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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Opened in 1998, Roger Dean Stadium is one of four spring training complexes that houses two MLB teams. Both the Marlins and Cardinals play here in March and their Florida State League affiliates then share the stadium during the summer, making Roger Dean the only ballpark to host two minor league teams on a permanent basis. When the stadium originally opened, it was home to the Expos and Cardinals, before the Expos moved to Space Coast Stadium as part of the deal reached when Jeffrey Loria bought the Marlins. The Cardinals call themselves as from Palm Beach, while Jupiter is the farm team of the Miami major leaguers, retaining their own identity with the Hammerheads nickname.
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".
There were only two concession stands open during the game offering limited choices, with the hot dog value set (dog, chips, small pop) at $3.75 sufficient for me. The other stand offered ice cream and Dippin' Dots and was quite popular with the kids. But overall, there is nothing special here in terms of eats.
The ballpark is incredibly well landscaped, with a variety of greenery both inside and outside. There are even palm trees right in the middle of the concourses. This really adds to sense of being in Florida.
The structure itself is mostly sand and adobe stucco and quite attractive, fitting in perfectly in the community. Capacity is 6,800 and as usual in the FSL there are about a thousand fans, so there is plenty of room to spread out, but naturally this hurts the overall atmosphere somewhat.
The most impressive thing to me was the video board, which included pitch counts for both teams. Unfortunately, the person keeping track was often distracted and missed several pitches, rendering the stats useless, but it is still a good idea and very unusual at this level.
The stadium is right in the middle of a designed neighborhood known as Abacoa. Although mostly a residential area, the Town Center lies across the street from the ballpark and offers a number of eateries that would make good spots either before or after the game. There was a Japanese teppanyaki and sushi restaurant called Hokkaido, as well as T.J. Muggs Stadium Grill, a sports bar that merits a visit. Monday games have specials for this bar, when I attended it was 2-for-1 entrees.
There were about 1,500 fans the night I went and they were chattering throughout. One particular visiting pitcher was particularly slow on the mound, causing one wag to begin counting the seconds between each pitch. A few other fans joined him in an attempt to get the laggard to "throw the freaking ball" as another put it. As is the usual in the FSL, mostly baseball diehards here who enjoy the game and are just happy to see it at bargain prices, but there were a few who made some noise and made a positive impression.
Located in the aforementioned community of Abacoa, the stadium is easy to access as it is just a quarter-mile east of Interstate 95, exit 83. Parking is free and plentiful, either on the streets surrounding the ballpark or on fields just north of the stadium. The Florida Atlantic University's Jupiter campus is next door; do not park there, as you will probably get ticketed.
The entrance is at ground level, unlike some other stadiums in the league, so those with mobility issues will have it a bit easier here. Once inside, the concourse is wide with plenty of room to walk around.
There is a berm but it is also closed during the Florida State League games. This is too bad because it provides an interesting view as it darts into foul territory. I'd love to see a game from this angle some time.
Tickets are $8.50 ($6.50 for seniors and kids), but you actually get an assigned seat rather than typical general admission. Regardless, you can pretty much sit anywhere except the bleachers, which are closed off. I am not sure why they don't simplify matters and just turn the entire park into general admission. However, when compared to some other parks the $8.50 price is slightly higher and hence I'm docking a point here.
Season ticket holders get a great deal though. If you only want to see the Hammerheads (or the Cardinals), you will pay $175 for 70 games. For baseball addicts, you can buy both teams for just $215, which works out to a meager $1.53 for each contest.
There are banners for the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame around the concourse. Chris Evert was one of many famous inductees.
Take time to note the display holding season ticket holders from the inaugural season in 1998; the Expos were one of the teams that used the stadium that year and it is rather depressing to see their logo here. This is on a back wall near first base, somewhat hidden behind an unused food cart, typical treatment of the Expos even years after their demise.
There is an elevator to the upper level and within the small room that holds the elevator, there are some aerial photos of the entire baseball complex box as well as some newspaper articles from the time when the stadium was first proposed. Very interesting to read these so take the time to do so if you can.
The mascot is Hamilton R. Head (Ham-R-Head, get it?) and I am one who appreciates good wordplay so include this bit as an extra.
Note how the right field fence bends in quite dramatically; there can be some interesting plays here as balls behave badly when hit down the line.
Overall, Roger Dean Stadium succeeds on many levels: small but cool neighborhood, free parking, and essentially open seating with great sightlines. With two teams playing there, it would be tough to find a day on which there is no game. Make sure to keep Jupiter in mind as a potential stadium stopping point on your next Florida trip.
Follow all of Sean's journey's at Sports Road Trips.
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