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Official Review by Jason Collette, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Osceola County Stadium opened in the mid 1980’s to replace the very antiquated complex the Houston Astros had in Cocoa, Florida. Life comes full circle as the Astros are working on details to open a new complex in South Florida to share with another team closer to Astros owner Jim Crane’s real estate holdings in that market. This stadium is convenient for locals to get to, but the Grapefruit League is becoming a bi-coastal league within Florida, and teams in the center of the state are left with longer travel for games. Osceola County Stadium has undergone several updates in the past decade, but it will not be enough to keep the Astros in town. There was talk about the Washington Nationals coming over from their equally outdated place in isolated Viera, but that fell through when the funding for additional upgrades was not approved by local voters.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
For a park that is only in operation two months out of the year, they do a good job of giving people a nice selection of food with a multi-tiered approach. They have four concession stands on site that offer standard ballpark fare along with barbecue options including turkey legs. They augment their offerings by bringing two food trucks inside the gates for people to purchase food. There are also a few kiosks on the lower and upper concourses for food and beer purchases.
The park does permit a good amount of access to the players down the first and third base lines. Astros fans have more access to the players down the third base line as the players exit the field toward the clubhouse down that line. There is a newer video board out in right field that allows fans to review replays of highlights and Texas-themed advertisements that the Astros use at Minute Maid Park during the regular season. The public address announcer does his best to keep the fans involved in the game and the in-game entertainment team has several activities during breaks in the game to keep fans excited.
The ballpark is part of the Kissimmee Fairgrounds where carnivals and rodeos are held. The Silver Spurs Arena is also on site. The park is located along US-192 on the opposite end from Disney World. It is buttressed on the one side by the Fairgrounds and on the other by Gateway High School and the Osceola County School Board offices. If you are not in the area for the game, you are simply driving through on your way to somewhere else because there is nothing else to do in the immediate area.
Games are not very well attended, unless one of the New York teams comes to town. Osceola County has many transplants from the tri-state area so Yankees and Mets games are nearly always sold out. This is also the case when the St. Louis Cardinals come to town. Most days, the opposing fan base is more vocal than the hometown fans, which eliminates any kind of home field advantage a team has in their own park. It has the feel of expansion teams to new markets in their first couple of years when the draw for the game is the opposition.
The stadium is very easy to get to from US-192, the Osceola Parkway, the Florida Turnpike, or FL-417 (the latter three are toll roads). There is plenty of parking on the property for games, but traffic leaving the game can get bogged down. The traffic is particularly problematic for fans exiting northbound toward the Buenaventura area on Boggy Creek Road. There has been road construction in that area that further complicates traffic flows. If you are a fan flying in the morning of a game during spring training, you could get from the airport rental car garage to the stadium in under 30 minutes.
Spring Training pricing all over the Grapefruit League is on the high side. Fans are even charged premium prices for some games, whether or not the big leaguers get one or three plate appearances in a game. Fans once could come to games for as little as $6, but it now costs at least $16 to get into the stadium, and $28 to sit in between the dugouts. The parking prices are $7. For comparison's sake, there are plenty of parking options for $5 or less in St. Petersburg and a fan can get into a Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field for under $10.
There is a caged-in playground for kids down the right field line to allow them to play without having to be on the lookout for foul balls. There is a well-stocked team store behind the home plate area with plenty of Astros and baseball memorabilia available. Supporters have silent auctions during each game to raise money for different causes where fans can bid on autographs from current or former players. It is the only park in the Grapefruit League that sings Deep In the Heart of Texas after the traditional Take Me Out To The Ballgame. If you are a media person, the media dining room is widely considered to be the best in Florida.
The stadium is outdated and is likely on the way to irrelevancy as Houston has one foot out the door looking for greener pastures within the state. Hopefully another team can come in and give the place another set of facelifts to keep Spring Training baseball somewhere in central Florida where it has been for nearly 100 years.
**Photos courtesy of the Houston Astros Social Media Department
Member Review by JimFolsom on Mar 30, 2012
Have you ever stumbled upon something that few people know about and are hesitant to tell everyone? I did this past weekend. I almost hate to write this article but, that’s what we do here at Stadium Journey. So, those of you smart enough to read our little publication are going to find out about this well kept secret. But don’t tell anyone.
I’ve lived in Florida all my life, so I’ve visited many Spring Training venues. I think I have just found my permanent one. It’s right off Florida's Turnpike near Kissimmee. I went there last Sunday for the Pirates / Astros game. From my house, I was in the parking lot in less than an hour and a half. From there, it was just a short walk into the ballpark. That is a big plus, especially as I get older.
Member Review by megminard on Apr 09, 2012
I celebrated visiting my 100th baseball stadium on my trip to Osceola County Stadium. More fans were applauding former Sr. President Bush than I and rightfully so.
Food: They had boiled peanuts. The real stuff (food) was on the first base / left field side. Hope they still have them.
Atmosphere: Lots of interaction with fans. It is intimate and cozy.
Neighborhood: I don't remember. I have no recollection of fear in the area nor do I have one of the nearby facilities.
Fans: Spectacular! Helpful, friendly, and into the game. Very accommodating to visitors.
Access: I seem to remember it being pretty easy. Concourses may have gotten a bit crowded.
Return on Investment: Very much worth it if you're an Astro's fan and a fan of baseball
Extras: My 100th stadium and several accommodating fans to help me celebrate
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