Went to my first ballgame of the 2006 season this past Saturday at the newly branded MerchantsAuto.com Stadium (not sure why the "dot com" is needed as it sure makes for an odd name). As it was in '05, the area surrounding the ballpark is still a construction zone. But the Hilton Garden Inn that has arisen behind the left field fence at least adds some character to the ballpark (some even may call it "Camdenesque"). Still, it's not a park that impresses me very much. It is serviceable, but there is little which distinguishes it from numerous other ballparks built in the past 10 years. Some have raved about the riverfront location, but to me this is overrated since there isn't one seat in the ballpark that actually has a view of the river. Only a small portion of the 3rd base concourse has a view. It's a shame that the architect couldn't take better advantage of what should have been a scenic location.
Despite being in only year 2 of the ballpark, the atmosphere already feels stale. There is little creativity behind the on field promotions and the soundtrack is in sore need of updating. On the plus side, the Fisher Cats have upgraded their concessions with the addition of some seafood plates as well as meatball sandwiches and chili. At least the variety is now better than most ballparks in the northeast.
As for the games (it was a scheduled doubleheader), they were about as contrasting as could be. The Rock Cats won the first game 14-5, which featured a combined 7 home runs. The second game was a pitcher's duel, with the Fisher Cats winning 1-0 on a walk-off home run by David Smith. With a very short right field, MerchantsAuto.com Stadium sure appears to be a hitter's ballpark.