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  • Jay Wagner

Monongalia County Ballpark – West Virginia Black Bears


Photos by Jay Wagner, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Monongalia County Ballpark 2040 Gyorko Dr Granville, WV 26534


Year Opened: 2015

Capacity: 3,500

 

Almost Heaven

Granville, West Virginia is a town few may have heard of. After all, the entire land area of Granville is just 1.3 square miles. But in 2015, the 781-resident area got a sparkling 3,500-seat ballpark to call its own. The Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League announced relocation to the Morgantown Metropolitan Area in 2014, and WVU’s baseball club had needed a new ballpark for years to replace aging Hawley Field.

After years of planning, construction on West Virginia’s new baseball facility began in 2013. Two years later, Mon County Ballpark saw its first hardball action with a Mountaineer win over Butler on April 10th, 2015.

The park’s opening was delayed by nearly two months due to an onslaught of inclement weather during the final stages of construction. The Jammers’ new branding was announced as the West Virginia Black Bears, and the new minor league team moved in with WVU at Monongalia County Ballpark in the summer of 2015.

Since its inaugural season, the ballpark has been hailed as one of the greatest for both NCAA and MiLB. West Virginia’s attendance has skyrocketed to the top 40 in Division 1, and various stadium review websites have praised it as the “best short-season ballpark in the minors.”


Food & Beverage 4

Monongalia County Ballpark offers several concession items that are unique to the Mountain State. Pepperoni rolls are Morgantown’s favorite food, and they are served at all standard concession stands for $5. The more basic items are priced on the higher side of the average, but only slightly. A chicken tender basket is $9, a pretzel costs $4.50, and regular and souvenir Coca-Cola sodas are priced at $5 and $6, respectively. Various beer vendors are clustered down the first baseline, and wine is also available at most concession stands. Because of the wide-open concourse, there is minimal wait time in the lines.


Atmosphere 3

Monongalia County Ballpark’s seating bowl is just one level, with chair-back grandstand seats covered by the overhang. The blue seats extend around both dugouts. A grassy hill is located down both the right and left field lines, and when not closed due to rainy weather, is a great seating option for families. If you are looking for more unique seating options, a party deck and home run porch overlook the Black Bears bullpen near the right field foul pole.


One of the more unique seating options in all of minor league baseball is the “Back Yard” in the right-center field. The outfield fence transitions to a chain link fence for a short portion, and behind it is an outdoor lounge area that is accessible to all fans. The Back Yard is complete with lengthy couches to watch the game from in comfort, as well as tables and chairs covered by large umbrellas.


As for in-game entertainment, it’s about what’s to be expected from minor-league baseball. None of the between-inning contests are overly innovative, but there is still a focus on fun for the entire family at Black Bears games.


Perhaps the greatest element of the game day experience in Granville is Mother Nature. The stunning backdrop features majestic mountains through the light smoky fog in all directions. Many university landmarks can be seen from Mon County Ballpark, such as WVU Coliseum.


Neighborhood 3

The population of Granville was measured at 781 in the 2010 census. However, the town now has an estimated population of over 2,500. Although it’s still a tiny town, that large of an increase in under a decade is remarkable. It’s safe to say that Monongalia County Ballpark was a key player in Granville’s relatively rapid growth.

University Town Center is the name of the neighborhood which has been built around the ballpark, and it’s got plenty of great chain restaurants, such as Olive Garden. Buffalo Wild Wings is visible from the ballpark, which is always a good pregame spot for sports fans. The very closest building to Mon County is the new Courtyard by Marriott Morgantown, which is an ideal option for lodging.

Right across the Monongahela River in Morgantown, home to the beautiful campus of WVU. If you enjoy outdoor excursions, you cannot miss this opportunity to explore Wild and Wonderful West Virginia while you’re here! Among the most notable scenic spots is Dorsey’s Knob Park. The 70-acre park has several hiking trails, and Sky Rock at the very top gives you a breathtaking look at the city of Morgantown.


Fans 3

The opening of Monongalia County Ballpark exponentially increased enthusiasm about the dormant West Virginia University program. Fans flocked to the new ballpark across the Monongahela River from Morgantown, averaging a turnout of over 1,800 for Mountaineer home games.

The Black Bears have done very well themselves in terms of fan excitement, as the new ballpark has facilitated the development of its neighborhood, University Town Center. Although games are generally not packed with fans, the fans of the hometown West Virginia Black Bears in attendance remain responsive throughout the ballgame. The Black Bears ranked third-to-last in 2019 attendance for the New York-Penn League, averaging 1,699 fans per game.

However, Monongalia County Ballpark is one of the smallest in the league, making the average Black Bears game a 68% capacity crowd – almost the same as the attendance leader of the NYP League, the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Access 5

Because Monongalia County Ballpark facilitated the growth of its neighborhood, all nearby construction was done with fan access in mind. The venue is located directly off Interstate-79. After exiting toward Granville, University Town Center Drive takes you to the ballpark in less than a mile.


Two main parking lots are servicing Mon County Ballpark, and both are priced at $5. Lot 1 sits across Gyorko Drive beyond the center field. Lot 2, which is even closer to the gates, is located just beyond the team clubhouses in the right field. Overflow parking is available right around the corner at Walmart, Sam’s Club, and the WVU Hospital. You may enter at the ballpark at the gates from either the left or right field. Concourses are extremely wide, and the field remains visible from the walkway. The bathrooms are plentiful, spacious, and clean.


Please be advised that the ballpark implemented a clear bag policy in 2017. This means that all bags must be no larger than 12” x 6” x 12”, and must be transparent. Small clutch bags no larger than 4.5” x 6.5” are the only exception to the clear bag policy.

Return on Investment 4

As is the case with the food and beverage rates, the ticket prices lean to the more expensive side of neutral, but only slightly. Tickets are priced at $12.50 for premium grandstand seating behind the plate, $10.50 for reserved seating behind the dugouts, and $8.50 for standing room only.


Parking rates, however, present a great value – a $5 investment will set you up for a two-minute walk to the gates. Any further analysis of return on investment seems like splitting hairs. Even if a ticket, hot dog, and parking at Monongalia County Ballpark cost $3 more than the average minor league park, does that make it any less affordable for anyone? Probably not.


Extras 2

2018-19 Bob Sheppard P.A. Announcer of the Year, Bill Nevin, is the voice of Monongalia County Ballpark. Nevin is also the public address announcer for WVU football, men’s basketball, baseball, rifle, and marching band as well as the Black Bears, Nevin’s baritone voice can seemingly be heard from miles away, and his professionalism adds a layer to the fan experience in Granville.

Also, the Black Bears go the extra mile to display their affiliation with their parent club, the nearby Pittsburgh Pirates. On-screen graphics routinely show the two team’s logos side by side, and there is a sign inside the park that reads, “The Bucs Start Here.” Pittsburgh and Morgantown are separated by just 75 miles, and the Black Bears’ pride in their affiliation aids in creating a sense of pride with the fan base, since so many baseball fans in West Virginia already root for the Pirates.


Final Thoughts

Sporting venues today often become an either/or situation – either a stadium is new and luxurious, or it has character. The construction of Monongalia County Ballpark proved that doesn’t always have to be the case. In addition to being as gorgeous as any, the ballpark finds a way to nestle itself perfectly into the iconic setting of West Virginia. With the Monongahela River, mountain ranges, and WVU as the backdrop for this pristine facility, it doesn’t get any more Wild and Wonderful than Monongalia County Ballpark.



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