Jacksonville’s Wolfson Park Now the NFL Jaguars’ Practice Field

December 12th, 2016
by Byron Bennett

Jacksonville Baseball Park was located at 1201 East Duval Street in Jacksonville, Florida, just northwest of the former Gator Bowl.

Gator Bowl Sports Complex, Jacksonville, Florida (Postcard Curteichcolor, Seminole Souvenirs, Inc.)

Constructed in 1954, the ballpark opened in March 1955, hosting a spring training game between the Washington Senators and the Cincinnati Reds. That same month, the ballpark hosted another spring training game between the soon-to-be World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers and the Milwaukee Braves.

Aerial view of Baseball Park, Gator Bowl, Matthews Bridge on the St. John’s River (Postcard Plastichrome by Colourpicture Publishers Boston MA, Charles Smith Studio, Jacksonville, Florida)

Jacksonville Baseball Park replaced Durkee Field (later renamed J. P. Small Memorial Park) which had hosted baseball in Jacksonville since 1911. J.P. Smalls Memorial Park remains to this day, located just 3.5 miles northwest of the former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park.

J.P. Smalls Park Memorial Park, Jacksonville, Florida, Where Baseball Has Been Played Since 1911

In April 1955, the Jacksonville Braves moved to Jacksonville Baseball Park. The owner of the team at the time was Samuel W. Wolfson. Wolfson sold the team in 1958 to Hall of Famer Bill Terry and became President of the South Atlantic League. After Wolfson died unexpectedly in 1963, the ballpark was renamed Samuel W. Wolfson Baseball Park in his honor.

Postcard of Wolfson Park, Jacksonville, Florida (Photo By Chris Nichol)

Wolfson Park was the home ballpark of the single-A South Atlantic League Jacksonville Braves from 1955 to 1960, and the Jacksonville Jets in 1961. In 1962 the triple-A International League Jacksonville Suns took up residence at Wolfson Park, playing there through the 1968 season. In 1970, the double-A Southern League Jacksonville Suns took up residence for one year, followed by the double-A Dixie Association Jacksonville Suns in 1971. In 1972, the Southern League Jacksonville Suns returned to Wolfson Park. In 1984, Suns’ owner Lou Eliopulos sold the team to Peter Bragan. Eliopulos purchased a South Atlantic League affiliate and moved it to Hagerstown, Maryland, keeping the Suns as the team name. Jacksonville changed its name to the Expos beginning in 1985, which it remained through the 1990 season. In 1991, Jacksonville changed its name back to the Suns, which is why there currently are two minor league teams, both with the name Suns.

Intersection Of Duval and Franklin Streets, Former Site Of Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The Jacksonville Suns played their last home game at Wolfson Park in September 2002. Wolfson Park was demolished that same year, soon after the Suns departed.

Duval Street, Looking East Toward Former Site Of First Base Grandstand, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Franklin Streets Looking North, Former Site Of Third Base Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Park, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

In 2003, the Suns moved into a brand new stadium known now as Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, located at 301 A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, just two blocks southwest of Wolfson Park.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former site of Wolfson Park is now occupied by practice fields for the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars.

Entrance to Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park

The naming rights for the practice fields is owned by Florida Blue, a health insurance company.

Former Location of Home Plate, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The practice fields are adjacent to EverBank Field, the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. EverBank Field sits in the former location of the Gator Bowl.

EverBank Field, Home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville, Florida

Wolfson Park’s grandstand is long gone, but the playing field remains, although covered now with plastic grass and hash marks.

Former First Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Over the years, Wolfson Park was affiliated with 10 different major league organizations: the Milwaukee Braves (1955 – 1960), the Houston Colf 45’s (1961), the Cleveland Indians (1962 -1963, 1971), the St. Louis Cardinals (1964 – 1965), the New York Mets (1966 – 1968), the Kansas City Royals (1972 – 1983), the Montreal Expos (1984 – 1990), the Seattle Mariners (1991 – 1994), the Detroit Tigers (1995 – 2001), and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2002). In 1970, the Suns were unaffiliated with any major league organization.

Former Third Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

One aspect of Wolfson Park remains at the site – several of its light stanchions ring the practice fields, providing night time illumination for the Jaguars.

Light Stanchion, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

Out past the former site of center field are bleachers, which were added after the demolition of Wolfson Park.

Beachers, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium, Located Beyond What Was Once Center Field

The Sun’s current home is visible from the practice field bleachers.

Looking Southwest Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars) toward Jacksonville Baseball Grounds

And by the same token, the former site of Wolfson Park is visible beyond the current center field fence, just to the left of EverBank Field.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former light stanchions of Wolfson Park also are readily visible, especially from the walkway behind center field, looking in the direction of EverBank Field.

Looking Northeast From Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Toward Former Site of Jacksonville Stadium

Outside the south end zone of EverBank Field, the Jaguars are constructing Daily’s Place, a new amphitheater and indoor flex field, which is scheduled to open in May 2017. It is uncertain what impact the opening of Daily’s Place will have on the Jaguar’s current practice facility. However, paving the field and turning it into a parking lot, is a good guess.

Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

For now, however, there is still a playing field located on the former site of Wolfson Park, albeit for professional football. Time will tell whether professional sports or sports of any kind will continue to be played at that site.

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