Article and all photos by Joe Mock, BaseballParks.com
All rights reserved
A city called “Rome” should have a sports facility that is classic and that will stand the test of time. Truly, Rome, Georgia is the home of State Mutual Stadium where the South Atlantic League Braves are now playing their home games, and the new ballpark does indeed have an enduring look.
The former Macon Braves have relocated to the other side of Atlanta. Rome is about 70 miles northwest of Atlanta’s Turner Field, and as you would imagine, the team is an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.
|Attendance at Rome’s State Mutual Stadium has been quite strong|
This facility and the Rome Braves team both made their debuts in April of 2003. Since then, crowds have been large and the reviews of the park have been positive. It seems that northwest Georgia now has the team and ballpark that they’ve been seeking for over a decade. While it’s a shame that affiliated baseball is no longer being played at beautiful, old Luther Williams Field in Macon, the new home of these Braves is something to talk about. Join us as BASEBALLPARKS.COM gives you a look at this shiny new facility.
I like ballparks that are placed downtown or near other interesting architectural or scenic locales. That’s not the case here, as State Mutual Stadium was built on the outskirts of Rome, northeast of downtown. The location does provide good access, at the intersection of two main routes in town, and enough space was allocated for there to be sufficient parking.
The setting does allow for a nice view of mature, tall trees beyond the outfield fences, which makes for a pleasant backdrop for the action on the field.
As you approach the park near the main gates behind home plate, you cross an entry plaza featuring statues of kids playing baseball. These adorable, motionless players are manning their positions on a diamond that is embedded in the pavement. Very nice touch.
|Appropriately whimsical statues of kids playing baseball adorn the entry plaza of Rome’s park|
The exterior of the park itself is very impressive — if anything, it almost overpowers a facility of this size. Beautiful red brick with green accents were used in abundance, and whether you’re looking it at from a distance or up close, it is very attractive.
Immediately upon entering the park, you are overcome with a feeling of deja vu — that is, you have this feeling if you’ve attended any games at Applebee’s Park in Lexington, KY. That’s because the look of the concourse under the stands and, in fact, the seating bowl itself both bear a strong resemblance to the home of the Lexington Legends, also of the South Atlantic League. There’s a simple explanation for this: the same architectural firm, Stadium Consultants International of Toronto, designed both facilities. While SCI didn’t bring any significantly different design elements to Georgia’s park, they did improve upon some not-so-great elements of Lexington’s stadium. For instance, the paths you have to travel from the concourse to some of the seats at Applebee’s — and the way some seating sections are kept separate from adjoining sections — are downright bizarre. Also, the concourse in Lexington strikes me as being far more “enclosed” and dark than it needs to be.
In Rome, some of the strange pathways from under the stands and the wasted space for extra fences and railings have, thankfully, been eliminated. Also, the concourse — while still not being an “open concourse” where you can see the action on the field — feels more open and has more natural light than in the Legends’ park. Still, it’s a little eerie how similar the two ballparks are.
|Great sight lines abound in the main seating bowl|
When you’re in your seat watching the game, there are few obstructions hampering your view. The sight lines are great and provide a super view of the action. I like good-sized overhangs at baseball parks, and while State Mutual Stadium has one, it’s not that large.
Just like in Lexington, there is a restaurant located directly behind home plate. Diners at The Three Rivers Club can eat their meals in air-conditioned comfort inside, then walk through sliding-glass doors into the main seating bowl.
Perhaps the very best element of State Mutual Stadium has nothing to do with watching a baseball game. Along the concourse behind home plate, you’ll find a series of large panels that describe, in some depth, how the sport of baseball developed in this part of the state. The informational panels are well written and beautifully designed — and it looks like space has been left for more of them to be added in the future.
|The series of panels describing the history of baseball in northwest Georgia is a brilliant idea. On the right, the restaurant behind home plate is one of several elements that are reminiscent of Lexington’s park.|
Speaking of information, the structure of the scoreboard deserves mention. There is a high-resolution video screen over the standard line-score area, and the custom-done computer graphics shown on the screen are very impressive.
So we’ve looked at the interior and the exterior of this ballpark … but what about the things that really matter, like the food, the prices and the diversions for kids? I’m glad you asked, because Rome’s park scores well in most of these “essential” areas!
The food choices are as varied — and as good — as any I’ve seen at the Single A level of the minors. You’ll find Mexican, pizza, sandwiches, excellent dogs and burgers, and lots of sweets. Regarding this last area, I discovered a frozen root beer float that was absolutely heavenly — and I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. This alone makes a return trip to Rome a good idea!
The parking costs $2.00, and while I’d certainly prefer free parking at a minor-league game, it isn’t that unusual to have to pay at a new park. The tickets are probably a little higher than at other Single A parks ($10, $7 and $5), but again, this is often the case at brand-new sports facilities.
There is a nice “Kids Zone” down the right-field line. In addition to games, there is a concession stand catering to the younger fans with items for $1.
There is a nice souvenir store on the concourse. While the prices seemed to be pretty reasonable, there wasn’t quite as much variety as I expected to find.
And even if you take in a game at this park, here’s something you might not learn: the construction of State Mutual Stadium was completed under budget. And not by pennies. No, this ballpark came in $1 million under budget due to Floyd County’s keen oversight and a generous light manufacturer. In this age of huge cost overruns, this is very good news.
Here’s the good and the bad of State Mutual Stadium. First, the good. The best features are: the wonderful panels showing the history of baseball in the area; the video screen; the adorable entry plaza behind home plate and the fact that the park came in under budget. And, well, the frozen root beer floats aren’t a bad idea either!
It’s hard to find a bad element, because there aren’t any glaring mistakes in this park. It would’ve been nice if this park had been more “distinctive” — i.e., if it hadn’t turned out resembling another stadium in the same league so closely. And a better design for the press box (particularly the radio booths, where the home team broadcasters almost have to crawl over the visiting-radio team to get into their tiny booth) could’ve been accomplished … but neither of these aspects hinder a fan from having a good time at this park.
So to wrap it up, Rome finally has pro baseball in town, and they have a classic facility in which to play it. It’s well worth a visit.