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The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

West Palm Beach, FL

Home of the Washington Nationals Spring Training

3.3

N/A

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches (map it)
5444 Haverhill Road
West Palm Beach, FL 44302


Washington Nationals Spring Training website

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches website

Year Opened: 2017

Capacity: 6,500

There are no tickets available at this time.

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The Nationals Spring Home

Taking a successful page from their western counterparts in the Cactus League, the Grapefruit League has been slowly moving to consolidate their teams into fewer stadiums located closer together. West Palm Beach, near the spring homes of the Mets, Marlins, and Cardinals, floated a proposal for a new, split-team stadium and got bites with the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals (both formerly in the northeast of the state), who committed to becoming roomies as early as 2017.

With ground broken at the end of 2015, the stadium was still under construction into 2017, with Spring Training looming on the horizon. The 6,500-seat stadium managed to open just under the wire, hosting not just Spring Training for the Nats and Astros, but also their Gulf Coast minor league squads, and Keiser University baseball.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is a fine new stadium, but that's about it right now. It is average in most areas, but as the new facility settles in and finishes construction, it has the potential to become more.

3.3

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    3

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches covers all the stadium basics for food and drink, but doesn't stand out in many ways--although some unfinished construction may point to a brighter future.

All the regular ballpark food is on the menu, but there's not a lot of unique offerings. There are concessions stands built in along the promenade, as well as carts at regular intervals in the outfield. They all go by different names, but mostly serve up different versions of the same standard menu.

Burger, Veggie Burger, and Chicken Sandwich combos with fries are all $10 (+ .50 for cheese and + $1 for bacon). Pulled pork sandwiches and chicken tenders are also $10, with brats at $7 and hot dogs at $5.

There are also a few specialty carts to be had. Stix ($12) by home plate serves up grilled, skewered chicken or pork with kettle chips. In right field, there is Beachwood Burgers ($12 for various specialty burgers), the Liberty Bell ($12 cheese steaks), and the Lone Star Cantina ($8-$12 for tacos and nachos supreme). In left, there is the Hickory Sausage Shack that delivers $12 foot-long hot dogs or brats, or $7 Italian sausages, jalapeno cheddar sausages, or Palm Beach Half Smokes.

The drinks selection is similarly okay. Most concessions carry the Bud family and Stella at $10.50 for a 24-ounce souvenir cup and 16 ounces for $7.50, but the District Tap Room in the home plate plaza offers slightly more variety at the same prices. You can get Shiner Bock, Ruby Redbird, Shock Top, and Goose IPA in addition to the Bud and Stella, as well as $11 daiquiris and $9 wines. Pepsi is the soda family of choice, with souvenir sodas going for $7, and regular sodas (and bottled water) for $4.50.

The food and drink choices are pretty average, but the Stix cart ($12) in the home plate plaza is surprisingly tasty, as is the Florida take on the DC-favorite Half Smokes ($7) at the Hickory Sausage Shack in left field (though the cart is sometimes unmanned for day games). Wash it down with a generous souvenir draft ($10.50)--my choice is the Ruby Redbird for a hot spring afternoon.

Atmosphere    3

The Ballpark at the Palm Beaches wasn't quite completely finished for their opening season in 2017, so there are rough edges for the first year. It is undoubtedly a fine, new minor league and Spring Training facility, but it doesn't stand out in comparison to the more elaborate Grapefruit parks over in Fort Myers, or the recent Cactus League palaces such as Walking Stick or Sloan Field.

The ballpark is a modern, all-inclusive Spring Training complex, featuring not only a main stadium, but practice and conditioning facilities for both teams that surround the main park, with the Astros on the first base side of the park, and the Nationals on the third base side. The training fields are open to the public and are a great place to grab an autograph or watch favorite players up close.

The main ballpark follows a common minor league layout, with the single main entrance opening out onto a main promenade that circles the entire park. All seating (except for the luxury boxes and party areas that are in an upper deck) descends down from the promenade.

Regular seats are in the areas into the short outfield, while the General Admissions Banana Boat lawn extends around the outfield. The giant video scoreboard sits out in right field, near the Nationals bullpen. Shade awnings extend over the last few rows in the infield seating, providing some cover from the Florida sun or spring showers.

Mascot Screech the Eagle and the fan-favorite Presidents Race both make the trip south--well, Screech does, at least. The Presidents Race for Spring Training is made up of three permanently "retired" presidents (Taft, Coolidge, and Hoover), decked out in tourist splendor. In addition to the titular race, there are giveaways and contests between innings to keep the crowd engaged.

Outfield Reserved seats (sections 100-1 and 117-123) are perhaps the best bargain in the park. They are the second cheapest seats, still quite near the action, and in prime foul ball territory, as long as you don't mind getting some sun.

Neighborhood    3

While West Palm Beach isn't a hot Spring Break destination, the area has gotten a good deal of recent press due to President Trump's weekly visits to one of his Florida golf clubs and resort in the city. But the ballpark itself is nestled in the residential area of the city in the northwest, west of the lakes and a good five miles away from the beach. This has its good and bad points. If you're opposed to the beach scene, the stadium is well enough away that you can avoid it all easily, but if you're looking to hit the beach after a game, five miles is a pretty short drive.

The ballpark is located a bit of a drive from downtown West Palm Beach, which is a shame, because that is where most of the good restaurants are. Outside of a local pizza and pasta joint, it is mostly mall chains around the park. You can drive 10 minutes north up Interstate 95 to Palm Beach Gardens, or 15 or so minutes south to downtown West Palm Beach to get actual restaurants. Park at City Place in downtown and walk around until you find an eatery that suits your fancy.

The good news is that the park is closer to the many nature areas in the west of the city (Winding Waters, Dyer Park, SWA Greenway) as well as four of the ever-present Florida golf courses, including the aforementioned Trump International. If you're looking for water fun without the nature, the Rapids Water Park is just north of the park.

Further east at the beach in Riviera, there are several casino boats and shuttles and boat tours to Peanut Island Park, as well as family friendly Manatee Lagoon, and a short drive will take you out to Singer Island for all the beach resorts. The rest of the attractions, such as the zoo, the Norton Museum of Art, and the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, are located further south of the airport and by downtown.

The closest nest of hotels is to the east of the park by 95, with a Homewood Suites by Hilton, and Extended Stay America, Days Inn, Red Roof Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and a Courtyard West Palm Beach. Further to the north on I-95 is a cheaper Super 8, and further south on 95 are a clutch including La Quinta, Best Western, Hawthorne Suites, and a Ramada West.

Fans    3

Although finally enjoying some continued success in the National League East, the Nats aren't translating that success into Spring Training attendance numbers, consistently finishing in the bottom third of the Grapefruit League.

New facilities almost always lead to a bump in attendance, but partnering up with the Astros (who regularly finish at the bottom of attendance for all of Spring Training) may not have been the best strategic move, and years with a WBC such as 2017 seem to cause a dip in Spring Training patrons. The current attendance story at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches can be summed up in a weekend game where the two home teams faced off during the park's opening season. That marquee game was, at best, 75% filled. If those games aren't selling out, they aren't likely to sell out many others. The good news is that the Nationals are clearly the senior partners of this match-up.

That said, the fans that are there aren't just there to get pre-game autographs. They are loud and into the game, or as much as you can be in Spring Training.

Access    4

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is about a block and half from both Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike, making it a quick jump off either highway to the park.

Florida is not known for its mass transit, but if you're up for a bit of a walk, Palm Tran bus line 31 (Medical Center/$1) will get you within walking distance of the park and hooks up with bus lines leading to the airport and downtown.

Parking is on two simple grass lots that will set you back a league-average $10 per game. The smaller north lot is located next to the Astros practice fields, while the longer, block-long lot on the south of the complex is by the Nationals practice facilities. It is relatively quick in and out, and a short distance to major roads leading out of the area.

Bucking the trend of new parks with many entrances, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has only one, large entrance right by home plate. In keeping with MLB's new policies, the entrance has metal detectors for all patrons before entrance. While the single entrance with an additional metal detector hurdle could lead to delays, the gates open a fan friendly 2.5 hours before the start of the game and most backups are avoided.

The entrance opens out onto a wide main promenade that runs around the entire park above the seating areas. The walkway is broad enough that walking around isn't a problem, even with large crowds, and so avoids any bunch-ups even by the concessions.

Return on Investment    4

While Spring Training is always a cheaper option for fans to get a close-up view of their favorite stars, the Ballpark at the Palm Beaches doesn't fully deliver on that promise. While towing the Grapefruit League average for many items, the ticket and food prices are definitely more costly than elsewhere in the league.

The Astros and Nationals share a pricing structure--which is very generous to the poorly drawing Astros. Seating is in three tiers of games (Regular/Prime/Premier) and broken up into Home Plate Boxes ($42-$65), Field Boxes (next to the Nationals dugout, $37-$56), Dugout Boxes (first-base field level, $31-$47), Infield Boxes (upper field level, $28-$42), Outfield Reserve (short outfield areas, $23-$32), and Lawn (center, right, and a section of left field, $15-$20). All of these prices are above the league average, but perhaps expected for a new stadium in its first year.

Several second level party decks and enclosed luxury boxes are available for rental. Groups of 15 or more can get discounted tickets, and online-only flex packs for four games will also get you a $2 per-seat discount over the four games.

Especially given the underwhelming selection, the food is a lot more pricey than it should be, with many to most offerings over $10, though the beer prices are around the league average. Parking is at the nearly league-wide $10, and the program (with different content for the Nationals and Astros) is also a league average $5.

Extras    3

New stadiums generally aren't drowning in extras in their first year, and the Ballpark at the Palm Beaches is no exception. Signs abound of the incomplete and new construction, from still-buttressed palm trees, to incomplete parking lots, to missing signs.

That said, you can't take away from the ambitious landscaping for the park. A main entrance road is flanked by rows of palm trees and two decorative lakes, with giant Astros and Nationals logos marking their training areas. Each training area leads to the main entrance with mirrored boardwalk bridges with colorful baseball decorations.

There are plaques to the Founders Club of park sponsors and to the park dedication in 2017. Besides that, there's not much else for memorials in a new park.

Final Thoughts

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is a solid new park well worth a visit, but it currently doesn't stand out from the crowd in many ways. Time will tell if it grows into something more.

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