MOOSIC – For the first time since 2007, the first year the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate moved into Northeastern Pennsylvania, there’s a buzz all around the area as fans can’t wait for Opening Day to arrive to see the brand new product.
The wait is over and a new era of baseball in NEPA begins tonight when the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders begin play at restructured PNC Field after taking a season-long hiatus from the Moosic so just about everything can be re-branded.
The team’s nickname changed from Yankees to RailRiders going along with new uniforms, colors, logos and new front office personnel.
The biggest attraction is the $43 million makeover project to a stadium that once opened in 1989 modeled after numerous stadiums from that time period.
And the differences can be seen right off the bat.
As soon as entering the parking lot you can see the fresh look of the stadium with the openness of the entryway and a digital crawler above the entrance. There is a view of the field, mainly the outfield while standing out on the plaza. After entering the stadium, no matter where you are on the concourse there’s an extremely good chance of catching a glimpse of the action on the diamond.
Speaking of the concourse, if hungry stop by one of the 30 vendors in the house for a bite to eat. That’s right any of the 30 vendors that are on the concourse – and not in the outfield – has grill access to serve up some type of food in a flash.
Now let’s take a closer look at more of the features of the new complex.
WALK ALL AROUND
In the previous 22 seasons of baseball held at the ballpark, fans could only walk as far as the left field and right field foul lines before coming to a stop.
Now, there is access to walk all the way around totaling one-third of a mile. Go around three times and you have a nice little workout.
“You’ll need that (workout) on dollar hot dog night,” RailRiders President and General Manager Rob Crain said.
While walking around the outfield, it will be hard to miss brand new attractions. The 360-degree walk was made possible by two bridges, one in left and one in right field making PNC Field the only minor league park in the country with a bridge. The right field bridge gives walkers a feeling like they are on a hike because it’s a wooden-planked connector and when walking across you see trees on one side and the famous rock scenery retained on the other side. There is no wall or fence in front of the stone from the mountain meaning they are the end of the stadium.
A GRASSY OUTFIELD
Being able to walk in a complete circle around the stadium is the most different feature in the outfield. But there’s much more to see when you’re out there. If walking from left field to right, you’ll first notice the home and visiting bullpens, which are back-to-back from left center to right center field. The ’pens were previously on opposite sides of the field. Onlookers can look directly down on each warm-up area from the walking area.
Keep navigating towards right field and there is a bright, green grassy area for lawn seating. Go a little farther and it’s like many other minor league ballparks with a bar, named The Railhouse, in right field. There’s nearly 2,500 lawn seats and standing room only tickets to accommodate fans.
STATE OF THE ART SEATING
There doesn’t appear to be a bad seat in the house for viewing purposes because all 7,536 fixated seats – which are colored Yankee blue – are close to the action. Some of the best though for pleasure and viewing are in the luxury suites, which are sold out for the next three years, and for good reason. One of the perks of being in the luxury box are the padded seats with a countertop in front to place items. Boxes can only be accessed through the second level and they are the only attractions on the second level and are packed with amenities including a high definition television.
HOW HIGH IS THAT?
The upper bowl of PNC Field was removed so there is no more having to walk up to get to a seat. But you can see how high some seats previously were by just looking up at the lights behind your seat. The top of the lights mark how high the top of the bowl was.
Another aspect that was made shorter in length was the outfield wall. While the dimensions remained the same at 330-feet to left and right field, 371 to the power alleys and 408 in dead center, the height was shortened to 8-feet, five inches at the highest point and 8-feet high at the lowest to match the height of Yankee Stadium’s walls.
The last time fans were at PNC Field to watch a baseball game there wasn’t much technology anywhere in the stadium. Heck, the video board wasn’t even in use in 2011.
Well, now there are two enormous video boards. One is an HD LED feed on the right field wall, a feature that only a handful of minor league parks contain. The video board in center field can’t be missed either and will show many highlights or reels throughout a game.
“That’s a huge wow,” Crain said about the video wall. “I think when people come into a new stadium they expect a nice looking video board. And we’ve got a gorgeous one, but they’re not expecting an HD LED wall in right field so it’s a very cool feature.”
The only way fans could see the action on the field was to be in a seat in previous seasons. There were a few monitors showing the game, but only in a few selected areas. Now, you can be almost anywhere in the stadium and see a high definition television with the video and audio feed of the game as approximately 125 televisions are mounted around the ballpark.
FOR THE VISITORS
Players and teams who were visiting PNC Field in the past were treated to one of the smallest clubhouses in all of minor league baseball. Not anymore.
The brand new facility has at least doubled in size completely equipped with two eco-friendly washers and dryers.
The away team’s skipper will also feel more comfortable with his own office, not having to share with his coaches, who have an office of their own as well.
FOR THE HOME TEAM
Not much differences changed for the RailRiders this time around because the home clubhouse was remodeled in 2007.
There were some minor adjustments to the inside of the clubhouse though.
Although perhaps the best thing that occurred for the team is that there are now two indoor hitting cages and an indoor pitching mound.
Lower fences and the openness of the stadium could also turn the once pitcher-friendly park into a more hitter-friendly atmosphere making for a more of home-field advantage.
Both dugouts were extended by 30 feet, it’s noticeable because brand new benches are next to the old seats.
FOR THE MASCOTS
Designers and management didn’t forget about one of the existing best features from the past, Champ, the mascot.
There are also two new mascots going along with the furry blue guy this season and all three have a locker room all to themselves.