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Bright House Field

Clearwater, FL

Home of the Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training

4.1

N/A

Bright House Field (map it)
601 Old Coachman Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765


Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training website

Bright House Field website

Year Opened: 2004

Capacity: 8,500

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Phantastic

When thinking of the term "sports mecca", Clearwater, Florida, isn't exactly high on many people's lists. Long considered a vacation and retirement destination, Clearwater further alienated sports connoisseurs in 1981 with the arrival of the Church of Scientology. Yet, somehow, Clearwater was named Sports Illustrated's "#1 Sports City in Florida", over cities with richer sports roots like neighboring twins Tampa and St. Petersburg, Miami, and Orlando. "Why is that," you ask? Two words:

Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies have called Clearwater their spring "home away from home" since 1947, and have made themselves welcomed and loved by the community. During the 2008 World Series against the actual home team, the Tampa Bay Rays, Clearwater was the only city in Tampa Bay to shed the blue and gold for red and white, proudly joining in the celebration of both the Phillies' arrival to Tropicana Field that October. They were cheering the loudest (outside of the Delaware Valley, of course) when the Phils were the ones to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy on October 29. Clearwater, its residents, businesses, and even mayor are unashamed of their love of the Phightin's.

So, it was a no-brainer when, in 2001, Phillies and the city decided their longtime home, Jack Russell Stadium, needed to be replaced. Thus, in 2002, the subject of this review broke ground amid much fanfare. Built to the same exact dimensions as the also highly-anticipated Phillies' permanent home, Citizens Bank Park, Bright House Field proved not only a success for the spring, but also for the Advanced-A Florida State League Threshers, who hosted the FSL All-Star Game in 2005, as well as the Big East (known from 2014–onwards as the American Athletic Conference) Baseball Tournament since 2006 (with one year away in 2007).

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    5

The amount of different food and adult beverage options is almost incomprehensible. Seeing as this is the Phillies' stadium, you want a cheesesteak, right? Served by Delco's, a food purveyor local to Clearwater with its owner transplanting from Delaware County, Pennsylvania (hence the name), the cheesesteaks, though a little shorter than they should be for the price paid, are served as one would expect in the suburbs of Philly. Another local restauranteur with Philly roots, Westshore Pizza, serves the pizza slices sold in the park.

Are cheesesteaks and pizza not your thing? Fret not, because pure-bred Philadelphian slinger of roasted pork with broccoli rabe, Tony Luke's, is there to make your day. Oh, and all the typical stadium food is also available (and pretty good), but with this much Philly "phood" to placate your palate, why would you want a boring hot dog?

Those without an appetite but in need of refreshment aren't forgotten, either. Being born in Pottstown, PA, and brewed across the bay in Tampa, Yuengling is the natural alternative to the "common beers" (i.e. Bud, Miller, or Coors). At the "Beers of the World" stand, you can get a bucket of beer (six 16-ounce cans) for $39. While that may sound expensive, consider a 12-ounce cup can run about $5-$6 at most stadiums, and you realize that really is a savings, especially when you get a beer like Yuengling for that price. And speaking of Beers of the World, as the name implies, there are bottles of all brands from all the habitable continents, so go crazy (responsibly, of course)!

Atmosphere    5

On paper, while it may only be tied with a newly-renovated McKechnie Field for the fourth-largest capacity in the Grapefruit League, Bright House Field regularly packs way more than its advertised 8,500 capacity into its gates. When they even approach that capacity, the place is electric, so when they exceed it, it's dynamite. This is thanks to both the large outfield berm and 360˚ maneuverability of the park. In short, this is what spring training is all about.

Neighborhood    3

Honestly, there's really nothing of-note to report in the close proximity. There a few chain restaurants attached to the property, a couple "big box" stores within walking distance, and Lenny's, the official breakfast and cheerleader of the Phillies in Clearwater. Otherwise, a short drive will get you to the very first Hooter's and their equally awesome competitor Ker's WingHouse. A longer, but still reasonable, drive away are the Gulf Coast beaches, downtown St. Petersburg, and Ybor City in Tampa. However, if nightlife is your concern, don't drink too much at the stadium, because nothing's really in walking distance, and the cab fare won't be pretty.

Fans    5

First, their passion: fans of any Philadelphia sports would travel 2,000 miles en masse to both watch and tailgate professional hopscotch if someone from Philly were involved. They may heckle the hopscotch participant mercilessly for perceived ineptness, but they would be just as quick to sing the hopper's (?) praises should they win a title.

Philly "phans" get a bad rep, and it's not entirely undeserved. However, the "stereotypical Phillies fan" is really a caricature of fans of the Eagles, whom, in many cases, earned their infamy. True Phillies phans are loud, passionate, knowledgeable, and quick to both praise and berate players, but also just as quick to start up a friendly conversation (as I discovered with one 30-something gentleman down there for the spring) and go out of their way to be nice to strangers (as I witnessed when an elderly man needed help to his seat). While fans of the other teams in the City of Brotherly Love might not be as "brotherly" as they should be, Phillies phans are, without a doubt, some of the best in sports.

Access    3

It's not that there's anything wrong with getting to the stadium per se. Bounded by U.S. Route 19 to the east, Drew Street to the south, and Old Coachman Road to the west, ingress and egress is pretty fair for a typical ballpark. What knocks this score down is the fact that US 19 is permanently under construction. I'm serious: I've lived in St. Petersburg for ten years (as of 2013), and in those ten years, there has not been a single day where US 19 near, next to, or within three miles of Bright House Field hasn't been under construction. The orange cones are now about a half-mile south of the stadium, as well as two miles north. If you read this in 2023, this MIGHT be a different story, but because of the construction, while getting in and out of the park is relatively easy, going anywhere that's not on Drew Street isn't. Pack a lunch for the ride home.

Once you survive Orange Cone Hell, parking is expansive. For $10, one can park across Old Coachman Road from Bright House Field in the Carpenter Complex, and with plenty of wide-open space, that is your best bet to find good parking. On a school day, St. Petersburg College students can park for free at SPC's Clearwater campus right down the street, but be advised if it's a weekend, or you're not a current SPC student, there's a 99% chance you'll be towed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Once inside, the bathrooms are spacious and plentiful, the concourse is expansive, and the 360˚ movement of the park helps you forget the certain torture you're going to face getting back on US 19 to go home.

Return on Investment    4

In recent years, the Phillies have become an upper echelon team - winning a World Series trophy and going to back-to-back Fall Classics will do that. Because of that, prices have increased above the norm of typical spring training teams. With 2013's tickets ranging in price from $14-$39, they do go toward the high end. However, when compared to other upper echelon teams in the Grapefruit League (the Yankees and Red Sox), the prices are reasonable.

Extras    4

I've mentioned this numerous times throughout my career here, but my absolute favorite thing about any stadium and arena is being able to walk in circles, so to speak. Being able to walk 360˚ around a facility allows you to explore the whole complex without feeling like you're retracing your steps. Bright House Field was the first spring training/minor league ballpark in Florida to do this, and it is handled incredibly well. The berm in the outfield also is one of my favorite, as I've also mentioned a few times that nothing speaks spring to me more than the sun on my face, baseball in my sights, a hot dog in my hand, and grass between my toes. Two huge points here for those.

Frenchy's Tiki Bar in left field has set the standard for all spring training/minor league tiki bars throughout parks in Florida. Created as a satellite location of the famous Clearwater Beach landmark, Frenchy's is not only packed on game days, but open select non-game days, too, for your adult beverage enjoyment.

There's a fountain in front of the park with a statue on top called "The Ace." Designed as a generic pitcher, it really does add to the charm and character of the already-gorgeous facility.

Final Thoughts

There is much to love about this park: the facility has aged quite well for being almost ten years old, the atmosphere is electric, and the people are much friendlier than one would expect from a Philly-oriented crowd. What is lacking in the dearth of a neighborhood and glut of orange cones is more than made up in the uniqueness of this field. For someone who can't make it to Citizens Bank Park in Philly, to have an exact replica - even down to the elevator in the bullpen - available in a tropical climate for a fraction of the price is a dream come true. This is easily one of the best spring training ballparks in Florida.

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