May 24, 2009
Hadlock Field (Capacity: 7,368)
Portland Sea Dogs vs Connecticut Defenders
Final Score: 8 – 3
On Memorial Day Weekend, we took a trip to Maine and spent a weekend in the surrounding Portland area. The city on the Southeast Coast, is the “largest” in the state with a population of 64,000. Though Portland has transitioned to different industry, fishing is still a big part of the area. It is a nice place with friendly people and there was enough to do to fill a weekend. In 1994, the city welcomed baseball back to the area as the Portland Sea Dogs and Hadlock Field joined the Eastern League. This was a return to affiliated ball as the last team to play in the region was a Triple-A squad at nearby Old Orchard Beach that left six years earlier. The franchise really took off in 2003, when a switch in affiliation from Florida to Boston brought the fans closer to their dear Red Sox. The Sea Dogs won their first and only Eastern League title in 2006. Though the seating design of Hadlock Field isn’t great, I enjoyed the overall ballpark experience here thanks to some unique touches and passionate fans.
Prestige Ranking: 3.5 out of 5
Hadlock Field is part of the Portland Sports Complex, which includes a 6,000-seat football stadium, a small ice rink and a 3,100-seat arena. The arena is known as the Expo and it is quite a storied little place. Built in 1914, it recently became home to the Maine Red Claws, an NBDL team. The complex is on the West End of downtown, which is a residential/commercial mix. While nearby St. John Street offers a few restaurants and bars, it certainly does not have the charm or liveliness that the cobblestoned Old Port has a couple miles away. The city features other cool spots worth visiting like the Portland Head Lighthouse and the Casco Bay Islands.
Location Ranking: 6.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Access to the area is easy from I-295, which is a branch off of I-95 that runs North-South through Maine. The exit and one-way roads are not straight-forward, but also not terribly complicated and signs are easy to follow. I’ll assume most people will come from the south to reach Maine and that means you might encounter some traffic in Massachusetts. Once getting into the Pine Tree State, congestion mostly eases. There is no actual parking lot for most fans at Hadlock Field, however, there is abundant parking at the garage for the Maine Medical Center a few blocks away. Though the garage provided plentiful parking, it was confusing because there was another one across the street and we weren’t sure which one was for the Sea Dogs game. I just didn’t think a hospital would offer baseball parking, but that indeed is the case here.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 6 out of 8
Outside the ballpark is a nice design that fits in very well with the city and neighborhood. The classically designed building is built of mostly dark brick, while green siding can be found at the main entrance and towards the top of the stadium. I loved the old, iron sign saying “Hadlock Field” over the entry, along with a statue of Slugger (their mascot) out front holding a baseball bat in one arm and a digital message board in the other hand. Great for a photo op.
Exterior Ranking: 7 out of 10
Though the concourse is enclosed and underneath the stands, the space is wide and clean, plus complete with many displays. Green is the overlying color, thanks to the seating skeleton above. There is a small team store along with a second merchandise stand.
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
Before getting to the food, let’s talk about beer as Maine and Portland are snobs. That’s a good thing, especially at a baseball game as a whole section is devoted to purely local products, even though variations of Portland’s own Shipyard is enough in itself. Other local brews like Geary’s and Sebango make this place delight. Food did not exactly match the selection found with beer, but I was glad to see at least a little seafood as a Haddock Fish Sandwich was among the offerings. The rest of the selection was standard ballpark fare
Food Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
There is a lot going on inside, with enough features to make Hadlock Field intriguing, especially given that the main seating configuration is plain. The lack of overhang or roof is disappointing as the seating bowl almost has a naked appearance and offers no shade or rain relief. Upper sections have a much cheaper feel since they are set on aluminum, plus the top half of seats are bleacher-style (while green chairbacks sit below). It is also cramped. Luxury suites and the press box begin directly behind the back row of seats. Further making the interior unappealing are some very oddly placed bleachers at both ends of the bowl that almost look like people are secluded and punished by sitting there. One of those spots is a stand alone section that looks like a cage and only holds about 50 people. With that being said, there are some nice areas at Hadlock Field, starting with the historic Expo Center that juts into foul territory. The visually-striking building actually alters the seating bowl as it forces it to stop on the first-base side and make the shape of the bowl look like the letter “J”. This also leads to an intimate set-up and all seats have a close view of the field with sightlines for most of the bowl pretty good. In right field, is the US Cellular Pavilion, a nice looking set of stacked seats modeled after Boston’s Monster Seats with countertops for food. Staying in the outfield, perhaps the signature at Hadlock Field is located here: the Maine Monster. This 37 foot green wall was built in 2003 as a near exact replica of the monster that Sea Dog players will see if they reach the Big Leagues. There is even a Citgo sign and Coke bottle built on top.
Interior Ranking: 6 out of 14
Though the Monster does not feature a hand-operated scoreboard, the digital box score is simple enough not to taint the board. A ridiculous amount of ads really clutter the outfield and it is almost hard to find the small video screen in right field. There also is a separate scoreboard next to the green wall, but I think it no longer is operational as it was turned off and the ads were overwhelming on it.
Scoreboard Ranking: 1.5 out of 4
It’s been an up and down visit so far, but the displays are certainly a great part of Hadlock Field. Outside the ballpark is a bronze statue titled “For the People of Portland”, which symbolizes a family attending a baseball game. Portland takes care of their own with numerous displays spread out through the concourse. This includes a team hall of fame, a list of Sea Dogs that made it to MLB, yearly team pictures and a section for team awards. One of my favorite displays was not even for the team, it was a set of pictures for each ballpark in the Eastern League. Inside, highly-regarded Sea Dogs are honored with a jersey on the wall of the suite/press box level (and the names are impressive), while in the same area are pennants for team accomplishments. I also liked how each suite was named after a famous past Red Sox player.
Displays Ranking: 4.5 out of 6
Tickets were $8 – $10 and the concession prices were reasonable too. After some initial confusion, I found out the Medical Center’s garage is free, which justifies a perfect rating in this category.
Cost Ranking: 8 out of 8
Fan Support and Atmosphere
Maybe there is something in the air, but Hadlock Field and Portland just felt right. Fans are very knowledgeable and care deeply about their team and the game. That passion is showed by everyone being fully engaged and producing a lot of noise at the appropriate times (partly thanks to the loud bleachers that fans can bang their feet on). The overall atmosphere is enhanced by an organ playing much of the time and then in the 8th inning, the fans follow the Boston tradition by singing to “Sweet Caroline”. It is perfect that the Sea Dogs are paired with Boston as the passion for the Sox is deep in this state and New England in general. Hadlock Field draws well and have been second in the Eastern League for attendance the last few years. The afternoon game we attended had a decent showing with my guesstimates probably around four or five thousand. Diminishing my perceived fan enthusiasm however is how only 3,937 showed up when Portland won the 2006 Eastern League title in the deciding game 5, on a sunny, 75-degree Sunday.
Fan Support Ranking: 6 out of 8
Atmosphere Ranking: 11 out of 14
The weather was dicey and I was concerned about a delay or postponement, but thankfully they played through light rain for the first three innings and by the fifth inning, the sun came out……The ballpark is named after Edson Hadlock, a Portland High School teacher and coach. The High School also calls the field home…..After a run or win by the Sea Dogs, a lighthouse rises from centerfield, a nice regional touch to the park.
The Sea Dogs were in control throughout the game and they were led by a strong pitching performance from Ryne Lawson (7 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 earned run). Portland hit a couple home runs, but the decider was Aaron Bates’ three-run shot in the fifth.
Glad I found your site! My friend and I are planning a trip to see minor league games in the New England area, and your review for Hadlock Field helped me answer some ticket questions…and gave us an idea on where to park! Neat site…I’ll check out more of your reviews soon!