Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – Appalachian Power Park, Charleston, WV
August 7, 2011, 2:29 am
Filed under: 2011, Reviews

Appalachian Power Park, Charleston, WV - click photo for more pictures of this visit

(Ed. note:  This is my first West Virginia ballpark review.)   

West Virginia is, for right or wrong, the butt of a lot of jokes. Whether someone throws out insults about relations with family members or couches set ablaze, those who have never visited are never short on material about the Mountain State. Once you cross the state line, though, the natural beauty of the area becomes quite obvious. It’s even tough for those of us who grew up across the state line in Virginia to find much negative to say about the surroundings.

West Virginia’s state capital, Charleston, is loaded with baseball history. Professional baseball has made its home here off and on for over 100 years, and has seen many division and league titles come to the various inhabitants of the city. Fans can still purchase reminders of the city’s baseball past, as throwback jerseys of Dave Parker from the Charleston Charlies team in the 1970s are freely sold. A lot of Charleston’s baseball memories were made in Watt Powell Park, built in 1948. That park was decommissioned in 2005, though, and the Charleston baseball franchise moved a few miles down the road to Appalachian Power Park. Is this new downtown facility “almost heaven”? Let’s find out.

Concessions: C

I honestly expected more from a park that has this many concession options. The concourse looks almost like a food court, starting with the Power Alley Grill around the right field entrance and continuing all the way to the left field wall. Just about any concession item one could ever imagine – and some that would never cross your mind – is available at the park. Everything from deep-fried brownies to beef brisket sandwiches can be had here.

The big concern was the prices related to the portion sizes. I have been to a number of the parks in this league, and this park has what is probably the worst value of any of them in the concession realm. A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade was $3.25 (outrageous on any day, but particularly terrible on this day), and I spent quite a bit of time in line trying to figure out how to convey to the servers what I wanted. The board listed “pepperoni rolls” (exactly that way) for $4.75, so I asked for that. After going back and forth for quite a bit of time while they tried in vain to explain that you get a roll (singular, not plural) for that price, I paid my $8 for a pepperoni roll and a bottle of Gatorade. The “roll” was a hot dog bun sparsely filled with pepperoni and cheese, and even with the marinara sauce provided, was chewy and flavorless. My father had a cheeseburger and seemed okay with it, but be cautious not to set your sights too high with the concessions here, as I did.

Atmosphere: B

This is one of the more visually unique ballparks you’ll see. There are historic buildings all around the park, and they are easily visible from your seat. If you look beyond the right field wall, you can see the golden dome of the Capitol building of West Virginia. Inside the park, there is not a lot to distract you from the game. There is pretty decent music between innings, a fairly unobtrusive set of between-innings promotions (including a “guess the lyrics” contest, which I’ve not seen), and there is not a sound effect on every pitch, which is nice. They do have commercials on the video board at times, though, which I despise. I understand the reasoning for having them, but I still hate them.

The thing that took away from the atmosphere on my visit was the fans – or lack thereof. The attendance was listed at 1198, but that had to have been considering the season ticket holders. The crowd was extremely sparse at first pitch, and continued to dwindle throughout the game. That may have been due to the heat (which was also falsely reported at 88 degrees), or the fact that it was a Sunday afternoon game. The end of the game felt similar to a spring training game, as I think most people there were just as content to see it end. I would imagine – or at least hope – that things are livelier there for night games, as this is a really cool area.

Sight lines: A

One of the few drawbacks of this park (the lack of an overhang to provide shade) is also a pretty large benefit to fans wishing to see the game. Virtually the entire concourse is open to the field, so if you go get an overpriced soda or food item, you can still see most of what is going on down at field level. There is netting around parts of the seating bowl, but it is kept to an absolute minimum. This is much appreciated. The bullpens are visible from the seating bowl, as they are right along each foul line.

There are a couple of things to watch out for, however, including a “blind spot” down the left field line from some of the third base seats. This may or may not be a concern, but keep it in mind on any balls hit into the corner. There is also a canopy on the third base side that could block your view at times. This and the support pillars of the lone modest overhang on the third base side proved to be a bit of an issue for me, as I escaped under that overhang to try to stay in the shade as much as possible. You may have to step out from under the shade or around the canopy to see the ball from time to time.

Parking: B

Parking is close, just outside the right field entrance to the park and across the street. The part that is not so good, however, is that it costs $3 to park and shares a lot with a Family Dollar store. There are a few other lots scattered about, but to park close to the stadium will cost you, and I didn’t feel good about taking a leisurely stroll through the surrounding neighborhood, even in the daytime. There is a parking garage near the stadium, but that appeared to be for the hospital next door. There may be some parking nearby for the various government offices, but it was not labeled in a fashion I could quickly identify and get out of the road.

Quality of baseball: C

The game was, for the most part, forgettable. The visiting Lakewood Blue Claws (Phillies) defeated the West Virginia Power (Pirates) 6-1, and the outcome of the game was almost never in doubt. West Virginia scored a run in the second on an Elias Diaz homer, but were barely heard from again. The Power left 12 runners on base while going hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The foundation of what the Pirates are trying to do in terms of player development was pretty evident. There were quite a few “toolsy” players on the West Virginia side, including Diaz and third baseman Eric Avila. There appears to be a bit more focus on bringing in guys who have a high ceiling and can be “molded” a bit more, versus guys who have very little room to go and are so-called “safe” players. Time will tell how this strategy works, but considering the struggles of the Pirates chain in recent years, it’s worth a shot.

Overall grade: B

This park is – if you’ll pardon the expression – a real diamond in the rough. There is potential all over the facility with just a tweak here or there. Even with things as they were, it’s one of the cooler places I’ve seen. The integration of the park with the surrounding neighborhood is pretty darn cool, and almost gives the stadium a retro (I loathe that word, but it fits here) feel. Appalachian Power Park is certainly worth a visit if you’re anywhere close to Charleston, but be careful of day games unless you need to sweat off a few pounds.

How to get there:

Getting to the park is relatively simple. There are signs on I-77/64 telling you which exit to take, but the signs are not as visible once leaving the interstate. Take exit 100 from I-77/64 (Capital St./Leon Sullivan Way), then turn left at the first light onto Washington Street. Go to the second light on Washington, then turn left onto Morris Street. The park is ahead on the left after the first stop light, and the parking lots are on the right.


1 Comment so far
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Once again,an outstanding overview of this facility,it’s pros and cons,and a glimpse into the uniqueness of this park.I almost felt as though I was there,by way of your description;oh wait,I was there.I would have to say that you gave a very accurate portrayal of this facility and all that it provided.The only thing I would have added is the draw of the casino being mere minutes from the ballpark for those who might not come to the area just to see a ballgame.

Comment by jerry wilmer

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