Upon its opening for the Aberdeen IronBirds in 2002, Ripken Stadium represented the latest in the wave of new ballparks debuting for the New York-Penn League. Backed by the recently-retired Cal Ripken Jr, the ballpark was touted as a state-of-the-art facility that would anchor a development that included an adjacent youth baseball complex.
More than a decade later, the New York-Penn League’s ballpark landscape has changed to a certain extent—thanks to some franchise relocations, renovations to existing facilities, and the opening of new venues. Ripken Stadium, meanwhile, now goes by Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, the result of a naming rights deal that was reached with Leidos in 2015.
With some changes over the last 15 years, the gameday experience in Aberdeen does not feel the least bit stale. Thanks to some recent ballpark improvements and an emphasis on the fan experience, the IronBirds look to have a formula in place for maintaining a good gameday atmosphere at the facility.
The design of Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium is one that is certainly reflective of similar ballparks from its era—from the red brick façade, to the concourse that runs above a seating bowl that is adorned with green fold-down seats. Group areas are on the far ends of each foul line, and a kid’s zone containing several inflatables and other amusements is located down the left field line.
Where the IronBirds are excelling is on building upon these areas and adding some touches that help the facility to stand out. Prior to the 2017 season, the club announced that it had partnered with the City of Aberdeen to invest over $2 million in facility upgrades.
Some of those touches have certainly helped enhance the ballpark. The IronBirds added to their array of food offerings by incorporating several new concessions, including a BBQ station and a new specialty mac ‘n cheese concession stand. The mac ‘n cheese puts some local twists on traditional offerings, featuring a menu that includes a jumbo lump crab mac ‘n cheese dish and panini.
In the process of those improvements, the IronBirds added the Chesapeake Fresh area down the left field line. A mix of seafood options and craft beer offerings from the Delaware-based Dogfish Head, Chesapeake Fresh also functions well as a social space by providing picnic tables under a tent. There are a few other social spaces incorporated in the ballpark, including drink rails on the course down both foul lines.
Those looking for a good beer will not be limited to the Chesapeake Fresh. Throughout the ballpark, there is a mix of traditional favorites—including Natty Boh—and regionally-brewed craft beers.
Perhaps the most striking addition was that of a new videoboard. Located above the right-centerfield wall, the large display comes in at an estimated size of 30 feet high by 50 feet wide and has helped to enhance the game day production at the ballpark. It replaced the screen that was originally installed when the ballpark opened.
As noted earlier, Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium is not the lone baseball amenity in Aberdeen. Adjacent to the ballpark is a large amateur baseball complex that features replicas of several former and current major league ballparks—including Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Memorial Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium. The centerpiece of the complex is Cal Sr.’s Yard, a 2,000-fixed-seat replica of Orioles Park at Camden Yards. Cal Sr.’s Yard even features its own replica of the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards, with the Aberdeen warehouse featuring a Courtyard by Marriott and a Residence Inn.
It has been some time since the ballpark’s opening, but the IronBirds have kept the fan experience at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium fresh, making it a solid destination.