At the conclusion of its 20th season, Arthur W. Purdue Stadium will begin undergoing major changes. The home to the Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A; Sally League) is slated to go through a $4 million, two-phase renovation that will improve both player and fan amenities.
The renovations—which are being funded with contributions from the Shorebirds, Wicomico County and the State of Maryland—will begin with behind-the-scene improvements and a new playing surface for the 2016 season. In order to maximize the renovation’s potential, the Shorebirds are waiting until 2017 to roll out more visible improvements. “We wanted all of the fan amenities to be one big splash, and not piecemeal,” said Shorebirds general manager Chris Bitters.
Between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the Shorebirds will make several improvements to the ballpark. In what Bitters called a “key piece” to the renovation, a new boardwalk-themed wraparound concourse will surround the field. New tiers will be added to the current group area down the right-field line, while the left-field side will see an increase in group and standing room options as well as slope adjustments to the current berm seating. Also in the works is a plan to remove the current metal bench-styled seating in the second level in favor of fold-down stadium seats.
The goal in making these adjustments to the berm, group, and standing areas is to give fans who prefer to wander during their visits more options, all the while making the stadium feel less congested on crowded nights. “That’s going to be a huge hit, particularly on our busier night,” said Bitters. “When we are full now, people are hanging out on the concourse,” reflecting a demand for more comfortable standing room.
One of the most crucial aspects of this phase of the renovation will be a brand new videoboard. Perdue Stadium has used the same videoboard since opening in 1996, which, according to Bitters, limits what the Shorebirds can do from a promotional standpoint. With a more modern board, he said that fans can expect better animations, more interactive promotions, and instant replays as part of a more modern experience. “For our fans, having seen those at Camden Yards and other ballparks, they kind of have come to expect that stuff.”
With a solid game-day experience, the Shorebirds have been a steady franchise that has maintained good attendance figures since arriving to Salisbury in 1996, when Perdue Stadium opened for the relocating Albany Polecats. This is reflected when visiting Perdue Stadium in its current form, as it is already a respectably designed ballpark with a laidback game-day experience.
The ballpark has the look and feel that is typical to other 1990s-era minor-league ballparks, as the concourse stands above the seating bowl, which is split between a lower VIP level and an upper-level general admission area. While most split-level concourses really serve as nothing more than walkways, the one at Perdue features two concession stands behind home plate as well as a lower-level entrance that is open to all fans.
The ballpark has a few different options for group areas, including a café-style space behind home plate along with a tiered deck down the right field line. The concessions on the main concourse feature a mix of standard ballpark food along with a few healthy food options, including black bean burgers and salads. Also on the main concourse is the team’s walk-in souvenir store, which was well stocked with higher-quality items the night of this visit. The Shorebirds sell a lot of merchandise produced by the Maryland-based Under Armor, including dry-fit shirts, sweatshirts, and zip-up windbreakers.
During the game featured in this story, the Shorebirds’ videoboard was not in operation, as it had been damaged by a recent thunderstorm. Therefore, this visit cannot evaluate the ways in which the Shorebirds can improve their use of the videoboard, but there is one aspect to keep in mind: A newer board means better parts that, if damaged, can be more easily replaced.
For fans looking to mix in a few pre- or post-game activities during their visit, there are a few options. Ocean City is about a 30-minute drive from the stadium. Downtown Salisbury—which features a few bar and restaurant options—is only a few miles from the ballpark, as is The Centre at Salisbury, a mall that anchors a bustling commercial district.
To this point, the Shorebirds have been a steady draw and provided a good baseball experience on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A visit to Perdue Stadium now not only showcases what the Shorebirds have to offer in the present, but offers a glimpse to what could be a very exciting future.