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.
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The food was decent, with a few surprises. First, in the outfield seating in right, there are two stands. One is a full-service bar, and one that sells buffalo chicken - both in sandwich and wing form - and bratwurst. Another stand behind 3rd base sells Boar's Head lunchmeat sandwiches and subs, and there's a 3rd location behind home plate.
However, that wasn't enough, as the queues were insanely long, even during play. The prices, too, were a little high for minor league baseball, especially considering beer was the same price as neighboring St. Pete's Tropicana Field. The food was good, but nothing extra-special.
For being a relatively-new stadium (15 years isn't really that long ago), the stadium itself is kind of bland and generic. It's not bad, mind you, as the seats were comfortable, the sound was loud and crisp, the video board on the scoreboard was big enough to see and bright enough for an early start, and a replica of Yankee Stadium's famous copper frieze lines the top of the grandstand and all the concessions. The suites and press box behind home, however, are just there with no real reason to draw your eye to it. No retired numbers, no references to the 27 World Series championships (though references were EVERYWHERE else), and nothing to add character.
There were also some really cool horizontal video boards hanging on the pillars above 1st and 3rd bases. Sadly, they didn't use them during the game, so I couldn't tell you what they do, but whatever it is, I bet it's cool.
The stadium, as a whole, is quite business-like, and I guess that epitomizes the Yankees perfectly, but I wish they'd do more to bring some charm and soul to the design of the park.
Being directly across from Raymond James Stadium, it's precisely a carbon-copy of what I said in that review. However, I'll paraphrase it here: since there's really not much to walk to around the park except fast food and "gentlemen's clubs", hop in the car and head to the Westshore district, Channelside in downtown Tampa, or downtown St. Pete. They're all pretty close and worth the drive.
Alright, so this will always be a point-of-contention, no matter how I grade this. Being the Yankees, even the "baby ones", you're either a Yankees fan or you're not; there's not much gray area there and you're judged based solely on the iconic "NY" (or, as is the case here, "TY" in the same script) on your cap.
That said, these fans make New York Yankees fans look good. That's not a compliment. Let me repeat that: these fans make NEW YORK Yankees fans look good. It's supposed to be a kid-friendly Saturday family night, one that had an Easter egg hunt on the field prior, and here's what I saw:
- A tattooed-covered woman with a Snooki-colored tan and wearing a lime-green halter top with a Confederate-flag covered iPhone - placed appropriately in her...ummm, chest for the whole world to see;
- An older lady who, for 3 innings, continued to scream and demand an answer as to why "that double didn't score a run", though it was a ground-rule double and the runner was on first. She continued to insinuate time and time again that the "scoreboard operator is trying to screw us over!"; and
- A group of ladies who were pretty drunk before the end of the 3rd inning, swearing up a storm and acting quite vulgar, and were all around rude to anyone who wasn't cheering on Tampa...and none of the kids' parents around seemed to mind this behavior.
I'm not a prude by any means. My everyday vocabulary is laced with different profanities and innuendos at any given moment. However, I know when to be appropriate and act civil; this was one of those times, but no one else seemed to think as such around me.
Keep it classy, Tampa Yankees fans.
The only reason this score isn't a 1 is because at least a few thousand people showed up, meaning there's some interest in the Yankees in these parts. But then again, a fraternity party with just as much class can be well-attended, too.
Being located along one of Tampa's main north-south thoroughfares, Dale Mabry Highway (US Route 92), it's pretty easy to find the stadium and get to from most points in the Tampa Bay area. However, once there, that's where things get dicey. You can park across the street at Raymond James Stadium and take a pedestrian bridge across Dale Mabry Highway, or you can try to park on Steinbrenner Field property, but be prepared for a challenge.
When you first get in, you can either go straight and park in front of the stadium, but that usually fills up quick. So, if you make a left when you first arrive, there's an auxiliary lot, but that requires walking about 1/4 mile with no sidewalks. As I arrived, they both were filled, so I parked in the grass in the auxiliary lot; I don't know if it was legal, but my car wasn't towed, so I assume it's alright. Just don't get mad at me if you're not as lucky and get a ticket. (At least the parking was free....)
Once inside, due to the limited number of kiosks open, the queues for food and other activities were insanely long, making the concourses almost inadequate to walk around. The nice, cool breeze blowing through, however, made it more bearable to wait until you can find an opening to walk through. The bathrooms were clean and tidy though, so that's a plus.
General admission is $4 and right-on-the-field reserved seating is $6, making it a good value, despite some of the above flaws. The Tampa Yankees, like their counterparts in the Bronx, are 2009 champions (but unlike the Bronx Bombers, they won in 2010, too) of the Florida State League, so there's some good baseball to see on the diamond. And we actually had a major leaguer sighting for this review: catcher Francisco Cervelli, who broke his foot in spring training and is on his rehab assignment, was the starting catcher. Bet you can't pay $4 to see him in New York, or anywhere else in the majors.
A Florida take on Yankee Stadium's magnificent Monument Park is seen in front of the stadium, with all the numbers on pinstripe-plaques and small inscriptions about each player.
Also out front of the stadium, there's a memorial to the 2,753 people that were killed in New York during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center with a description of what happened. Fitting, tasteful, and elegant, it's definitely something that adds a little tenderness to the otherwise business-like attitude of the Yankees organization and Steinbrenner Field.
Finally, there's a statue of George Steinbrenner himself, erected in January 2011. Standing guard in front of the entrance staircase, The Boss has the same stoic look that made him both hated and loved through his tenure as the owner of the Yankees.
This stadium draws a lot of mixed reactions. If you're a Yankees fan, this is basically where your team is born, being the Single-A farm team, and it's a privilege to see them before they're stars.
If you're a resident of Tampa that beams with civic pride, you may actually be a bigger fan of this team (and its parent, by proxy) than the MLB team bearing the Tampa Bay brand across the Bay. The biggest example of this was back in 2005, when the city of Tampa put signs across the city - most prominently, leaving Tampa International Airport - that say "Welcome to Tampa, City of Champions: Football, Hockey, Arena Football". The city council wanted, because of the Yankees, "Baseball" included on there, as well. The then-Devil Rays vehemently objected, citing they weren't just St. Pete's team, but the whole area's, and to honor a team based in New York - and in their same division - was a downright insult. Eventually, the city caved and left the Yankees and their championships off the signs.
If you're neither, however, it can come off as a loud, crass, and painful experience. Maybe the night I went was a rarity; I mean, it was the night before Easter, and everyone's probably having a good time before having to deal with family drama the next day. However, good manners should never take a holiday, and with the sheer amount of people, the stadium could have organized better.
Take a trip to Steinbrenner Field, as it is something you should see and do once. However, don't be surprised if you feel compelled to leave early; I know I did.
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.
4302 W. Boy Scout Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33607
4444 W Cypress St
Tampa, FL 33607
2702 N Dale Mabry Hwy
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
602 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