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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Orioles fans have tremendous pride in their famous home stadium Camden Yards, as well they should. But not all of those in Baltimore have made the long trek down the Atlantic coast to the spring home of the O's. Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota combines the charms of Camden with the tropical comforts of the Florida Gulf Coast in just the right doses, making it a great place to catch a game.
Ed Smith Stadium has been around in Sarasota since 1989, and served as the home of the White Sox and the Reds during that time. But in 2010 when the Orioles moved in, a $31.2 million renovation gave it the flair that O's fans have come to expect. Suddenly Ed Smith Stadium became one of the best spring training ballparks in all of Florida.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
You can find a wide variety of concession options around the concourse at Ed Smith Stadium. While there may not be the famous Boog's Barbecue from Camden Yards, it's still sure to meet your needs.
The standard food options start at Birdland Concessions located on both the first and third base lines. Here you can find both the standard items and some Baltimore flair. The menu consists of jumbo hot dogs ($5), veggie lite hot dogs ($6), brats ($8), chicken tenders with fries ($9), grilled chicken sandwiches ($8), pulled bbq chicken ($8), turkey burgers ($8) and the Baltimore delicacy crab cake sandwiches ($12). There are also a variety of snack items available for $5 a piece. Cafe 54 might be the highlight of the park, serving a huge variety of subs with fresh deli meat and even Maryland crab soup. Around the stadium, you'll find a variety of other concessions from Chick-fil-A to Dippin' Dots, so satisfying your hunger shouldn't be hard.
Drink options start with 32-ounce souvenir ($6) or 16-ounce sodas ($5), and include some unique options like coconut water ($4.50) and Honest Tea ($4.50), as well as everything in between. There are also lemonade stands and specialty drink stands to be enjoyed around the park. The concessions all sell beer options for $8, but the highlight of the concession options might be a craft beer stand behind home plate, complete with a massive refrigerator full of every type of craft beer you can think of, as well as local favorites on tap. These vary in price depending on beer, but it's a great ballpark option.
If you're truly an O's fan, you just have to grab a crab cake sandwich to eat. What else would you have? And you can't go wrong with any of the craft beer selections available.
Everything about this park spells Orioles tradition. It looks Florida and feels Baltimore, just like a spring training park should.
At first glance, you'll notice all of the Spanish architecture, with high arches and visual appeal. But if you've been to Camden Yards, you'll start to notice the Orioles feel blended throughout. The first thing you'll see is the green gates from Camden, complete with the Oriole logo all around the park. Orange and black are everywhere, but in just the right doses. The scoreboard in right-center field contains the Oriole weathervanes that O's fans should recognize. Retired Orioles numbers line the press box behind home plate. And easily the coolest feature is that all of the seats are refurbished green seats from Camden Yards. This truly is the famed Oriole park in a beautiful Florida home.
Some other cool features here include a left field bar and terraced seating with raised tables, making it a great place to take in a game. The seats behind home plate are incredibly close to the action and have a low-to-the-ground feel, so even walking in from the concourse makes you seem at field level. About half of the seats are covered by a large awning, perfect for the always volatile Florida weather. The Orioles truly know how to do ballparks.
Once the game starts, you'll be treated to all of the normal Orioles entertainment that you get in Baltimore. From the famous National Anthem "O" that lets you know who's an Orioles fan in any venue to the ketchup, mustard and relish race on the scoreboard to the tones of "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," this park should feel like home away from home for any Orioles fan.
The best views may be from behind home plate, but just like Camden in Baltimore the most comfortable area may be the outfield seats. Purchase a ticket for one of the tables on the terrace and enjoy a roomy area with easy bar access just beyond the left field wall.
It's Sarasota on the Gulf Coast, so this truly can't be rated poorly. That being said, Ed Smith Stadium isn't located along the coast or really near much of the best parts of Sarasota. It sits squarely in a residential area northeast of Sarasota, leaving not much that can be walked to.
You should obviously eat at the game if you're just stopping into town. But if you're spending some time in Sarasota (and why wouldn't you?), there are a few excellent restaurant options. For breakfast, check out the Broken Egg. This is Dick Vitale's favorite breakfast restaurant and there are a few locations, but the one on Siesta Key gives you an oceanfront feel. A short drive from Ed Smith Stadium is Indigenous Restaurant, with highly-rated farm-to-table food. But really, there are plenty of solid options around. Definitely explore!
The most obvious thing to do in Sarasota is enjoy the beach. But aside from that, there are some other cool attractions. The Ringling is a museum built by the famous circus entrepreneur John Ringling, and is now a collection of art and history that is definitely worth checking out. Along the same lines, the Ca d'Zan Mansion near the ocean was once home of John Ringling, and is a beautiful and unique piece of architecture worth seeing.
Hotel options are abundant and vary greatly, depending on your price and desired location to stay in. You can choose any number of hotels located along the water, but if you're looking to be close to the stadium, the Homewood Suites Sarasota is just a short drive away.
While you won't necessarily get the overall energy that you tend to have at an Orioles game in Baltimore, these fans show up in droves and participate in all of the O's traditions.
Ed Smith Stadium draws over 7,000 fans a game on average for an Orioles spring training game, which isn't a number to scoff at. While not at the top of the Grapefruit League, their draw is consistently in the upper half and nears capacity for the stadium.
The crowd may not be as wild as opening day at Camden Yards, but from the singing of the National Anthem and the customary yelling of "O" at just the right moment, you know they're Orioles fans. You may even see a few fans dancing to "Thank God I'm A Country Boy." The fans also tend to know the players and know what's going on with them. And if you're in doubt, ask the ushers. They all seem to genuinely be Orioles fans and will tell you exactly who is doing well and who's probably not going to make the cut.
There's a bit of a mixed bag with access, as there are some choke points both inside and outside of the stadium.
There's not a whole lot of public transit to the stadium and it's not on any main roads, so you'll probably have to drive, and traffic can get a bit choppy through all the neighborhoods and intersections. The easiest airport to use if you're flying in from Baltimore or parts unknown is probably up in Tampa. It's about an hour's drive down to Sarasota from there.
Parking is abundant around Ed Smith Stadium, but can be a bit on the pricey side. Main lots can cost you $10, but the further away you get, the cheaper they can become. But due to the flow of traffic you'll probably have to just take whatever lot you come up on depending on the direction you're arriving from, because it's not particularly convenient to drive around looking for a spot.
There are multiple gates to enter through, so it's pretty simple to access the stadium. The security experience is pretty standard and moves relatively quickly, so no real problems here.
Once inside, the lower concourse does not have field views and can get quite congested. Lines for concessions (particularly the beer lines) can get quite long, so time those trips appropriately. There is an upper concourse above the tiered seating that it seems not everyone knows about. Getting around up there is much, much easier than ground level. As you move towards the left field terrace, the crowds thin out a bit and it's much easier to get a beer and see the game if you prefer to stand. Restrooms are everywhere here and very spacious and clean, so that won't be any kind of problem.
It's spring training at a beautiful stadium, so there's definitely a high return on your investment.
Tickets to an O's game at Ed Smith can range from inexpensive ($8) to pricey ($36), and vary depending on seating option and game. But buy them early, because the games tend to sell out and tickets get much more expensive on the open market. Parking will probably run you $10, and food is about average for spring training. But even with the potential of slightly higher end prices, a game here is still well worth it, and, in fact, recommended. It's a great park with great food and great baseball. That's a winning combination at any price.
If the Orioles do anything well, it's extras. This list could go on and on and on. From the Camden Yards seats to the beautifully designed gates, this park is just full of character. Some others to point out are the spectacular craft beer station located behind home plate, Cafe 54 and its restaurant within a stadium feel, and the absolutely beautiful architecture of the stadium that blends so well with the Baltimore feel. This is truly a unique ballpark.
If you love baseball and haven't done spring training yet, what are you waiting for? And if the Grapefruit League is your destination, Ed Smith Stadium absolutely needs to be on that list.
Member Review by StPeteRays
If you're from Chicago or Cincinnati and traveled to Florida for spring training, chances are you've been to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Built in 1989, Ed Smith Stadium replaced the older and smaller Payne Park, which itself was home to the New York Giants, the Red Sox, and the White Sox. Located outside of downtown Sarasota and northeast of the former spring training home, Ed Smith Stadium ensured the White Sox would stay in-town for another eight years, after which - in 1998 - the Reds called Ed Smith their spring home-away-from-home until 2009, when they moved to Goodyear, Arizona.
When it was first built, it had an outdoor concourse wrapping around the outside of the park with no shading except in the tunnels leading to the seating area and the upper areas of the seating bowl. This concourse housed all the concessions and facilities, so it would constantly be congested with people looking to buy, maneuver, and go. There was no upper-deck of which to speak, as access was only available from those lower entrances. Plus, the main entrance, for lack of a better analogy, looked like a cheap motel, complete with miscellaneous doors and railing, as well as steps down the side. Again, if you're from Chicago or Cincinnati, you probably spent a great deal of springs here and know what I'm talking about.
When I went back in 2009, the Reds last year there, I didn't like it really much at all: it was uninspiring, cluttered, and tight. I admit, when I heard the Orioles were moving in, the first question that came to mind was, "Why would a team that plays in beautiful Camden Yards want to play in a dump like this?" Well, they told the city of Sarasota, the owners, that they'd pay for renovations, with a 30-year lease in return.
Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to have your mind blown by the transformation this park has taken.
Member Review by hhuntley17 on Mar 16, 2015
One of my favorites in all of Florida
Member Review by huntwoof on Mar 22, 2015
It's probably one of the nicest parks in Fla for spring training. Easy to get to ... plenty of food options ... fans are fantastic ... just a fun experience all around. It's felt like a laid-back and warm Camden Yards.
6639 Superior Ave
Sarasota, FL 34231
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