Niagara Falls is a special place for me as I have a great memories from there. As a kid, this is the first “road trip” I made, even if it was just an hour and 30 minutes away. That sparked my passion for travel. During my college years, we had an overnight at the Falls that led to meeting my future wife and I returned to the same spot five years later to propose. Now, I’m looking forward to bringing our kids to Niagara when we’re up to see my side of the family in Rochester. In the meantime, my brother’s bachelor party brought me back to Upstate NY this past weekend and before festivities kicked off Saturday, I took some time Friday to see another summer-collegiate baseball stadium with some touring before that.
I’ve only been to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, so this time I wanted to check out the American side. Pretty much everything attraction-wise is in Niagara Falls State Park and for all of the chatter that hates on the American portion of the Falls, I was pleasantly surprised at what the State Park had to offer. While it is true that the views are much better on the other side, I loved being able to get right up close and next to both the Horseshoe and Bridal Veil Falls. Even without doing the Maid of the Mist or Cave of the Winds (both of which are highly recommended), I spent a good three hours walking around the park at various viewpoints. Seeing the view from the tower (only $1.25) is awesome and you can take the elevator down to ground level and go right to the rocks next to the crashing water and rising mist. Terrapin Point on Goat Island is another fantastic spot to admire the rapids as they lead into the breathtaking waterfall. Such a great afternoon and getting through the kitchy-ness of the town is a small price for seeing a fascinating natural wonder.
It was then on to the east side of the city to Hyde Park, where Sal Maglie Stadium is located. That is home to the Niagara Power, a summer-collegiate team in the NYCBL and one of the most unique franchises in the country. The Power are owned by Niagara University, who bought the team last year and they use the team as a teaching tool. Students learn before and during the season how to run a professional team and that includes all aspects like marketing, budgeting, ticket sales and day-to-day operations. It’s a win-win in my book and every employee in the ballpark was a student. They do a great job as the Power feels like a minor-league outfit as opposed to a no-frills summer-collegiate team. There is a mascot, in-between inning contests and theme nights. Personnel also are trying to connect more with the city and Niagara Falls has responded as the crowd was triple what I saw last month in Allentown and they were more into it as well, some of them wearing Power shirts as fans energetically watched the team. As for the stadium….well, not much you could do there as this dual football/baseball stadium makes for an awkward configuration. Outside of a small section directly behind home plate, Sal Maglie doesn’t make for a cozy ballpark (more info coming soon in a detailed review). At least the ballpark walls have a loud coat of blue and yellow paint to mimic the team’s colors. And, there is the barber chair in the concourse that honors the ballpark’s namesake, who was a big-league pitcher from NF that was known for giving batters “close shaves”. As for the game, it was Niagara that got the 9-1 win over Genesee as pitcher Nathan Hinkley was the star. He went six innings, striking out 12 and only giving up two hits. The Keystone College product has allowed just 2 earned runs over 27 innings this season.