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Al Lang Stadium

St. Petersburg, FL

Home of the St. Pete International Baseball

4.1

3.6

Al Lang Stadium (map it)
230 1st St SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701


St. Pete International Baseball website

Al Lang Stadium website

Year Opened: 1947

Capacity: 7,227

There are no tickets available at this time.

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The Epicenter of Spring Training

Nestled between the office and condo towers, museums, theaters, and parks of downtown St. Petersburg is an unsuspecting icon, one that's been the home of America's Pastime and instrumental in keeping baseball's owners, players, and fans to Florida since 1947. No, because of the age, I'm obviously not talking about Tropicana Field. Baseball's been in St. Pete long before the "dome" as a building design was even conceived, thanks to the namesake of the current ballpark by the bay, Al Lang Stadium.

Before World War I, spring baseball was in Florida, but transportation costs (trains being the only practical way to travel then) were starting to take their toll, with most teams opting to practice near their home cities. In fact, the Cubs, whose longtime spring home was in Tampa, were plotting their escape to more populated communes out west.

Enter St. Pete mayor, Al Lang.

In 1914, he convinced the St. Louis Browns to play at a specially-built park, Coffee Pot Park, in the current Old Northeast neighborhood of St. Pete. Since this was before the bridges across Tampa Bay were built, the Cubs took a ferry across the bay to get there for the games. The next year, the Phillies moved into Coffee Pot Park, and there they remained until World War I broke out and forced all teams to play near their homes anyway.

Mayor Lang wasn't finished, as he once again convinced a team, this time the Boston Braves, to play here; he coaxed them with a new park, Waterfront Park, this time along Tampa Bay in the area of today's DalĂ Museum. Following the Braves down, the Yankees came down from New Orleans in 1925, and the rest is history. In all, eight MLB teams have called any of the three parks in St. Pete their spring home: the Browns (and again as the Orioles from 1991-1995), Phillies, Braves, Yankees, Cardinals, New York Giants, Mets, and Rays.

But then, something happened in 2009: they stop coming. Just like that.

The failed attempt the Rays made to replace the Trop with a new waterfront park at Al Lang Stadium scared away any prospective tenants, while nixing any plans to renovate the venerable old park, last rehabbed in 1976. However, this didn't deter the new mayor, Bill Foster, from bringing baseball back in some form, and after years of work by the former administration and his, International Baseball has been opened. Both the Canadian national baseball team and Dutch national baseball team, as well as the Nexen Heroes from Korea Professional Baseball, all play at Al Lang against some of the same MLB teams that played in this city long ago - along with summertime action in the form of the North American Soccer League team Tampa Bay Rowdies, bringing new life to this historic park.

4.1

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    4

There are plenty of locations in the park for food, and while the food's your typical ballpark fare (hot dogs, chicken fingers, cracker jacks), not a single item on the menu is over $5. Not one — not even beer, where the specials are Coronas bottles or Bud draughts are only $5. Depending on what you get, it might even be cheaper to eat here than some of the restaurants downtown. And the food was as good as you'd expect, so there's not really a disappointment to report.

Atmosphere    3

The stadium is 35 years removed from its last major renovation, so of course there will be some things that are dated. The seats are not very comfortable, nor do a lot of the reserved seats actually spring back up correctly. The general admission is aluminum bench-seating, though it does have backs to those seats, and the upper-half of general admission is under a concrete-and-wood awning. Also, sitting in the upper section causes the audio to be quiet and muffled, as it seems the speakers are faced down and out.

However, all is not doom-and-gloom here, as just over the 3rd baseline is the money shot: Tampa Bay. Plus, it's in the heart of downtown, so Al Lang is easily accessible from all points in the Bay Area. Lastly, there's not a single bad seat in the house; it may be showing its age, but the stadium will, like a cougar, lie and pretend it's younger.

Neighborhood    5

I tried asking my editor to let me make an exception and call this a 6 stars of 5; he told me the website program just doesn't allow it. Quite a pity, because I think a perfect score doesn't do it justice. Where else can you walk from a baseball game to three theaters; five museums; a bona fide IndyCar race track; a Major League stadium; three concert venues; four night clubs; over 10 hotels and B&Bs; and countless bars, shops, and restaurants, all in a space of 10 blocks? Where else can you go to the game in your boat or private plane? Yes, there is even public, metered boat parking in the Municipal Marina 3 blocks from the stadium, as well as a general aviation airport, Albert Whitted Airport, 4 blocks south.

Tell me in the Comments below about any other stadium that allows for that much variety in a few square miles. Go ahead...I'll wait.

Fans    4

This was the most-surprising aspect of this park to be honest. Since the home teams are international teams most Americans have never heard of, let alone followed on a semi-regular basis, I expected this to be a virtual home game for the "visiting" Rays (which still sounds wrong to say in St. Pete, by the way). While Rays fans did (naturally) outnumber Dutch fans, the split wasn't as bad as I thought it would be — maybe only 65% were Rays fans. The Dutch had a great following, which speaks volumes to the International Baseball program, as well to the renewed longevity of Al Lang.

Access    4

Being downtown, there are plenty of places to park off-site (onsite parking is pretty limited), be them in public garages and signed private garages. Also, since the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is usually the last weekend of March, the setup for the race does limit movement around Al Lang for the vast majority of the spring training session, since the ballpark, after all, is smack dab in the middle of the track.

Otherwise, with easy access from all points in the Tampa Bay area by Interstate 275 (via I-175 and I-375), U.S. Route 92 (a.k.a. 4th Street), and Alternate U.S. Route 19 (5th Avenue North), getting here is a breeze. Once inside, the main concourse is very wide — even with queues at any kiosk — and the bathrooms are large, clean, and plentiful (however, as an aside, be forewarned that the urinals in the men's rooms have no partitions whatsoever — added or built in to the ceramic — so bladder-shy people might not feel comfortable using them).

Return on Investment    4

With the minimum investment of $6 ($10 for games versus MLB teams) and $5 or less food, you get a great time watching good teams play next to Tampa Bay with a view of everything from all spots. Expect to see more teams coming from Asia, especially from the Nippon Leagues, in the coming seasons due to the popularity of these games. The high quality of teams they have proves baseball is here to stay on the waterfront, and it's only going to get better.

Extras    5

Again, you have the vast majority of downtown and everything it has to offer within a 15-minute walk of Al Lang, so that accounts for most of the extras.

Within the stadium, there are storyboards and displays showing the history of baseball in St. Petersburg, with old photographs of the greats that have come through the parks. Also, there's no other spot in the US where you can see a minor-league grade park from a major league park, and vice versa.

The two are connected by "Baseball Boulevard", a series of plaques and monuments that connect the two parks along Central Avenue. As of this moment, the plaques from Al Lang's front gate to MLK Street have been removed and placed around the main entrance to Al Lang; when I asked officials in charge of St. Pete International Baseball as to if or when they'll be returned to their rightful places, they didn't know anything, either.

Final Thoughts

The namesake stadium of the "father of modern spring training" almost faced the wrecking ball as late as two years ago. It was believed this jewel would be lost forever for the new pride of the Rays that will now never be. The stadium that just won't go quietly is showing its age; while worn, technologically-impaired, and spartan, it has all the heart and soul of a centenarian that has done and seen it all and would like to share those experiences with you.

Going to Al Lang Stadium is like taking a trip back to the days when Ozzie Smith, Darryl Strawberry, Cal Ripken, Jr., all played here. Look closely, you may even see Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Iowa may have a "field of dreams", but St. Pete has the "field of dreams realized." You should realize your dreams there, too.

International Baseball program

Hi Jim -

Nice review.

Do you have a website address that might give me more information on international baseball (especially games played here in the US)?

I'm doing a FL trip in 2012 or 2013 and will include Al Lang Stadium during that trip.

Meg

by megminard | Mar 20, 2011 02:27 PM

RE: International Baseball program

Jim -

Nevermind... I found it. The link at the top of the page. duh...

Meg

by megminard | Mar 20, 2011 02:31 PM

RE: RE: International Baseball program

Oh, you mean the one that says "St. Pete International Baseball website" to the right of the pictures? ;-)

Glad to hear you're coming down, Meg. I know you'll have a great time there.

I'm really just glad it not only survived the wrecking ball (though the new Rays stadium would have been great there, too), but has life once again. Nothing is more depressing than a mothballed ballpark.

by StPeteRays | Mar 20, 2011 03:40 PM

Soccer Thrives Here, Too!

So, as a quick follow-up to my above review, I recently attended a soccer match, featuring the reborn FC Tampa Bay (http://www.fctampabay.com) and the Puerto Rico Islanders, both of the newly-formed North American Soccer League (http://www.nasl.com/), the 2nd-tier of the American soccer pyramid, right behind Major League Soccer.

FC Tampa Bay, also unofficially-known as the "Rowdies", is the third attempt at professional soccer in the Tampa Bay area. The first attempt was also officially known as the Rowdies, and played from 1976-1993 in the original NASL; they were wildly-popular, but due to the league shutdown, they were forced to close. The second team, Tampa Bay Mutiny, played in the brand-new MLS from the league's inception in 1995 until they were contracted in 2001 along with the other Florida team, the Miami Fusion.

This third team, originally called the Rowdies, but due to copyright issues dropped the name after the 2010 season, started play last year at Steinbrenner Field (see my review of that ballpark here: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/george-m-steinbrenner-field-s342/) in the now-defunct USL. While they enjoyed the arrangement with the Tampa Yankees, the main reasons for leaving were the weird scheduling and dirt on the pitch, both caused by having another full-time tenant there. With Al Lang empty after spring training is over, this was the perfect opportunity for both the team and the city of St. Pete to make good use of this great park. So, until a new home is built for them, FC Tampa Bay is staying in Al Lang until at least the end of 2012.

The pitch is set up actually quite well for being built as a baseball stadium; it starts just shy of the 3rd-base dugout and runs toward right field up the 1st-base line, ending a few feet from the outfield wall. The infield was removed and turf installed in its place.

Though no temporary stands were build on the far side of the pitch (where the players sit) and the night I went had an announced crowd of almost 4,000, the atmosphere was electric. I sat in the "rowdy" section, as the fan host told me, and boy am I glad I did: these guys have the soccer culture down-pat. It was non-stop singing, chanting, flag waving, and scarf swinging (yes, they have scarves in Florida; it wouldn't be soccer without them!). They easily deserve a 5.

Food was just as reasonably-priced as in baseball-mode (everything â?? including beer â?? $5 or less), except water; they gouged for that liquid gold. Fountain drinks and even bottled Powerades were all $3, but smaller bottles of water were $4. It's a shame they'd do something like that when everything else was close-to-perfect.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic night of soccer (even if the "don't call us Rowdies" lost 0-2), and anyone who loves footie should come out to Al Lang for a great time, as well. I'm glad to see the venerable old park by the bay, that just 3 years ago was facing the wrecking ball, will most certainly be around for years to come!

by StPeteRays | Apr 25, 2011 09:59 AM

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Crowd Reviews

Great Neighborhood

Total Score: 3.57

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 4

I love the neighborhood around Al Lang Stadium, and the walk from Al Lang to Tropicana Field as significant as you will find. The next time you go to a Rays game, park near Al Lang, start at the plaque of Al Lang and follow the markings all the way. It's a great walk...

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Local Food & Drink

Central Avenue Oyster Bar  (map it!)

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Courigan's Irish Pub  (map it!)

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JoJo's in Citta  (map it!)

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Burrito Boarder  (map it!)

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Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant  (map it!)

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The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge  (map it!)

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(727) 823-7767

http://www.thehangarstpete.com/

Kahwa Coffee  (map it!)

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(727) 821-1942

http://www.kahwacoffee.com/

The Independent  (map it!)

29 3rd St N

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(727) 820-9514

http://www.yelp.com/biz/empouria-st-petersburg

Local Entertainment

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Vintage Ultra Lounge  (map it!)

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(727) 898-2222

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Chihuly Collection presented by Morean Arts Center  (map it!)

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(727) 896-4527

http://www.moreanartscenter.org/content.php?id=90

Florida Holocaust Museum  (map it!)

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(727) 820-0100

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American Stage Theatre Company  (map it!)

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(727) 823-7529

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Scene Premium Nightclub  (map it!)

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(727) 631-4050

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Museum of Fine Arts  (map it!)

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St Petersburg, FL 33701

(727) 896-2667

http://www.fine-arts.org/

Mahaffey Theater  (map it!)

400 1st St S

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(727) 892-5798

http://www.mahaffeytheater.com/

St. Petersburg Museum of History  (map it!)

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(727) 894-1052

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Vue 19  (map it!)

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Salvador Dali Museum  (map it!)

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Lodging

Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront  (map it!)

333 1st St S

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

(866) 601-2397

http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/SPTSHHF-Hilton-St-Petersburg-Bayfront-Florida/index.do

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(727) 894-1000

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/tpasr-renaissance-vinoy-resort-and-golf-club/

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(727) 450-6200

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Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown  (map it!)

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(727) 892-9900

http://www.stpetehamptonsuites.com/

The Pier Hotel  (map it!)

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St Petersburg, FL 33701

(800) 735-6607

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Hotel Indigo  (map it!)

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Ponce de Leon Hotel  (map it!)

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