Former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner used to love Tampa. In fact, his office and base of operations was right here, and his New York Yankees have a long and robust spring training history which goes back more than a half century in the Tampa Bay area.
So in true Yankees grandiose style, they built themselves a temple to baseball. Originally named “Legends Field,” this facility is located directly across the street from Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Legends Field opened to rave reviews in 1996, and helped inspire larger and more opulent spring traning venues by peer baseball teams. After Steinbrenner’s death in 2010, the stadium was renamed in his honor.
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There are plenty of concession stands that ring the concourse, and a massive team store on the ground floor is located behind the home plate entrance. So why is this category so sub-par? Because for A ball, almost all the concession stands are closed save for one, and on the menu is your quintessential ballpark dreck. Worst of all, they maintain MLB prices! So look for $6 for a burger or bratwurst, $5 for a hot dog, $4.50 for fries or a pretzel, $5 for a large popcorn, $7 for a draft beer and $3 for a small soda. A chicken tender basket will set you back $9. The merchandise store is well stocked.
When you have a stadium that seats 11,000 for baseball, and there are 300 people in the place, the only atmosphere is the ample amount of oxygen that few people share. There is a team mascot bouncing around, and if the team would minimally invest in some cool graphics and a videographer, that massive HD video board out in left center field could be put to good use.
Steinbrenner Field sits on Dale Mabry Highway, across the street from the football stadium and its oceans of parking, but hop in your car and head south about a mile, and you will be deluged with all sorts of restaurants, casual eateries, pubs, shopping, gentlemen's clubs, and around the corner about two miles away is the massive International Mall.
Interesting to point out also are the opulent grounds of the spring training complex. The landscaping, ponds and fountains are beautiful, and a mini Monument Park, along with a statue of Steinbrenner and a tribute to the World Trade Center, all make for good things to check out and photo opportunities.
Like most peer Florida State League venues, they have a hard time drawing fans at Steinbrenner Field, but that being said, there are more than a few rabid Yankees fans living around these parts. Keep in mind that no fewer than five FSL teams call the Tampa Bay region home, and that means keen competition in attracting fans and also getting regular media coverage.
Dale Mabry Highway is a divided six lane at grade boulevard, so finding Steinbrenner Field is a snap. There is a well marked entry boulevard onto the grounds. Parking is ample and free. Overflow parking can be found across the street on the grounds of the football stadium, with access via an overhead pedestrian bridge crossing Dale Mabry.
The HART #36 bus line runs by the stadium along Dale Mabry for the public transportation option.
Ticket prices are dirt cheap ($6 and $4), and parking is free, but the concession prices are ridiculously high. The team store also has marked up prices for New York Yankees apparel and gear, and you'd probably be better off buying jerseys and shirts at the local mall.
Give a star for the stadium design, with signage and replica gables mimicking those of the famed Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The building itself is really impressive, and would easily rank at the top of any AAA venue in the International League or Pacific Coast League. For New York Yankees spring training games, it has to be a fabulous experience.
One star for the wonderful monuments and exhibits on the grounds outside home plate.
And one star for the grounds - a bucolic and serene parklike setting close to a bustling city.
The stadium is a fortress - it exudes Yankees power, money and status. Steinbrenner Field befits a team like the New York Yankees, yet the presence of their Single-A team in this cavernous building is almost an embarrassment. One has to wonder if the program would work better in a place like Winter Haven, which lost its baseball presence when the Indians vacated, a small town that would probably embrace being back in the ranks of organized pro baseball.
For the better part of a century, the New York Yankees have - in some way, shape, or form - been part of the Tampa Bay community. Moving to St. Petersburg's Waterfront Park in 1925, from New Orleans, they played there until Al Lang Stadium was built in 1947. There they stayed until 1961, when Fort Lauderdale - with its large supply of New York transplants - came calling in 1962.
In the meantime, the Tampa Bay area vied for its own Major League team, and while St. Pete eventually won the right to be the home of what would eventually become the Tampa Bay Rays by building the Florida Suncoast Dome in 1990, Tampa put forth great efforts and ideas, as well. However, the money just wasn't there for the city, especially with Tampa Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, needing a replacement soon.
Thus, in 1996, the culmination of years of work finally paid off, when Tampa opened the first two of its three major public works projects: the Ice Palace and George M. Steinbrenner Field (originally known as Legends Field. The third, opened in 1998, was Raymond James Stadium which now houses the Buccaneers and University of South Florida Bulls football programs.
Because of this close relationship with Tampa, the new stadium's namesake, George Steinbrenner, had called Tampa home for decades before his death in 2010. Steinbrenner was also a major donor in the community, eventually having a high school named after him for his seemingly limitless generosity. So, it was only fitting when, about two years before his death, Legends Field was renamed in honor of the true social and sports legend, the one that took a franchise that looked as though its glory days were long gone and made it one of the most loved (or hated, depending on which side of the aisle you sit) teams in the world, and the one that helped make Tampa into the city it is today.
That's probably why I went in with great expectations of what I envisioned Steinbrenner Field to be: a palace dedicated to the man, possibly even in an egotistical, "Jerry Jones"-way like Cowboys Stadium, but on a (obviously) much-smaller scale. I couldn't have been more right...and wrong.
The seating bowl is huge, with a capacity of 11,000, or double what is held at Dunedin. There is a concourse that bisects it, with rows below designated with double letters. Note the facade above the seats that evokes the original from the House That Ruth Built. There are several suites behind home plate; in fact, this ballpark was one of the first spring training stadiums to make use of suites.
With a crowd of about 1,000 spread out, the place is quiet during the game and each individual cheer can be heard by the players. The dimensions here are the same as at Old Yankee Stadium. What surprised me here given the size of the stadium is that the scoreboard is fairly basic, and there is no speed gun.
Overall, Steinbrenner Field is what one would expect from the Yankees. It is oversized, honours their past and all those championships, and is likely a great place during the spring. Fortunately the Tampa team realizes the minors is a different attraction altogether and keeps their prices surprisingly low. Other than that though, this place is too big for its FSL britches.
It's okay; nothing special. I saw an excellent game; lots of hits and scoring and it went to 11 innings.
The price certainly hit the spot. $4 for a second level ticket but you could sit anywhere you desired. Parking is free.
There is a Carvel ice cream stand on the concourse but sadly it is not open during Tampa Yankees games. There is minimal Tampa Yankees merchandise in the souvenir shop; it's mostly NY Yankees goods for sale.
There is nothing in the neighborhood; it's on a busy six lane road with not much around for entertainment. If you are planning on visiting and spending the night, do NOT stay at the Comfort Inn 1/2 mile from the field. Front desk service is terrible and unprofessional.
On a side note, I did get to see part of a beep ball game prior to the Tampa Yanks game. A beep ball game is played by athletes who are blind. The ball that is used beeps so players can hear it; the bases have a buzzing noise so athletes know in which direction to reach base.
I had not heard of the game prior to this visit and am glad I got to witness it. For more info check: http://www.nbba.org/about_game.htm
The first thing that you will notice about coming to Steinbrenner Field is that you are in definitely in Yankees Country. When you get to the stadium, you see all the retired Yankee numbers out in front and how clean it is. You think this place is going to be a gem and it is going to be going to Yankee Stadium all over again.
Then you walk in and see the nice banners of former Yankee greats along the concourses and then you hop on the stadium and notice the architecture was taken from Yankee Stadium.
And that's where the similarities end. The place was a large, quiet, subdued place for a baseball game. It lacked any major atmosphere that made you think you were at a baseball game. It seemed like you were watching a softball game at a local community field near you. Overall, I found it disappointing though I think the place itself is great.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Mostly everything was standard as they didn't have much in variety, and the food was okay, but not great.
ATMOSPHERE: Maybe because it is a Spring Training stadium thus making it larger than what it should be for a Minor League game, it just had the "masoleum" feel to this place. Big and empty with no feel of a Minor League baseball game.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Nothing really save for a few restaurants, the Bucs stadium across the street and you have some more upscale levels (plus a strip club down the road). I guess there is something for everybody.
FANS: They didn't seem into the game and for all the talk about the Yankees 2nd home being Tampa, I didn't see many fans don either New York Yankee or Tampa Yankee gear.
ACCESS: Relatively easy as you get off the Interstate exit to Raymond James Stadium and you are right near the place. You have options to park across the street or park at the stadium. For a Minor League game, do the latter as it is free and easy to get in & out.
ROI: Tickets are cheap anywhere, especially if you "like" the Yankees on facebook and can sit anywhere at the park for $2 just about. Food prices are around $5 (though most of it is not under $5), but souvenirs were some of the most expensive ones around the Minor League setting.
EXTRAS: All the Yankee lore around the park really made you feel like you were in Yankee haven. A must do for any Yankee fan, but do it for Spring Training though.
4444 W Cypress St
Tampa, FL 33607
3248 W Columbus Dr
Tampa, FL 33607
1700 N Westshore Blvd
Tampa, FL 33607
2305 N Willow Ave
Tampa, FL 33607
913 N Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33609
2223 N. West Shore Blvd
Tampa, FL 33607
250 Westshore Plaza
Tampa, FL 33609
2520 N Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33607
Tampa International Airport
Tampa, FL 33607