of the mountain. Since the lower section of the stadium was preserved, I classify this as a renovation rather than an entirely new park.

Getting to the Game

The park is on Montage Mountain Road, a Moosic Borough street easily accessible from I-81 exit 182 that also provides access to the Montage Mountain ski area, waterpark, and concert venue. There is a Lackawanna County tourism kiosk located half a mile from the park. Access may also be gained by taking Glenmaura National Boulevard up the hill from PA 502.

This is very much a drive-to park. I have never seen a bus on Montage Mountain Road, but there is a railroad track nearby. On ten weekend dates in 2013, excursion cars are being run from the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton to the ballpark, but I know of no other mass transit options.

The stadium authority originally charged for parking at the ballpark. The fee was removed several years ago, but apparently reinstated by the club for 2015 (and it varies depending on the game). County police officers patrol the entrances as well as regulating the traffic signals near the freeway interchange at the end of busy games, helping facilitate access and egress.

Watching the Game

The club is operated by Mandalay Baseball, and like most of their clubs, they offer a free playbill-sized program that includes rosters of both teams (updated to within about a week) as well as information about the current series and upcoming promotions. They also offer a whiteboard for the starting lineups, but this is now behind the press box on the concourse level, making it slightly less visible than it was prior to the renovation.

For the 2013 season, the RailRiders also reduced ticket prices. When the club was named the Yankees, they raised prices to an unusually high level even for Triple-A, hoping to cash in on the cachet of the parent club. Attendance plummeted as a result, and so even with the stadium renovation drawing fans by itself, tickets are now in a more reasonable range, from $12 for infield box seats to $7 for general admission.

The suite level is entirely new with the renovation, above the concourse. In addition, the concession stands are now in an open concourse rather than being behind the old suites and out of view of the field.

The large video board in left field is capable of displaying a photo of the player at bat or the new pitcher, along with his stats. It does not show a running batting order. The main scoreboard is a dedicated Daktronics line score. The score and count are also displayed on side ribbon boards, although those curiously did not indicate the inning at the game I attended in 2013. This had been remedied by 2015.

Enjoying the Game

All the seats in the lower bowl were replaced, and new sections were added near the foul poles, with seats in some sections angled toward the field.

During day games, a fair number of lower bowl seats are in the shade, although the number decreases as the sun gets higher in the sky at midsummer. The suite level shades quite a bit of the bowl.

With the renovation, the park now features a concourse that wraps around the outfield. There are grass areas to sit in, along with a perch that overlooks the bullpens, a kids’ play area near center field, and two specialty seating areas for picnics and so forth.

One nice feature left unchanged is that there is no cross aisle in the middle of the lower bowl. This minimizes the distraction of people walking by during play.

Previous stadium configuration, from the outside, Jul-2000.
Interior of the old stadium, Jul-2000.
The old artificial-turf field, 2002.

Game # Date League Level Result
105 Sat 4-Sep-1993 International AAA Richmond 3, SCRANTON 0
144 Fri 12-Aug-1994 International AAA Rochester 8, SCRANTON 4
162 Sun 30-Apr-1995 International AAA Toledo 15, SCRANTON 2
221 Sat 24-Aug-1996 International AAA Norfolk 4, SCRANTON 3
223 Sun 25-Aug-1996 International AAA SCRANTON 9, Norfolk 4
256 Sun 20-Jul-1997 International AAA SCRANTON 6, Richmond 3
325 Fri 14-Aug-1998 International AAA Toledo 4, SCRANTON 1
413 Sun 23-Jul-2000 International AAA Ottawa 7, SCRANTON 4
621 Fri 15-Aug-2003 International AAA SCRANTON 9, Rochester 1
817 Tue 4-Jul-2006 International AAA SCRANTON 4, Buffalo 1
893 Tue 28-Aug-2007 International AAA SCRANTON 5, Ottawa 4
969 Sun 7-Sep-2008 International AAA SCRANTON 2, Pawtucket 0, 10 inn
1037 Sat 12-Sep-2009 International AAA SCRANTON 12, Gwinnett 3
1041 Thu 17-Sep-2009 International AAA Durham 3, SCRANTON 2, 12 inn
1113 Sat 23-Apr-2011 International AAA SCRANTON 4, Syracuse 2, 1st
1114 Sat 23-Apr-2011 International AAA Syracuse 2, SCRANTON 0, 2d
1250 Wed 24-Apr-2013 International AAA Columbus 5, SCRANTON 4
1356 Mon 1-Sep-2014 International AAA SCRANTON 4, Lehigh Valley 1
1384 Sun 5-Jul-2015 International AAA SCRANTON 4, Buffalo 0, day
1473 Fri 5-Aug-2016 International AAA SCRANTON 5, Syracuse 1
1521 Wed 14-Sep-2016 International AAA SCRANTON 2, Gwinnett 1
1608 Sun 10-Sep-2017 International AAA SCRANTON 1, Lehigh Valley 0
1614 Tue 19-Sep-2017 International * AAA DURHAM 5, Memphis 3
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