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Official Review by Michael Rusignuolo, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Although it may seem as if Roger Dean Stadium is named for a local luminary, in reality, the 6,871-seat stadium is named for a less-lofty local car sales magnate, making it one of two parks in the Grapefruit League related to car sales (the other being Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin). But the park is unique in that it (currently) is the only Grapefruit League park hosting two teams: the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The park was originally shared by the Cardinals with the late, lamented Expos, but in 2003, the Expos became the Nationals and sought other facilities in Viera, while the Marlins moved in to fill the void. The park is neatly split between the two teams, with the Marlins signs and facilities on the left side of the park, and the Cardinals on the right side.
Though the park is split evenly on paper, the Cardinals clearly dominate the park with their more massive and rabid fan base, coupled with their lengthy and storied history. While it is one of the more expensive experiences in the Grapefruit League, Roger Dean Stadium makes up for it with an engaged fan base and great location.
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 food and drinks are mostly located in the exterior walkway that surrounds the seating area. Standard ballpark fare (hot dogs, pizza, burgers) are available at most concessions, with a twist or two such as brats and cheesesteaks thrown in.
The pick of the ballpark grub is either the Super Dean Dogs (available at the "Stadium Favorites" concessions for $9.50), a truly jumbo dog in a pretzel bun that comes with an order of chips, and the "Island Grill" concessions, which serve up Shrimp Po-Boys, Crab Cake Sliders, and Mahi-Mahi Tacos ($9 for each of the selections).
The MVP Grille brings some tastes from St. Louis to the stadium in the form of St. Louis dogs, Cubs Hater dogs (both $9), and pancake & sausage on a stick ($4.50, with maple dipping sauce). Try the pancake on a stick just to say you did. The concession also has selections from the Miami club, but Sonny BBQ is the only thing to recommend there ($9.75).
For a team from St. Louis, the beer selection at the park is disappointingly modest. Your choices are mostly the Bud family, Rolling Rock, Yuengling, but Monk in the Trunk, Landshark, and some other more micro-brew selections are available at smaller concessions around the park. One of those concessions with specialty beer, Island Cocktails, also doles out mixed drinks and cocktails, as well as wine ($8 for each).
Roger Dean Stadium has a fairly common minor league layout. The field boxes (closer to the field) run from outfield to outfield around home plate. A second tier of loge seats, separated by the main walkway from the field boxes, runs from about third to first. Above them, the press box and luxury suites sit right around home plate. A party tent and small bleachers section sits out in left field, and the Cassidy Cool Zone (an air-conditioned group area with an all-you-can-eat buffet) and a small picnic berm sit in right. The view in the outfield is a pair of executive offices (the Marlins in left and the Cardinals in right).
The doors open two hours before game time from three gates arrayed around the park. Cardinals fans show up early and in great numbers, so Gate C is a slightly better option. The left side/right side split between the teams holds up everywhere. The Cardinals use the first base side as their home dugout, and Cardinals autograph seekers can hang out by the player gates outside of right field--but get there early. Crowds start forming way before game time as Cardinals fans make a day of it looking for signatures.
Both Roger Dean residents offer a limited number of on-field experiences during home batting practice for $15 per person. For the cost, you get a personalized lanyard and an escort to a roped-off area behind home plate for the duration of batting practice and the best chance at autographs. You have to check in at the desk outside of Gate B, and it isn't clearly marked. If you're looking for home autographs, get there early (it opens three hours before game time), as starting players take batting practice first and then disappear to the practice fields. Like everything else in the park, the Cardinals practice fields are on the right side. Follow the sidewalk down right field, and you'll see the entrance. Once again, get there early to get choice seats at the fields where the major leaguers will be using.
All the seats offer good views close to the action, but there is nearly no cover from the elements unless you spring for a luxury box or group event area. The only regular seating with any sort of protection is the last three rows of the loge boxes in front of the press box but not directly underneath the first base luxury boxes. Sitting anywhere else? Load up on sunscreen and pray it doesn't rain.
The Cardinals mascot doesn't make the trip down for spring training, and there are limited between-inning contests compared to a regular minor or major league contest. These are more modest with the new between-inning pace-of-play clock, but fun is still to be had.
Roger Dean Stadium is located within the planned community of Abacoa within Jupiter, FL. It is a development of different areas, each themed on different architecture, with plenty of shopping and dining available. A Florida Atlantic University campus also lies just south of the park.
Jupiter houses many top notch golf courses that attract PGA talent, and it is a boon for any duffers. In addition to the ocean beach and the inlet area to the northeast of the park, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is of historical significance, and the Hibel Museum on the FAU campus offers a dash of culture.
The Abacoa development has a lot of restaurant and bar options within a few blocks of the park. Those looking for a drink after the game will find JJ Muggs Stadium Grill right across the street, while Rooney's Public House, and DAS Biergarten are just slightly further down the road. Eateries include the Copa Cabana, Le Metro Neighborhood Bistro, Costello's Trattoria, Jumby Bay Island Grill, and Hokkaido Hibachi & Sushi.
With the myriad of attractions, Jupiter has a number of hotels to service tourists. Closer to downtown and the beach, there is a Comfort Inn & Suites, La Quinta Inn Jupiter, Best Western Intracoastal, and the Jupiter Beach Resort. Nearer to Roger Dean is the Homewood Suites by Hilton, and the Courtyard Marriott across the street from the stadium is about as close as you can get without an invite by one of the teams.
There is a slight discrepancy in the commutes for fans of both tenants of the park. It is over a thousand miles for the Redbird backers, and under a hundred for the Fish fanatics. You might think that Miami fans would be out in droves an hour and a half from home, but unfortunately, the Marlins lack of fan base at home extends slightly to the north.
That is not the case for the Cardinals. They don't have the reputation as one of the best baseball cities in America for nothing. Cardinals fans swarm south for the first sniff of baseball for the year, and Cardinals spring training tickets can be one of the hardest to get in the entire Grapefruit League.
Cardinals fans come out in great numbers and make for a great place to watch a ballgame, spring training or otherwise. A case in point on the discrepancy is a game between the Cardinals and Marlins where you have to take some time to pick out any Marlins black in the sea of red that dominates the park.
Jupiter is nestled on the southeast Florida coast, and the park is conveniently right off of both the (toll) Florida Turnpike and I-95. The park is about a half-hour by car from sister Grapefruit League locale Port St. Lucie, a little over two hours away from family vacation hotspot Orlando, and slightly more than an hour and a half to Miami in the south. Parking can be had for $5 for the uncovered grass lots or $10 for one of the parking decks (available for pre-order).
For anyone looking to take public transport to the game, Palm Tran Buses on Route 10 ($2 per trip, $5 for unlimited pass) have a stop right by the stadium (University Blvd at Main St), and they serve Jupiter and surrounding cities, such as West Palm Beach. But a car is nearly a necessity for moving about Florida, especially if you're going to multiple Grapefruit League parks. Palm Beach International airport is just twenty minutes south for those coming from further away.
Getting around the park is a breeze. A wide exterior walkway extends from left to right field, servicing all entrances and getting people to the concessions that line the walkway, as well as the stairways up to the seating bowl. Another comfortable walkway splits the field and loge boxes seating areas on the inside of the park. The standing room sections are on this walkway, which can get congested when the Cardinals are playing. Make your way to your seat in the outer promenade and pop up as near as possible to your seat.
Tickets at Roger Dean Stadium are some of the pricier in the Grapefruit League, but given the demand by rabid St. Louis fans, the market can clearly support them. But the Marlins fans surely suffer for the prices that aren't supported by their more modest history and demand.
Tickets are on three tiers (Regular, Premium, and Super Premium). Standing room tickets can go for over $20, and the best seats in the house are what you'd expect for MLB-level seats. Mini-plans and "season" tickets can bring that price down a little, but it is still costly.
Food and drink aren't cheap, either. Many food items go for MLB-level $9 and above. There are some relatively cheap eats (brats go for $5.50 and regular hot dogs for $4.25), and beers run $7.75-$8.50, and a wine and mixed drinks will cost you $8. There are kids meals (hot dog, chips and a soda for $5) and some adult combo meals that help make it more affordable, but the prices are going to stay at what the Cardinals fans are willing to pay.
It is still cheaper than a game in St. Louis, and the prices are somewhat justified with the storied franchise it houses, but remains on the high end for the Grapefruit League.
A $6 magazine program is available, but it is overpriced for the content it provides. Everything as far as signage is split fairly evenly between the Cardinals and the Marlins. Some small plaques commemorate the stadium construction and a county administrator who championed it (Alan Tarlow), and a large plaque commemorating the park's first Cardinals and Expos season ticket holders is seemingly disregarded behind the home plate concessions.
The Palm Beach County Hall of Fame is celebrated in banners along the right field concourse, and a well-appointed brick fan walk is located outside the main entrance, surrounding a copse of trees.
There is a small inflatable golf pitch stand for the kids in right field (a nod to the large golf presence in the area), and a sizeable team store hawks merchandise for the Cardinals and Marlins, as well as their minor league franchises which inhabit the park after the spring.
Roger Dean Stadium is a nice ballpark in a great community, and it is hopping when the Cardinals are in town, but it remains one of the more expensive experiences in the Grapefruit League.
Member Review by JimFolsom on Mar 25, 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals are the second-winningest franchise in Major League Baseball, behind only the New York Yankees. They have a fiercely loyal following, as one might expect from a team with such a winning tradition. They play their spring training games at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, which they share with the Miami Marlins.
The Cardinals are seen by some as the best-run franchise in baseball. They do not overspend on high-priced talent, often choosing instead to build from within and making long-term commitments to the players they develop. They have an extremely loyal fan base, which they do not take for granted, and it shows in the attendance, even at spring training.
1203 Town Center Dr
Jupiter, FL 33458
5353 Parkside Dr
Jupiter, FL 33458
4800 Main St
Jupiter, FL 33458