Posts Tagged ‘Payne Park’

Chain Of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida

March 1st, 2015

Chain Of Lakes Park (also known as Chain O’ Lakes Park) is located at 500 Cletus Allen Drive in Winter Haven, Florida. The ballpark opened in 1966 as the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter  Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Red Sox previously had trained in Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, from 1933 until 1958, with the exception of the war years from 1943 to 1945. From 1959 until their move to Winter Haven in 1966, they trained in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1971, the Red Sox relocated to Winter Haven their minor league spring training operation in Ocala, Florida.

Chain O' Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida - Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

Chain O’ Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida – Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

After the 1992 season, the Red Sox departed Winter Haven and relocated their spring training headquarters to Fort Myers, Florida, and City of Palms Park. All told, the Red Sox trained at Winter Haven for 26 seasons, the longest they ever had, or ever have, trained at one location.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox from 1993 t0 2011

In 1993, the Cleveland Indians moved their spring training home Chain of Lakes Park.

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Since 1947, the Indians had trained at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona.

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Cleveland Indians continued to train at Chain of Lakes Park until the end of the 2008 spring season, returning in 2009 to Arizona, and Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona.

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Minor league baseball was played Chain of Lakes Park every year that a major league team trained there as well, beginning with the Florida State League Winter Haven Sun Sox in 1966, the Winter Haven Mets in 1967, the Winter Haven Red Sox from 1969 to 1992, and the Gulf Coast League Indians from 1993 to 2008.

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Winter Haven had a covered grandstand from first base around the third base, providing fans plenty of shade from the Florida sun.

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although the ballpark was renovated prior to the Indians’ arrival in 1993, Chain of Lake Park retained much of its 1960s “charm.”

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

It was a wonderful place to watch a ballgame, whether from the grandstand or on the outfield berm behind left field.

Indian's Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Indian’s Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although not quite like Wrigley Field and Waveland Avenue in Chicago, a condominium development beyond right field provided owners  of the units who back up to the ballpark an excellent view of the action on the field.

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The same can be send for view provided the pitchers in the bullpen just beyond the right field corner.

Cleveland Indians Logos  on Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Watches the Action for from the Bullpen Just Beyond the Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The third base grandstand and bleachers were set into the side of a small hill which provided a nice touch of unencumbered green space.

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

One downside of the ballpark’s design was most of the concessions and souvenir stands were located down the third base line, making the area quite jammed during the game.

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

During the Indian’s time at Winter Haven, one of the true pleasures of attending a game there was the chance to meet and talk with Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who was a fixture at Indians spring training. For a modest charge of $10 he would autograph any item you brought with you, or for an additional $5 sign one of the pictures he had on hand.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

When grandstand seating for games sold out, it was still possible to buy a ticket and sit on the outfield berm. Sometimes it felt as if there were just as many fans sitting past the left field fence as there fans in the grandstand.

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Once the Indians announced their intentions to depart Chain of Lakes Park after the 2008 season, you could sense the disappointment of those who worked at the ballpark that professional baseball no longer would be played in Winter Haven.

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

For several years after the Indians departure, it looked as if Chain of Lakes Park might become yet another lost ballpark, as plans were floated for demolishing the site and constructing a shopping center and condominiums.

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The good news is that, at least for the foreseeable future, baseball will continue to be played at Chain of Lakes Park. Winter Haven has turned the former spring training site into a first class amateur baseball venue with events held by such organizations as The World Amateur Baseball Association and college invitational tournaments, including the RussMatt Central Florida Collegiate Baseball Invitational.

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City of Palms Park – The Red Sox First Spring Training Home In Fort Myers

February 27th, 2015

City of Palms Park is located at 2201 Edison Avenue in Fort Myers, Florida. Constructed in 1992, it is the newest Grapefruit League venue already abandoned as a major league spring training home. Only Tucson Electric Park in Tucson, Arizona, built in 1998 and abandoned by major league baseball in 2010, is newer.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park was the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox from 1993 through 2011. The Gulf Coast League Red Sox also played at City of Palms Park during those same years.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The Red Sox relocated to Fort Myers from Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven Florida, where they had trained since 1966.

Lee County Sports Authority Sign, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Lee County Sports Authority Sign, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

As a spring training facility, City of Palms Park was a great place to watch a ballgame. It’s one major drawback, which helped lead to the Red Sox’s departure, was its lack of sufficient training fields located adjacent to the stadium to handle all of the Red Sox major league and minor league players. As such, the Red Sox played their exhibition games at City of Palms Park, but trained (both major and minor league players) two and a half miles away at the Lee County Player Development Complex.

Entrance to City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Because of its relatively young age, the stadium featured many of the more modern upgrades teams and fans have come to expect at spring training venues.

Starting Lineup , City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Starting Lineup , City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The stadium entrance was sufficiently wide to allow fans easy entry.

Front Entrance Gates, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Front Entrance Gates, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Still, the uncovered concourse around the stadium could get fairly packed during sold out Red Sox games.

Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to the Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to the Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The ballpark included plenty of options and places to purchase food and souvenirs.

Souvenir Stand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Souvenir Stand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Souvenirs, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Souvenirs, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

One of the ballpark’s best features was its wide, expansive roof over the grandstand, providing plenty of shade to fans sitting underneath.

View of Grandstand from Left Field Line, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand from Left Field Line, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Press Box and Suites, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Press Box and Suites, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Down the right field line was a covered eating area featuring Red Sox retired jersey numbers.

Red Sox Retired Player Numbers Honored at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Retired Player Numbers Honored at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Near the right field corner was berm seating.

Right Field Berm, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Berm, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The right field porch included a bench table seating area, similar to seating at Fenway Park above the Green Monster in left field.

View of Grandstand From Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand From Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Porch,  City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The bullpens were located beyond the outfield fence.

DSCN1597 copy

John Lackey Warming Up In Outfield at  City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

John Lackey Warming Up In Outfield at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The scoreboard at City of Palms Park was old school, although not as old school as Fenway Park’s manually operated scoreboard.

Scoreboard, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Scoreboard, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park was  picturesque, a wonderful place to watch a ball game. After the Red Sox announced they would be leaving ,Cit of Palms Park it seemed a shame that professional baseball no longer would be played there.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 2012, the Red Sox relocated 14 miles southeast of City of Palms Park to brand new Jet Blue Stadium.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Unlike City of Palms Park, which is located near the heart of downtown Fort Myers, Jet Blue Stadium is located far from downtown, on land next to the Southwest Florida International Airport (which is appropriate given the name of the ballpark).

Jet Blue Stadium Construction Site, Circa 2011, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium Construction Site, Circa 2011, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

The Boston Red Sox are long-time spring training residents of Florida’s Grapefruit League. The ballparks they have called home have reflected the ever changing style of stadium construction:

"Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla." (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

Payne Park, “Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla.” (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

from Payne Park in Sarasota in the 1940s and 1950s, to Chain of Lake Parks in Winter Haven in the 1960s,

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter  Haven, Florida

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

to City of Palms Park,

View From the First Base Grandstand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View From the First Base Grandstand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

to Jet Blue Stadium.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

After the Red Sox departed City of Palms Park, Lee County attempted to convince the Washington Nationals to train at the stadium. After those efforts proved unsuccessful, City of Palms Park and practice field was reconfigured as a college softball and baseball park. Currently, the ballpark is home to the Florida SouthWestern State College Buccaneers baseball and softball teams. The good news is it does not appear that City of Palms Park will any time soon become a lost ballpark. And with a college team now resident there, it is still possible to see a game at City of Palms Park.

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Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium Redux

February 9th, 2015

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, is not a lost ballpark. However, the stadium as it existed in when it first opened in 1989 is long gone, replaced with a strikingly different ballpark that calls out for a deadballbaseball then and now comparison.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium as it exists today is modern, yet seemingly from an era much earlier than the ballpark it replaced. The transformation of the stadium is a reflection of the changes that professional baseball parks have undergone since the opening of Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. It seems fitting that the Baltimore Orioles – the organization that helped usher in the era of retro MLB ballparks –  likewise has brought new life to Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2011

Ed Smith Stadium is located at 2700 12th Street in Sarasota, Florida. The ballpark was constructed in 1988-1989 as the spring training home for Chicago White Sox, who moved into brand new Ed Smith Stadium after having trained the previous 28 years at Payne Park, some two miles southwest of Ed Smith Stadium. The White Sox lasted nine seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing Florida for the Cactus League and Tucson Electric Park in 1998.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In 1998 the Cincinnati Reds arrived at Ed Smith Stadium after having played the previous ten seasons at Plant City Stadium (and the 28 seasons prior to that at Tampa’s Al Lopez Field). The Reds played 12 seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing for  Goodyear, Arizona, and the Cactus League after the 2009 season. The Baltimore Orioles arrived the following year (in 1991 the Orioles shared Ed Smith Stadium with the White Sox for one season).

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Orioles played their 2010 spring games in old Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

At the end of the 2010 spring season, the Orioles and the City of Sarasota undertook a $32 million renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Although Ed Smith Stadium was constructed in the late 1980s, its design seemed firmly grounded in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Concrete was the stadium’s dominant architectural feature.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

The front entrance of old Ed Smith Stadium looked more like a motel than a ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

With the 2010 renovation, the boxy front entrance was replaced with a curved front and rotunda, built considerably closer to the intersection of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. The 2010 renovation brought to the ballpark a retro-vibe, drawing upon a variety of classic ballpark styles, including Brooklyn, New York’s former Ebbets Field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium’s plain exterior concrete walls and pillars were replaced with stucco, and stadium roof covered with Spanish roofing tiles.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The left field entrance to the ballpark, which provides access to the stadium from the main parking area, was significantly upgraded as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

A ornate, gated entrance was added, along with a wrought iron fence that runs the length of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue next to the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The entrance from the concourse behind home plate was nothing more than a concrete wall with section numbers directing fans to their seats.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

With the renovation, the concrete front entrance was replaced with a large rotunda and stairways leading to a second floor landing.

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The second floor likewise includes a rotunda with championship pennants encircled with several dozen Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Fittingly, the ballpark remains named after Ed Smith, a Sarasota resident and long time President of the Sarasota Sports Committee.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The March 1989 dedication plaque remains on display on the concourse, alongside a plaque honoring the 2010-2011 renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Another major change to the ballpark was the enclosure of the stadium concourse.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Concourse,  Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The playing field likewise underwent a makeover.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In addition to obvious changes like replacing logos and painting over the Cincinnati red with Orioles orange, the Orioles also installed a new drainage system and warning track.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The grandstand roof was expanded to provide more shade, running along both the first and third base lines.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The red plastic seating was replaced with green plastic seats from Camden Yards, removed during the 2010 renovation to the lower seating bowl of Oriole Park.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

One distinctive feature that remains somewhat unchanged is the exterior of the press box, although the Orioles did replace and expand the press box windows.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The old school digital clock scoreboard was replaced with a Jumbotron.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Ed Smith Stadium complex includes three regulation size practice fields. Those fields likewise underwent renovation.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Field, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ironically, one of the Cincinnati practice fields was named after former Oriole player and skipper Frank Robinson.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Frank Robinson Practice Field at Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The renovated practice fields are named only after numbers, not players.

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The practice fields remain a wonderful place to watch baseball for free.

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter, Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter at Practice Field no. 3, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

They also are a place where fans congregate hoping for an autograph or two.

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

When not used for spring training, Ed Smith Stadium hosts minor league baseball. Prior to the Orioles arrival, Ed Smith Stadium was the home stadium for the Florida State League Sarasota White Sox (1989-1993), the Sarasota Red Sox (1994-2004), and the Sarasota Reds (2004-2009). The ballpark also was home to the Gulf Coast League Reds from 2004 to 2009.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Gulf Coast League team plays some games at Ed Smith Stadium, although a good number are played on the practice fields behind the stadium.

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Old Ed Smith Stadium was not a bad place to watch a game. At the end what really matters is the game on the field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

However, there can be no doubt that the upgrades to the ballpark improved tremendously the fan experience at Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2012

The Orioles currently hold a 30 year lease for Ed Smith Stadium from the City of Sarasota. Should the Orioles remain to the end of that lease term, baseball will have been played for half a century at the southeast corner of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. It already is well on its way to being a classic, or even a historic ballpark.

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Baseballs and Superbowls – Tampa’s Al Lopez Field

January 24th, 2015

Al Lopez Field was located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue in Tampa, Florida.

Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida, Circa 1975

From 1955 to 1959 it was the Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox relocated to Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, in 1960.

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

From 1960 until 1987 Al Lopez Field was the Spring Training home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Ron Oester, Al Lopez Field, July 1985, Tampa, Florida

The Reds relocated their spring training home to Plant City, Florida, in 1988.

Jose Pegan, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida

The minor league Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League called Al Lopez Field home from 1957 to 1988.

Bob Robertson, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida

In 1966, the City of Tampa constructed Tampa Stadium just north of Al Lopez Field on West Ohio Avenue.

Pre-Game Cerermony, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1975, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida, With Tampa Stadium Visible In Background

Tampa Stadium was primarily a soccer and football venue, with notable tenants including the North American Soccer League Tampa Bay Rowdies  and the National Football League Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Stadium hosted Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984 (Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9), and Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991 (New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19).

Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Tampa Stadium and Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Al Lopez Field was demolished in 1989. In 1996 the City of Tampa began construction of Raymond James Stadium on the former site of Al Lopez Field. Al Lopez Field was located in what is now the Northeast quadrant Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

In the aerial photograph of Raymond James Stadium below (facing West), the site of Al Lopez Field is located in the bottom right quadrant of the stadium. The former site of Tampa Stadium, which was demolished in 1999, appears in the photograph below as the open grass field just to the right of Raymond James Stadium.

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida (photo is facing West)

The right field corner of Al Lopez Field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue. Raymond James Stadium East Gate now marks the spot.

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

The former site of right field is now a parking area that parallels North Himes Avenue and Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Center field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Ohio Avenue.

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

A significant portion of the former site of center field is now an asphalt parking area just north of Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

A patch of grass that sits in the shadow of the Raymond James Stadium sign at the northern end of the stadium marks the former site of left field.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

The former site of Al Lopez Field’s home plate sits in the north east corner of Raymond James Stadiums’ northern most end zone (the end zone near the pirate ship replica). Two Superbowls have been played at the former site of Al Lopez Field, Super Bowl XXXV on January 28, 2001 (Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7), and Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 (Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23).

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate - Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate – Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Spring Training baseball, as well as minor league baseball, is still played just a long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field. George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the New York Yankees, is located just one block to the northwest of the former ballpark site.

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

The Florida State League Tampa Yankees play their home games at Steinbrenner Field.

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

In 1992, the City of Tampa honored Tampa resident Al Lopez with a statute located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd, just a very long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field.

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

A plaque at the base of the statue notes that Al Lopez was born in nearby Ybor City on August 20, 1908, and provides an overview of his accomplishments in baseball: “Distinguished himself as a professional baseball player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, and Pittsburgh Pirates as a catcher, setting the original all-time record for most games caught in the Major Leagues. He further distinguished himself in Major League history as manager of the pennant-wining Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. For his admirable accomplishments in the Major Leagues as a player and Manager, he was Tampa’s first inductee into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977.”

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

The statute of Al Lopez is appropriately positioned, with the long-time catcher facing toward the former site of the ballpark named in his honor.

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

The statute is located in the southwest corner of Al Lopez Park, also dedicated to the memory of the Tampa native.

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

The sign at the park entrance (4810 North Himes Avenue) recognizes Al Lopez as “one of Tampa’s favorite sons.”

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Al Lopez Park includes a lake, picnic areas, walking trails, and a certified 5K running course.

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez lived much of his life in Tampa and nearby Ybor City. His former house in Ybor City was moved in 2013 from its original location at 1210 E 12th Avenue to 2003 N. 19th Street in Ybor City.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Located across the street from the Ybor City State Museum, Al Lopez’s former home now houses the Tampa Baseball Museum.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Tampa, Florida boast a rich baseball history. Should you find yourself in Tampa during Spring Training, be sure to take a moment to visit Al Lopez Park, with its statutory tribute to Al Lopez, as well as the Tampa Baseball Museum. And should you happen to find yourself attending a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game or a baseball game at nearby Steinbrenner Field, take a moment to appreciate the baseball history that once took place in the northern most end zone of Raymond James Stadium.

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Payne Park – Spring Training In Sarasota From John McGraw to Tony LaRussa

January 23rd, 2014

Payne Park was located at the southeast corner of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard in Sarasota, Florida. The stadium was part of a 60 acre park named in honor of Calvin Payne, a Sarasota winter resident  who donated the land to the city in 1923. From 1924 to 1988, the ballpark was the spring training home of four major league teams.

Payne Park, Sarasota, Florida (Sarasota County Government, scgov.net/History/Pages/PaynePark.aspx

John McGraw’s New York Giants were the first team to train at Payne Park. John Ringling (of Ringling Brothers Circus), who was a friend of McGraw’s and a Sarasota resident, convinced McGraw to bring his team to Florida.

Payne Park Postcard (M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

McGraw was so enamored with Sarasota that he invested in local real estate with the hopes of constructing  a housing development  known as Pennant Park on Sarasota Bay. When the Florida real estate bubble burst in 1927, McGraw left Sarasota and the following season his Giants trained in Augusta, Georgia.

Sarasota's "Payne Park" Home of the Chicago White Sox (West Coast Card Distributors, Sarasota FL, Mirror-Chrome Card, H.S. Crocker, Inc.)

From 1929 to 1932, the American Association Indianapolis Indians held spring training at Payne Park. In 1933 the Boston Red Sox moved their spring training operations from Savannah, Georgia, to Sarasota. The Red Sox trained at Payne Park for the next 25 years, until 1958, with the exception of the war years, 1943 to 1945.

Aerial View of Payne Park Circa 1960s (Photo Courtesy of Payne Park Tennis Center)

Once the Red Sox departed, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a few spring training games at Payne Park during the 1959 season, although they also continued to train at their facility in Vero Beach. The Chicago White Sox arrived at Payne Park in 1960, training there until 1988. In 1979, Tony LaRussa began his first of eight seasons training at Payne Park as manager of the Chicago White Sox. LaRussa eventually would win 2,728 games as manager, third on the all time list and just behind fellow former Payne Park resident John McGraw (2,763).

Payne Park, Sarasota County, Florida

Sarasota constructed a new ballpark two miles northeast of Payne Park to replace what was considered, after 65 season, to be an antiquated facility. Ed Smith Stadium, located at 2700 12th Street, opened in 1989 as the new spring training home for the White Sox, where they trained until 1997. Both the Cincinnati Reds (1998-2009) and the Baltimore Orioles (1991) trained there as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, Pre-Renovation (Circa 2004)

After the Reds departed Sarasota in 2009, the Orioles returned, moving into a completely refurbished ballpark in 2010.

Ed Smith Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Baltimore Orioles, Post-Renovation 2013

Payne Park was demolished in 1990. Sarasota constructed a tennis center on a portion of the former ballpark site.

Payne Park Tennis Center, Located on Former Site of Payne Park

Although the ballpark itself is gone, the player’s clubhouse, located at the intersection of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard, was preserved and is used today as offices and a clubhouse for the tennis center.

City of Sarasota Employee Health Center Located in a Portion of the Former Payne Park Clubhouse

In 2011, the City of Sarasota Employee Health Center was opened in a section of the building.

Payne Park Tennis Center Offices and Clubhouse

The tennis center  includes a memorial wall inside the clubhouse that tells the history of the site.

Interior of Payne Park Tennis Center

Included in the display are pictures of the ballpark and the players who called it their home.

Payne Park Tennis Center Wall of Fame Honoring Former Ball Field

Also included is a blueprint for the redevelopment of Payne Park, which shows the former location of the ballpark, and the tennis center that replaced it.

Blue Prints for Construction of Payne Park Tennis Center

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, seen to the left in the postcard below, once dominated the Sarasota skyline surrounding the ballpark .

"Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla." (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

Built in 1925 by John Ringling, the landmark, along with the old Sarasota County Courthouse tower (both seen in the postcard above), once dominated the skyline.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn

The hotel was purchased in 1962 by Arthur Allyn, Jr., co-owner of the Chicago White Sox, to house the team during spring training.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, Now a County Administrative Building

The former hotel (seen behind the larger office building to the right in the picture below) is useful in determining where the ballpark once sat.

Former Site of Payne Park, Approximate Location of Third Base Foul Territory, With former Terrace Park Hotel in Background

In 1972, Sarasota County purchased the building. It currently is used as a Sarasota County administration building.

Plaque Commemorating the Sarasota Terrace Hotel (Now the Sarasota County Administration Center)

Payne Park’s former infield, and a portion of the outfield, is covered by 12 regulation-size tennis courts (there are four rows of three courts each).

Former Site of Payne Park, Looking Toward Approximate Location of Home Plate

The former site of home plate is located in what is now the second row of tennis courts closer to Adams Lane.

Former Site of Payne Park, Infield between First and Second Base

The former outfield is encircled by two roads that date back to the time of Payne Park.

Parking Lot Adjacent to Payne Parkway that was Once On-site Parking for Payne Park

The first is Payne Parkway, which straddles the right field corner.

Payne Parkway, Looking South, From Right Field Corner

The second is Laurel Street, which intersects Payne Parkway and runs behind what was once center field, terminating at the former left field corner.

Termination of Laurel Street at Payne Park's Former Left Field Corner

A grass field occupies what was once the deepest part of center field.

Payne Park - Former Site of Center Field

Just to the east of Payne Park was once a mobile home park which opened in the 1920s.

"General View of Sarasota Trailer Park Alongside Baseball Park, Sarasota, Florida" (Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

Although the trailer park is now gone, one vestige remains – the Payne Park Auditorium, formerly known as the Sarasota Mobile Home Park Auditorium. Constructed in 1962, it  is located just beyond what was once center field at 2062 Laurel Street. The auditorium was built as a meeting place for mobile home park residents.

Payne Park Mobile Park and Auditorium

At the intersection of Adams Lane and East Avenue is a historic maker for Payne Park.

Sarasota County Historical Commission Plaque Honoring Payne Park

Behind the historical marker is a small outline of a ball field set in pavers.

Baseball Diamond at Payne Park

The sign is located in what was once a parking lot behind third base. Although Payne Park is long gone, it is still possible to play ball where some of baseball’s greatest stars once trained. You just need racket, not a bat and glove, in order to play.

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