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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The city of Tampa was the first to hold spring training games in Florida when the Chicago Cubs moved into Plant Field in 1913. Over the next 64 years, various clubs used Plant Field and then Al Lang Field as their spring training ground, while surrounding communities such as St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Dunedin joined in the act. After 1987 though, the Cincinnati Reds moved from Tampa, leaving the city without a spring training tenant; and when the original Al Lang Field was demolished shortly thereafter, there wasn’t even a ballpark.
After five long years, the Tampa Sports Authority completed negotiations with the New York Yankees, who would move their spring operation from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa and take up residence in a new ballpark. Legends Field was opened in March 1996 and the Yankees moved their Florida State League and Gulf Coast League teams there as well, making Tampa their center of player development.
When owner George Steinbrenner fell ill in 2008, the name of the stadium was changed to honor him, and when he passed away two years later, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected in front of the stadium. As the largest stadium in the Grapefruit League, Steinbrenner Field is a fitting tribute to the man who maintained the Yankees legendary tradition during his tenure and it is still a fine place to watch a spring training game as it approaches its 20th anniversary.
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 are six major concession stands along the main concourse, with plenty of options. Lee Roy Selmon's has filet tips and fries for $12 while $10 will get you your choice of a pulled pork sandwich, hamburger, cheeseburger, or chicken tenders, all accompanied with fries. A soft pretzel is $6 here.
The Grand Slam Grill advertises a bratwurst for $6.50 and chili cheese nachos for $6. For those on a tight budget, a small bag of cracker jacks is $2.50. My recommendation is the Deli behind third base, which offers cold and hot sandwiches, a tasty turkey and provolone wrap, and a chef salad, each for $10.
There are a number of smaller stands against the other wall, including one with $5 pizza slices and $9 Philly cheese steaks, while another specializes in Italian sausages at $9.
Beer might be the best value with a specialty draft costing $7.50, the same as the typical swill served by Budweiser. For those abstaining, regular soft drinks are $4 ($6.50 for the souvenir size), while a bottle of water is also $4.
Above the right field fence stands the Walgreens Deck with much the same menu as elsewhere. This area is open to all fans and there are a few picnic tables at which anyone can sit, but note that the tables with a view of the field are reserved for specific ticket holders.
Overall, there is good variety but a bit overpriced for spring training. Judging from the lineups though, most fans were accustomed to the prices.
This is a small park that attracts a large crowd, usually near capacity. But it is spring training, so there isn't the usual cheering, as nobody really cares who wins or loses. There is a small line score above the left field wall and a video board just to its right that display enough information; again it's the pre-season and you really don't need to know the stats. If you can't live without this information, pick up a program for $5.
The P.A. announcer is also in spring training mode, not bothering to announce every single defensive change, so if you are particular about scoring, you will have to pay close attention after the 5th inning or so.
The top of the grandstand is decorated with a façade resembling that of the original Yankee Stadium and there are pennants representing each Yankee World Championship as well. In the 6th inning, the grounds crew cleans up while YMCA is played, just like back home in the Bronx, while "God Bless America" is sung during the 7th inning stretch. In other words, this is like a small version of Yankee Stadium, but with much better weather in March.
Steinbrenner Field is located across Dale Mabry Highway from Raymond James Stadium. You will park in the lots here and walk across a footbridge to reach the stadium. There is nothing within walking distance here, other than a bus transfer depot on the other side of the parking lots, should you wish to avoid the $10 parking charge. The Tampa airport is right next door as well, which makes for an easy connection should you wish to fly out after watching the game.
There are a few restaurants just south on Dale Mabry though, with Sonny's BBQ one of the closest, although it doesn't get reviews as good as some of their other locations. My recommendation is to drive about two miles south to Cypress Street where a Brick House Tavern and Tap can be found. This is a wonderful sports bar with a decent menu that should appeal to all members of your party. Staffed by a bevy of attractive waitresses, Brick House includes dozens of beers on tap, which you can enjoy in outdoor seating if you are so inclined, or indoors with plenty of big screens tuned to the sporting events of the day.
I mentioned that this is like a smaller Yankee Stadium, but that comparison differs in one important respect. The fans here are relaxed; there are no worries about wearing a visiting team's jersey, as everybody is just happy that baseball is back. There are no bleacher creatures screaming insults at the umpires or opposing team. From what I could tell, most fans are either Florida residents or on vacation from places other than New York City. They really don't make a lot of noise, applauding politely at the appropriate times and generally chatting amiably throughout the afternoon. It's a good crowd that appreciates spending their vacation in the Tampa Bay area and has no need to ruin the experience for anyone else.
There are few convenient transit options here, so you will likely have to drive and fork over the $10 parking fee, which I find outrageous for spring training. Those staying nearby may prefer a taxi; I took one from a hotel near the airport for $10 plus tip.
There will be a crowd in front of the stadium and at the ticket window and once inside on the concourse. The crowd really doesn't dissipate during the game, as the venue isn't really meant for 11,000 wandering fans. Don't try standing in the right field corner to take a picture either, you will be quickly hustled away as the area gets quite crowded as many fans use this breezeway to make their way to the Walgreens Deck.
Sections have 21 seats per row and if you are on the aisle, you will get up a lot as most fans seem to move back and forth quite a bit.
Tickets start at $17, not bad for a late season game when you will see major leaguers for most of the contest. However, these are tough to find on TicketMaster, which listed the game I saw as sold out days before it took place. On game day, I managed to snag the only pair made available from them, but when I arrived, I was surprised to see a long line at the ticket window, and not for will call either.
However, once you add parking and food, a family of four could be looking at well over $100 for the day, again this seems a bit much for a spring training match, especially early on when you will see mostly minor leaguers. For this reason, I've docked a point in this category, and would suggest that if you want value for your money, attend later in the spring when pitchers throw six innings and some starters play the entire game.
The mini Monument Park outside the stadium takes a few minutes to explore, listing the Yankees with retired numbers and their career accomplishments.
There is also a monument to the World Trade Center, which includes a piece of steel from the actual buildings.
The George Steinbrenner statue deserves a point here. He may not have been popular, but he loved his team and kept them in the news throughout his ownership.
Spring training is meant to be a relaxing affair and you can have some trouble achieving true peace here, with large crowds and expensive eats. Don't let that dissuade you from attending though; this is the Yankees after all. Come prepared (but not too hungry), sit back and enjoy a legendary experience.
Member Review by hhuntley17 on Mar 16, 2015
The mock Yankee stadiums works well with the downtown location
Member Review by Tejasduck on Mar 23, 2015
George M. Steinbrenner Field brings the feel of the Bronx to Tampa. The fans are a lot less vocal, the history of the Yankees is well documented, the access is easy, the neighborhood isn't impressive as there is not much around the ballpark but a short drive can fix that with downtown Tampa, Clearwater, or St Petersburg nearby. The tickets begin at $17-$40 which is decent. There isn't to many negatives to say because just seeing a Spring Training game in any ballpark is worth the trip. However, for a baseball fan, it is a must because nothing beats Spring Training.
2551 N Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33607
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