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Official Review by Joe Rogers, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Bright House Field opened to the delight of Philadelphia Phillies fans making their traditional baseball pilgrimage south in the spring of 2004 and has continued to be a Garden of Eden of sorts for the Phightins faithful annually. Built at a cost of $28 million replacing the antiquated Jack Russell Memorial Stadium (home to the Phils for over 50 years), it seems like one the greatest investments the franchise has made recently considering that is just $3 million more than they have been paying their aging first baseman annually. With its beautiful Spanish Mediterranean designed façade, complete with a palm tree line plaza, fountain and centerpiece sculpture titled The Ace by artist Kevin Brady, it is sure to remind any fan that they are no longer in South Philadelphia but in one of the finest stadiums in Major League Baseball’s Grapefruit League.
This Floridian architectural classic features a 360-degree main concourse, open to the playing field with 7,300 fixed seats with grass berm seating for an additional 1,500. Of course, there are always exceptions to these standard numbers as is evident every St. Patrick’s Day when the home team dons their green unis and plays in front of a sun drenched crowd in excess of 10,000 as was the case again this year when they toppled the attendance record with 11, 222 in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
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 is a plethora of options including the Strike Out Café which has five different locations throughout the concourse and is your fill-up station for your normal ballpark fare including: hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, peanuts, soft drinks, water, beer, etc. If you are suffering from cheesesteak withdrawal while on your vacation, head for Delco's Original Cheesesteaks and Hoagies for an authentic taste of Philly located directly behind home plate.
There are Boar's Head, Bubba's Burger and Tijuana Flats stands as well. Head down the third base line if you are in search of Grouper Nuggets (Abe's Place) and wash them down with a Beach Blonde Ale poured at Beers of the World a few steps away which features over 100 different bottled beers and eight varieties on tap, the aforementioned a product of 3 Daughters Brewing located in St. Petersburg.
If you find yourself out in left field in need a quick break from the kids, wonder over to the new Local Craft Alley where it features 16 local draft beers from breweries including: 3 Daughters Brewery, Pair O'Dice, Big Storm and Tampa Bay Brewing. Dunedin Smokehouse, a local barbeque joint serving pulled pork sandwiches and bacon wrapped pork is also a newcomer to Bright House this spring and has become an instant favorite. So, as you can see, there is something for everyone.
With the beginning of every new season comes hope, and sipping a few cold ones under the warmth of a blue-tinged Suncoast sky can make any doubting fan a believer and thus the reason thousands travel to Clearwater every year. Whether expectations are legitimately high, or not quite so, as is the case this 2016 season, Philadelphia fans are a passionate fraternity and this is their temporary nirvana, and they are going to soak in every last inning of its splendor. This is a combination that can generate electricity throughout the park and thus create a fantastic atmosphere in which to enjoy the game.
Bright House Field is situated smack dab in the center of Clearwater's commercial hub. Absolutely anything you may be in need of is honestly within a two mile radius of the stadium. There are several hotels within a ten minute walking distance including a La Quinta Inn, Hampton Inn and the Clearwater Grand Hotel. Lenny's Restaurant, a fan favorite morning gathering place and home to the Alligator Omelet is a stone's throw away as is Buffalo Wild Wings and Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery for your post game pleasure.
Phillies fans pride themselves on passion, patience and a bona fide understanding of the game and its nuances. Their knowledge of baseball, and how it is to be played, rates second to no other fan base. Their reputation, however, has suffered from the national media's decision to spotlight just a few fans that have donned Phillies red and acted poorly over the years. The majority have never been tazed, but are hardworking, easy going folks just looking to enjoy a day at the ballpark and a Phils victory and these are exactly the folks you find at Bright House.
Bright House Field is conveniently accessible off US Highway 19 (Drew Street exit) but patience may be required as this area is renowned for its traffic congestion and you will most likely become a victim of it. There is ample parking with the majority of fans utilizing the lots off Old Coachman Road and the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex at a cost of $10. Here you can pull out a few lawn chairs, crank up some Jimmy Buffett, tailgate a bit and then catch a free (a small tip is appreciated) 2-minute shuttle ride to the main entrance. For the same modest price, handicapped and suite ticket holder parking is available on the first base side of the stadium. Once inside, the concourse is wide but can occasionally be hard to navigate due to pedestrian traffic.
The Phillies have recently implemented a "premium game" pricing scheme following the models put in place by some of the more popular teams in baseball a few seasons ago. A practice in which an additional $5 or so is placed on the value of the ticket for games played against the more popular teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, etc... Long gone are the days when spring training was associated with cheaper tickets. The following are the levels of pricing for non-premium games in 2016:
Club Level: $34
Field Box and Baseline: $28
Tiki Terrace: $25
Berm (Outfield Grass) $14
As you can see, the tickets are still very reasonable considering they are very comparable in price to that of the nearby clubs and much cheaper than those found at the Braves' box office at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney.
Frenchie's Tiki bar, the extremely popular gathering place located in left field has seating for an estimated 75 fans and has an additional five tiers of barstool seating in front which can accommodate close to another 200. Frenchie's begins serving 2 ˝ hours prior to the first pitch being thrown and will serve them up until 1-2 hours following the final out. Also, out in left field is a children's play area complete with a giant play set, recycled rubber flooring to prevent scraped knees and an area supervisor ensuring a safe environment for the kids.
Member Review by StPeteRays on Apr 04, 2013
When thinking of the term "sports mecca", Clearwater, Florida, isn't exactly high on many people's lists. Long considered a vacation and retirement destination, Clearwater further alienated sports connoisseurs in 1981 with the arrival of the Church of Scientology. Yet, somehow, Clearwater was named Sports Illustrated's "#1 Sports City in Florida", over cities with richer sports roots like neighboring twins Tampa and St. Petersburg, Miami, and Orlando. "Why is that," you ask? Two words:
The Phillies have called Clearwater their spring "home away from home" since 1947, and have made themselves welcomed and loved by the community. During the 2008 World Series against the actual home team, the Tampa Bay Rays, Clearwater was the only city in Tampa Bay to shed the blue and gold for red and white, proudly joining in the celebration of both the Phillies' arrival to Tropicana Field that October. They were cheering the loudest (outside of the Delaware Valley, of course) when the Phils were the ones to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy on October 29. Clearwater, its residents, businesses, and even mayor are unashamed of their love of the Phightin's.
So, it was a no-brainer when, in 2001, Phillies and the city decided their longtime home, Jack Russell Stadium, needed to be replaced. Thus, in 2002, the subject of this review broke ground amid much fanfare. Built to the same exact dimensions as the also highly-anticipated Phillies' permanent home, Citizens Bank Park, Bright House Field proved not only a success for the spring, but also for the Advanced-A Florida State League Threshers, who hosted the FSL All-Star Game in 2005, as well as the Big East (known from 2014–onwards as the American Athletic Conference) Baseball Tournament since 2006 (with one year away in 2007).
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