Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 17, 2014

Beer sales expected to enhance fan-friendly environment at Bowen

BLUEFIELD — Beer will be served at Bowen Field this summer.

Don’t expect it to change what Bluefield baseball has attempted to create in more than 70 years of professional baseball.

It might even make it better.

“It will definitely enhance the environment here,” said Jeff Gray, the general manager of the Bluefield Blue Jays. “It is still going to be a fan-friendly environment and that is our main goal.

“Minor and major league parks and sports throughout the country have it.”

Gray, in his second year in Bluefield, said plenty of thought went into the decision through Bluefield Baseball Club, Inc. to serve beer at Blue Jays games.

“We have taken precautions, it was a decision that we took a lot of time and really looked into it,” Gray said. “It was a decision that the board made and I think we are going to try to do it the best we can and not skimp out in any way, but still keep that family-friendly environment.

“We are putting huge family sections in, that should allow for families to come out and enjoy the ball park.”

Beer will be served from what is being called a ‘Beer Garden’, a sizable, fenced-in area along the left field foul line, which is only open to adults who are at least 21 years of age.

“No one can get in there unless you are 21 and older, even all our staff that will be in there are 21 and up,” Gray said. “We have taken the ABC course, we have consulted with the Virginia ABC very, very closely, and also with the other law enforcement folks around here.

“We have worked really hard to try and do it the right way and making it a responsible and enjoyable environment for everybody.”

Construction required moving the “Rail Birds” over a few feet toward the visiting team’s dugout, and a large protective net was erected to protect everyone on that side of the field from errant balls and bats.

The actual ‘garden’ itself will have tables, a serving area, and bar seating along the third base line.

“Basically what we did is we moved the ‘Rail Birds’ over three feet,” Gray said. “They are getting the same amount of space that they had, we have had several ‘Railbirds’ come up and tell us they are happy we put a net up,  there is a little more protection for them.

“There is a little bit different of a viewpoint, but we did cut the slats in the beer area so they can still see the whole area.”

Bowen Field is known for its exquisite sight lines, with perhaps the best backdrop in baseball with the trees beyond the outfield fences. Gray is confident nothing will change the view.

“I honestly think in this stadium there is no bad seat in Bowen Field,” Gray said. “There are not obstructed views or anything of that nature, I think we have the prettiest backdrop in minor league baseball, if not in all professional baseball.

“It is going to be a great environment, I really firmly believe that. We have worked hard and we are going to continue to work hard for our fans to make it an enjoyable environment for everybody.”

Beer will only be available through the “Beer Garden” and fans can bring a beverage into the bleachers, but only in the two rows on the far right and left of the eight sections at Bowen Field.

The four large middle sections are labeled as “Family Section” and beer won’t be allowed in those seats.

“They can go up into the stands, but there are selected seating areas that are going to be family sections where no beer is going to be allowed,” Gray said. “We are going to have security to monitor that, all people that are drinking beer will have to have wristbands.

“We are going to have a designated driver initiatives, enhanced security, we are really going to be on top of it and make sure it is done in a safe and responsible way.”  

—Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson

@bdtonline.com / Twitter @bdtwoodson

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