121 Financial Ballpark – Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
121 Financial Ballpark 301 A. Philip Randolph Blvd Jacksonville, FL 32202
Year Opened: 2003
We Are The Crustacean Nation
The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (formerly the Jacksonville Suns) are the minor league affiliate of the Miami Marlins. They play their home games in the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, which opened in 2003. The Baseball Grounds have a capacity of 11,000, making it the largest stadium at the AA classification level. A majority of the seating is below the entry concourse. However, the stadium is outfitted with 12 skyboxes. 4 SkyDecks can be rented on a per-game basis.
Editor’s Note: The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville was renamed 121 Financial Ballpark in Jan 2020 after the local Jacksonville credit union secured naming rights.
Food & Beverage 4
The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville offer a wide variety of foods through concession stands with such names as the Craft Cave, Sweet Tea-Bows (Tim Tebow is a Jacksonville native), Southern Fried Freebird (the band Lynyrd Skynrd also hails from Jacksonville), All American Jax, Oasis and Singh for Your Supper. Here is a look at the prices at the Ball Grounds: hot dogs, corn dogs, chicken tenders, hamburgers, fries, nachos, pulled pork sandwiches, pizza slices, fried pickles, popcorn, pretzels, cracker jacks, peanuts, chips, apple pie, and candy.
On the beverage front, you can choose from Pepsi brand sodas, bottled water, 24-ounce domestic beer, 16-ounce domestic beer, or premium beers. You would expect that shrimp would be prominently included on the menu when a team is named the Jumbo Shrimp, and you would be correct. Menu items include Boom Boom Shrimp (popcorn shrimp), Coconut Torpedo Shrimp (fried), Shrimp JUMBO-laya, and shrimp and pulled pork nachos.
As with any minor league team, the Jumbo Shrimp and the Suns have launched the major league careers of many of the game’s elite players. Among the current 67 MLB players who played at The Baseball Grounds are Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Martin Prado, Giancarlo Stanton, and Christian Yelich. The home of the Jumbo Shrimp features a long low profile with a clear majority of the seats along the lower level. The seating bowl is broken up into several distinct areas, each with specific perks attached to that area. These include the dugout boxes, the Hot Corner, the Reserved Seats, the SkyDecks, and the General Admission area located in the outfield.
All seating is within 30 rows of the field. The atmosphere at the stadium is that of a major league park, as The Baseball Grounds offer terrific concessions, a fully stocked team store, a huge video board/scoreboard, and activities between each inning. Some of the unique aspects of the park are the berm and Tiki Terrace along the third base line, the transparent outfield fence that you can sit directly behind for the whole game, and an excellent children’s play area behind the dead center wall.
The Jumbo Shrimp stadium is located within Jacksonville’s Sports Complex District on the east end of the downtown area along the St. Johns River. Its neighbors are TIAA Bank Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL), VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, home to the Jacksonville Sharks (NAL), Jacksonville Giants (ABA), and Jacksonville Icemen (ECHL). Major outdoor concerts take place in the nearby Metropolitan Park or the Dailey’s Place Special Event venue.
The Jacksonville Sports Tavern is conveniently located across the street from The Baseball Grounds and is a wonderful place for a pre or post-game meal. Hotels and other dining and entertainment venues are in the downtown area, about 2 miles west of the Sports Complex. Jacksonville Landing offers several dining and entertainment options along the St. John’s riverfront. It is within walking distance of all the major downtown hotels.
Jacksonville fans have been coming to baseball games in River City since the early 1900s. The Suns usually led the Southern League for most of the team’s existence. The rebranding of the team in 2017 resulted in a 23% increase in attendance throughout one season. The fans love the Jumbo Shrimp logo and wear all manner of Shrimp shirts, caps, and merchandise. There is a very broad demographic when you look at a typical Jumbo Shrimp fan.
Jacksonville is a retirement haven, so you see a large number of baby boomers frequent the stadium. The River City is also home to a large Naval installation, and the stadium has set aside a large section of the stadium for military members and their families. The team is also very involved in youth projects, so it is not unusual to see scout packs, youth baseball, and softball teams spread around the stadium. The Jumbo Shrimp have several weekly promotions for the fans, in addition to the once-a-season promotions. Sundays are Family Fun Days with activities like playing catch on the field and running the bases.
Mondays are Charity Begins at Home Nights, where two local charities can share the message of their mission and raise funds. Two for Tuesdays offer two-for-one deals on tickets and discounts on selected beverages. Wednesday is Corks and Forks Night, which gives fans a chance to sample food and wines from a local chef. Thirsty Thursdays provide drink specials all night. Friday is Family Fireworks Night and Saturdays feature special giveaways such as bobbleheads, baseball caps, and beach towels.
The one weakness of the ballpark is in the accessibility area. The stadium has only three gates to enter the park and it can get quite congested on popular promotion nights. Adding to the congestion is the fact that there is a flight of stairs to negotiate to get to the concourse and then get to your seat. This design is necessary as the field must be at ground level as digging down would result in hitting the water table.
There are also climbs and descents involved in reaching many of the popular sections of the park including the Tiki Terrace, the Play Area behind the center field fence, and the outfield berms. Traffic can be a major issue in getting to The Baseball Grounds. Many of the downtown Jacksonville streets are one-way and as they get closer to the park the land becomes narrower. This requires several twists and turns to reach the streets that connect to the Sports Complex.
A second issue is negotiating the many bridges connecting Jacksonville’s neighborhoods. A four-lane street may narrow quickly to a two-lane street as you approach a bridge. On the positive side, the concourse is wide and allows for a good flow of people throughout the game. The concessions and restrooms are frequent enough that you will not experience long lines.
Return on Investment 4
The Jumbo Shrimp offer a wide variety of ticket options. All ticket levels offer a $2 discount if purchased before the day of the game. These are “day of” ticket prices: dugout boxes (front rows in between the dugouts, includes wait service) are priced at $20, the hot corner (seats with a table in front of you along the third base line, includes free drinks) is $17, reserved seats (all seats in the grandstand not mentioned before) are $11 and general admission (grandstand in outfield, berms along the third base line) are $7.
Jacksonville is a large Navy town, and anyone with a military ID receives reserved tickets for $5. Food prices vary greatly, depending on what food item you choose. However, the variety of foods available and the quality of food are excellent. Parking prices surrounding the Baseball Grounds can vary depending on the lot chosen, expect to pay at least $7. If concurrent events are going on within the Sports Complex area, parking can skyrocket to above $30. Public transit to the stadium is available for $2 a person.
One extra point goes to the marketing department for its witty shrimp-centric promotions and food items. 121 Financial Field is the only ballpark in the USA to have a church within the ballpark property. One of the nice touches incorporated into the building of the stadium is the inclusion of profiles of many Suns players who played in Jacksonville long before The Baseball Grounds were built. The profiles appear on the steel beams along the concourse. The Suns had a 54-year history in the River City and among the players who spent time in Jacksonville on their way to major league careers are Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan, Larry Walker, Bret Saberhagen, and Alex Rodriquez.
In addition to the Jumbo Shrimp games, the ballpark hosted the ACC baseball tournament from 2005 – 2008, the Southern League All-Star Game in 2003 and 2013, and serves as a neutral field for the University of Florida / Florida State University baseball game on an annual basis. No matter which way you look in The Baseball Grounds, you will see something interesting on the horizon.
Behind the right field, bleachers are several of the bridges that link Jacksonville together, as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium. From the left field corner, you see the St. Andrews church that is encircled by the stadium. Downtown Jacksonville and the St. Johns River form the backdrop behind the stands along the first baseline.
Jacksonville is hands down the sports capital of northern Florida and southeastern Georgia. It has a long history of success in handling major events, including Super Bowls, the Georgia-Florida game, and several lesser-known sports. The city’s Sports Complex is extremely well thought out and The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville are a major part of that success. The facility provides a very entertaining product, excellent concessions, and a myriad of seating options to meet any fan’s needs.