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Official Review by Jim Folsom, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Daytona Cubs called Jackie Robinson Ballpark on City Island in Daytona Beach Florida home for 22 baseball seasons. They won five Florida State League Championships during that time. After falling a little short in 2014 when they lost the FSL Championship Series for the first time in team history, the Chicago Cubs announced they were leaving for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was quite a shock for the fans who had been leading the FSL in attendance for the better part of 22 years. Daytona was a Cubbies town.
In the weeks that followed there were rumors that several Major League Baseball franchises were interested in moving to Jackie Robinson Ballpark immediately to begin play in 2015. Then it was announced in October that the Cincinnati Reds would be that team.
Fans in Daytona Beach were expecting to be wearing a lot of red this season. Instead, the owners of the team decided that this would be a good opportunity to name the team something having to do with Daytona Beach. The team decided on Tortugas, the Spanish word for turtles. Sea turtles use Daytona Beach to come ashore and lay their eggs, so many sea turtles can literally call Daytona Beach their birthplace.
So instead of Cubbie Blue or Cincinnati Red, the color seen at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in 2015 has been Tortuga Green. At first, many fans thought the name was a bit silly. Red Snapper is one of the most popular fish native to Daytona waters. The team could still have been called the Reds and kept with its Daytona theme by making the mascot a fish. But soon after the season began, the green began to grow on the fans. Rarely can you find a fan wearing Daytona Cubs gear at the game anymore. Nearly everyone is dressed in Tortugas gear.
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".
The ballpark has gone through some upgrades over the past few seasons. Jackie Robinson Ballpark still has the Budweiser Bullpen out in right field where you can sit and eat some chicken fingers or a burger and drink your favorite beers. There is still the beer and concession stands behind the home plate area where you can order domestic beer such as Budweiser, Miller or Coors products as well as Shock Top, Blue Moon, Yuengling and others.
The food choices range from pizza slices (Papa John's) to burgers, hot dogs, funnel fries, chicken strips, nachos, soft pretzels, popcorn, cracker jack and ice cream. There are also vendors who walk the stands selling many of these items if you are worried about missing any of the game. Under the left field bleachers there is a small bar area where they are grilling burgers and hot dogs as well as serving up plenty of draft beer choices.
In addition, they now have another area with tables and benches under a roof out near the Budweiser Bullpen with another beer stand. This one normally has a very short line so you can dash down between innings, grab a beer, and get back to your seat before the next inning starts. This is also a good place to sit and eat before the game because you can always find a table.
If you purchase a box seat ticket, you can have a waitress bring your food and beer to you. It should be noted that beer sales end after the top of the seventh inning.
There was something special about being a Cubs affiliate. The Cubs played in the oldest park in the FSL, which they of course had in common with the parent Chicago Cubs. They had the manual scoreboard in left field just like the big league Cubs. They even played a Harry Caray recording of Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh inning stretch. After a win the loudspeakers would blare the song "Go Cubs Go" just like at Wrigley. So going into the season many wondered if it would be the same with a new team in town.
Even though we no longer have the two songs any longer, most everything else is still the same as before. The crowds are still just as large and they are still behind the team. It is surprising at the lack of Cubs attire in the stands, and the quick adoption of the new name and affiliation. It seems like everyone is on board with the new colors.
The on field contests in between innings are still the same as before as the team management has most of the same folks. A Tortugas game is still the place to be on a summer night in Daytona Beach.
The immediate area surrounding Jackie Robinson Ballpark is tough to top. Right across the street on the right field side is a marina with a lot of nice yachts docked, giving the fans a Florida feel right away. On the left field side is the intercoastal waterway where fans may be able to see a couple of manatees swimming or some fish jumping out of the water. Across the bridge on Beach Street there are many shops, bars and restaurants lining the street such as the Chocolate Factory, Stavro's where one can get a really good pizza, and a few drinking establishments for your postgame party.
The ballpark is a short drive from A1A and the World's Most Famous Beach where there is certainly no shortage of things to do and spend your money. You can find a good spot to eat, drink, shop, play putt putt golf, or get a sunburn if you go before the game.
The Tortugas fans should be commended. For 22 years they were loyal Cubs fans. For some people, there has never been a summer in their life without the Cubs. It was a concern that the fans would be upset about the Cubs gear they bought that they can no longer wear or the loyalty they showed going to all of those games and rooting for the Cubbies and stay home this season.
One of those fans is affectionately known as "Front Row Joe" who never missed a Cubs game. In fact, he hadn't missed a home Cubs game since the Clinton administration. At the end of the 2014, Joe had been to over 1,300 straight games. Imagine how he must have felt the day the Cubs announced they were leaving.
Well, enter the Tortugas and the fans have not missed a beat. Before every home game, Front Row Joe still walks down to the left field fence and changes the numbers on the sign counting his consecutive game streak, now approaching 1,400 as of this 2015 review.
Unfortunately there are some fans that show up and ignore the "No smoking" policy on occasion or the "No profanity" policy. The Tortugas should consider hiring a few security people to make sure these policies are enforced.
Jackie Robinson Ballpark is easy to get to. You can get there from US Hwy 1 by turning east on either Magnolia Ave which will take you to the parking lot and entrance in left field, or on Orange Ave which will take you to the right field parking lot and entrance. Magnolia is one block south of International Speedway Blvd for those coming in from the west. Orange Ave has a bridge from A1A as well as ISB (International Speedway Blvd) if you are coming from the beach. Parking is only $2 and the walk from the parking lots to the entrance is fairly short. Sometimes, depending on where you park, you could get boxed in after the game and it could take a few minutes to get moving.
Ticket prices did increase from the 2014 season from $7 for general admission to $8. For most of the Cubs seasons, parking was free, but it is now $2. Still with promotions such as "Score an A, Score a Ticket" and "Belly Buster Monday," where a $12 ticket entitles you to all the burgers, dogs, pizza slices, and popcorn you can eat all game long and "Thirsty Thursday" where small sodas and beers are $1, and Wednesday nights when ice cream bars are $1, you can still bring the kids to the game and not bust your budget.
The Tugas still have the Silver Sluggers promotion which gives seniors a cheap night out on Tuesday nights and the Tiny Tugas which does the same for the kids on Friday nights as well. So most nights, if your kids got some A's on their report cards, you can go to a Tortugas game for well under $40.
At Jackie Robinson Ballpark, you are at the site where Jackie Robinson played his first professional game after signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. So the ballpark was named after him and around the concourse area there are a lot of posters and photos of Robinson's exploits. They also have a long jump pit, a basketball court, and a third base to home plate base path where kids can play and see how they compare to Jackie.
They also have a playground down the right field concourse area, a souvenir shop where you can purchase your new Tuga gear, a baseball card and collectible stand and many promotional tents with local businesses often giving away small items such as Tortugas rally towels. On the night of this review the first 1,000 fans got a free Tortugas Garden Gnome.
One thing to be aware of when visiting the Jack is that the netting seems to cut down on the breeze coming off the ocean making it steamy on that side. My recommendation is to bring seat cushions or stadium seats and sit on the third base side where the breeze makes it much cooler. Be careful about going in April as well. That breeze can make the ballpark chilly after the sun sets. Bring a jacket to those early season games.
If Florida is on your vacation schedule during baseball season, spend a night at the Tortugas game. You will have a good time.
Member Review by JimFolsom on Apr 16, 2012
The Daytona Cubs are the defending champions in the Florida State League beginning this 2012 season. In fact, they have won the championship in this league twice in the last four years and five times overall. So if you’re a Cubs fan and you’ve been waiting all your life to see your Cubbies win a championship, maybe you just need to pay a visit to Daytona Beach. It’s Cubs baseball like you like it. It’s in a historic old ballpark only three months newer than Wrigley Field with loyal fans and a great atmosphere, but here the home team wins a few.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Jun 30, 2012
Fantastic in all respects. Cheap and good food, friendly staff, history, great fans, and picturesque. Best ballpark in the FSL and the only true minor league stadium in the entire league. A must-see!
Member Review by Coachrob16 on Jan 29, 2016
I just absolutely love this field. I love the feel of the old time ballparks and their history. The stadium uses the old fashioned scoreboard and has plenty of Jackie Robinson artifacts still hanging at stadium.
Member Review by oldskoolberk on Apr 25, 2017
Aside from the one in Ft. Myers, Jackie Robinson Park is the only park in the Florida State League not to have a Spring Training facility. Good, because with it, there seemed to be more of an atmosphere compared to the other places in the Florida State League. It wasn't anything to behold in my eyes, as it was a classic, old-school ballpark with the wooden structure.
POSITIVES: I liked the old time feel to the place while adding in modern parts that fit in. Food was somewhat standard, but having tasty options and having more than a few craft beers to divulge. I liked the backdrop of the outfield with palm trees and even the bridge felt right (though nothing like PNC Park). The people there were nice and it is just a great setting and very clean. I also loved all the things you could do on the concourse to honor Jackie Robinson and how great of an athlete he truly was.
NEGATIVES: The key problem I have is the third base grandstand. Just non-descript and really hinders it. While I liked the manual scoreboard, I kind of wished they had a screen.
OVERALL: Jackie Robinson Park is a must for a ballpark chaser. Alongside Clearwater, these are the best two venues to watch in a game in the Florida State League.
154 S Beach St
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
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