- Joseph Oakes
Harbor Park – Norfolk Tides
Photos by Joseph Oakes, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Harbor Park 150 Park Ave Norfolk, VA 23510
Year Opened: 1993
Great Views from Harbor Park
Harbor Park sits on the banks of the Elizabeth River in Downtown Norfolk, and is home to the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The stadium first opened in 1993 and features a nautical image with shipyard crane-like light towers and an array of colorful flags. However, a brick exterior was used in order to fit into the downtown Norfolk business scene. It has a capacity of 11,856. While the river setting is perfect and you can often fell the breeze blowing in off of the river, the ballpark does show its age quite a bit.
Food & Beverage 4
As would be expected at a Triple A ballpark, Harbor Park offers a wide variety of concession options. Options include standard concessions, certain specialty items, as well as a buffet style restaurant that overlooks right-field. One negative point is that when there is a large crowd, concessions lines are extremely slow, and the lines often clog the concourse to movement around the ballpark.
Concessions options at the regular concession stands include items, which range from chicken tenders to hot dogs to cheeseburgers. Vegetarians are in luck as well as Veggie Burgers are offered. At several spots along the concourse and free-standing soft pretzel stands. These are unique in that the pretzels are warmed for 4-5 minutes over an open charcoal fire. This makes the pretzels extra tasty. “Hits in the Park” is the sit-down restaurant that is in right field. If you desire to enjoy your meal in a climate-controlled atmosphere while watching the game, this is the place for you.
Pepsi products are sold at Harbor Park, and are offered in both bottle and fountain. Aquafina bottled water and Lipton Tea are also offered in bottles. For the fourth season, craft beer is offered at Harbor Park and are offered on tap, in cans, and in bottles. A mainstay of this selection is O’Connors Norfolk Canyon, as well as other local breweries including Smartmouth, Coelacanth, and Commonwealth.
A good recommendation would be to try the All Beef Jumbo Dog topped with chili, a soft pretzel, along with your choice of beverage.
Most of the seating at Harbor Park is in the lower bowl below the concourse. There are also two upper decks on either side of the press box and suites down the first and third base lines, respectively. All seats are chair-back and include cupholders. A mini-concourse splits the lower bowl into two levels, and seems unnecessary as it pushes seats farther away from the field. The playing surface is a well-manicured natural grass surface. Dimensions are 333 feet to left-field, 410 to center-field, and 318 feet to right-field. One unique feature to Harbor Park is the train-trestle beyond the outfield wall, which general has a train cross at least a couple times a game. There are 24 luxury skyboxes on the upper level that have 400 seats. The scoreboard in right field offers the traditional line score, while the video board is in left field. However, both are a little dated and could use some upgrades.
Two mascots at Harbor Park help keep kids and fans entertained: Triton and Rip Tide. Both interact with fans, and Rip Tide can often be seen riding on a four-wheeler in between innings.
Several seating options are available at Harbor Park. The upper deck provides a great perspective of the action and a nice view of the Elizabeth River. For those who desire to be close to the action, the 100 section of the lower level is your best bet.
Harbor Park is located about a mile from downtown Norfolk just off of I-264. While there is little to do in the immediate walking vicinity of Harbor Park, there are a plethora of restaurants and other activities located in downtown Norfolk. Unfortunately, it is difficult to walk to the downtown area from Harbor Park; however, the Tide light rail makes it easy to get to and from Harbor Park from the downtown area.
Waterside District is located in downtown Norfolk along the Elizabeth River, and is a great place to hang out before and after games. There are several restaurants located at Waterside including Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse and Blue Moon Taphouse. Many other local restaurants and bars are also located on Granby Street in downtown Norfolk.
In the Hampton Roads, there is no shortage of activities to do when in town for a Tides games. Be sure to check out Nauticus, which features the USS Wisconsin, which can be boarded and explored. The Virginia Zoo is also located in Norfolk and is a must see, especially for those with families or children. Other potential activities include the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, which is about a half hour’s drive from downtown Norfolk; and Colonial Williamsburg, which is only an hour from Norfolk.
Hilton Norfolk the Main should be your first choice for lodging if spending the night in downtown Norfolk. It is a brand new hotel, and offers stunning views of the Elizabeth River. Your second choice would be the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, which is located near the Waterside district.
The fan support at Harbor Park is just about what you would expect for a minor league franchise. On the weekends, when there are promotions such as fireworks expect a near capacity crowd. However, on weeknights expect the stadium to only be about half full. In 2017, the Tides averaged just over 5400 fans a game, which is in the bottom third in the International League.
Like many minor league games, Tides games seem generally like a social event with only a few die-hards following the game pitch by pitch. Expect the crowd to only get loud and involved when there is a big play, such as a Tides home run.
Since Harbor Park is located right off I-264, it is not hard to find. However, the traffic (especially the tunnels) around Norfolk can be a nightmare at times and can make it difficult to get to Harbor Park. Once inside the ballpark, navigation is fairly easy on the main concourse. Expect the concourse to get crowded though if there is a large crowd.
There are several public transportation options to take advantage of if you do not want to drive to Harbor Park. One is the aforementioned Tide light rail system, which makes it easy to get from downtown to Harbor Park. A unique way to travel to Harbor Park is to park across the river in Portsmouth and take the Elizabeth River Ferry directly to Harbor Park. This ferry runs every 30 minutes beginning one hour prior to game time and continues until one hour after, and eliminates the headaches of travel to Norfolk through the tunnels. The Amtrak station is also located across the parking lot from Harbor Park and is an option if you want to take the train to Norfolk. Norfolk International Airport is only about 15 minutes from Harbor Park and offers access to several major airlines including Delta, American, United, and Southwest.
Parking is plentiful in the lots surrounding Harbor Park. Cost of parking is only $5, but only cash is accepted. The gates entering Harbor Park tend to be slow and can get back upped, even though there is very little security when entering. Even though it will cost you extra fees, consider buying tickets online and printing before you arrive. The box offices are small and lines are often slow.
Once inside the park, movement is easy around the stadium on both the main concourse and the lower concourse. When there is a large crowd in attendance, the concessions lines tend to block the freedom of movement along the upper concourse. There are approximately 250 handicap seats available at Harbor Park, which makes it easy on those who need assistance with mobility.
Return on Investment 4
The cost involved in attending a Tides games is on par with the majority of minor league baseball venues. Lower level box seats are $13 when purchased in advance, and $15 when purchased on game day. Both lower level and upper level reserved are $13 in advance and $14 on game day. With low priced parking and public transportation, a night at Harbor Park is certainly worth the investment to see some future major leaguers.
One extra point for friendly ushers who wipe down your seat before you sit down. A second extra is the view of the Elizabeth River from any seat. If you are lucky, you may even see a train cross the trestle over the Elizabeth River!
A ballpark that offers affordable pricing, excellent location, and downtown destinations is a great way to enjoy a baseball game during the summer months. If you are looking for a great weekend getaway, Norfolk’s Harbor Yard is just your ticket.