Blue Wahoos Stadium – Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Photos by Matt Colville Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Admiral Fetterman Field at Blue Wahoos Stadium 351 W Cedar St Pensacola, FL 32502
Year Opened: 2012
Welcome to Hoosville
In 2012 affiliated professional baseball returned to Pensacola when the beautiful Blue Wahoos Stadium opened its doors for the first time. It had been exactly 50 years since the last affiliated pro ball team, the Class D Pensacola Senators, took the field in 1962. Even though Pensacola was already home to the independent league Pelicans, it was because of this little indy league team that the Blue Wahoos are here today.
The Pelicans began play in 2002 in the tiny, now-defunct Southeastern League, playing their games at local junior college Pensacola State College’s Pirate Field. Midway through the 2002 season the Pelicans were purchased by local health care consultant Quint Studer, and for the 2003 season Studer would move the team to a bigger ballpark at the University of West Florida’s Jim Spooner Field. They would play the next 8 seasons there, in 3 different leagues and in front of many sellout crowds. The Pelicans were a huge draw for the region and proof that Pensacolians were starved for professional baseball again. With the Pelicans fan base continuing to grow, it only became fitting that the team needed to build a bigger ballpark.
So, in 2010 construction began in downtown Pensacola for a 5,038-seat stadium that would be located on the site of a former toxic waste dump, right next to the Port of Pensacola. The stadium was slated to open in time for the 2012 season, and would be the return of professional baseball to the downtown area since the Senators folded in 1962. The ballpark was originally supposed to be home of the independent Pelicans, but after the Double A Southern League began to take notice of the plans, they became interested in placing a team here, and thus one of the most complex and complicated minor league team relocations of all-time began.
First Studer sold the Pelicans to Amarillo, TX where they became the Amarillo Sox. Studer then had to buy an existing Southern League franchise, which he did with the purchase of the Carolina Mudcats. To seal this purchase he then had to relocate the Kinston Indians, of the Class A Carolina League, to the Raleigh metro area where they would resume the Mudcats name and branding. And finally, because Pensacola is located about 40 miles east of Mobile, AL Studer would have to buy the territorial rights of the Mobile BayBears. This series of moves cost a total of $2 million before the franchise was even born. Originally the team was going to resume using the Pelicans name, but decided to change the idea and let fans name the team, and so the Pensacola Blue Wahoos were born.
There were several problems associated with an affiliated Southern League team moving into town, for one the stadium only held about 5,000 seats, a thousand seats below the league minimum. But after seeing the final renderings and the gorgeous view the stadium had to offer the league decided to wave that rule. Since their inception the Blue Wahoos have always been affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds, but prior to the 2019 season the Wahoos swapped with the Chattanooga Lookouts and became Minnesota Twins affiliates.
Food & Beverage 5
The Wahoos completely revamped their concessions last season (2019) – gone are the old basic concessions stands, and in their place are four completely new storefront type stands, each with their own individual theme and brand. In addition to the normal foods sold at all ballparks, each individual stand features a restaurant style menu that caters to its particular theme.
For instance, down the first base side Casa De Kazoo features a Mexican inspired food menu including tacos (fish, chicken, and pork) and margaritas. Also down the first baseline is the Wheelhouse Diner, a 50s themed concessions stand that sells various specialty hot dogs, burgers, and milkshakes. Its signature item is the Deep Fried Elvis, which is a deep fried banana dipped in peanut butter and honey, then topped with powdered sugar and served in a hot dog bun. Or, down the third baseline is the Hook, Line and Sinker stand which serves seafood. Some items on this menu include calamari burgers, shrimp po-boys, crab mac and cheese, blackened mullet, and ceviche tacos, which have mahi mahi, octopus, shrimp cocktail, pico de gallo, onions and salsa.
A new item that won Ballpark Digest’s Best Concession for 2019 is the Crabzilla – for a whopping 25 dollars you get crab remoulade, pork belly, soft shell crab, crab mac and cheese, and fried shrimp, with lettuce and tomato served on a bun with two hush puppies on top. If you’re really hungry you can do the Crabzilla challenge, in which if you eat the Crabzilla in 5 minutes or less you get it for free. Also on the third baseline is the English and Irish themed Fish and Hits stand; this pub style setting includes fish and chips, chicken tenders, beer brats, Irish potato nachos, specialty fries, and whiskey shakes.
There is also a small bar behind home plate called Bubba’s Sand Trap. Named for team owner Bubba Watson, you can go inside and sit down and watch TV, or order a drink at the bar. You can order pizza and salads in here as well, on top of frozen cocktails and craft beers. Also on the concourse there are multiple stands such as Dippin’ Dots, Kona Ice, a wine stand, a gourmet nut stand, and a BBQ stand. There’s a stand in left field at the far end that sells Philly cheesesteaks, Italian Sausage, and Lo Mein stir fry.
There are three party decks at Blue Wahoo Stadium, including the Winn-Dixie party deck and the Coors Light Zone in right field, and the Blue Chair deck in left field. There’s plenty of food to be found in the party decks, and for $33 on weeknights or $35 on weekends you get a pre-game buffet and unlimited drinks, and for $5 more you can get catering with either Sonny’s BBQ or Moe’s. In addition, on Tuesday the Wahoos run a promotion called Taste of Pensacola, for which $24 gets you a ticket to Winn-Dixie’s party deck and a 90-minute buffet with spreads from local restaurants. Needless to say, Blue Wahoos Stadium has something for everyone, and is one stadium where you won’t go home hungry.
You know you are in a special place as soon as you walk in the gates. You’ll be greeted by many friendly ushers and the front office staff, who provide an excellent atmosphere and plenty of on-field excitement. Almost every night there is a different theme, and every night there is some sort of promotion or giveaway. Expect plenty of entertainment between innings, with emcee’s Downtown Dave and Sunshine Sammy providing a multitude of giveaways and games to keep the fans engaged.
Also, the mascot Kazoo, which is a Blue sea creature, is one of the better mascots in all of minor league baseball – expect to see him interacting with fans on the concourse and on the field. You will also see plenty of between-innings action on the field to keep fans of all ages entertained; everything from the Roach Run for the kids, when somebody dresses up as a roach and runs out from right field while kids try to catch him, to the Grounds Crew Drag and Dance in the bottom of the 7th, in which the grounds crew does a synchronized dance to a song while doing the between-innings dragging of the infield.
There is also a strong military presence in Pensacola, so they have a military mascot run which includes a Navy goat, Army mule, Marine bulldog, and Coast Guard bear. The Wahoos also do a promotion called Home Run for Life, which is a once-a-month tribute to a child who has overcome a medical hardship – both teams come out and line up along the first and third baselines as the child runs the bases and high fives the players as they come around the bases.
The looks on the faces of some of these kids is priceless, as they round the bases headed into home as the players cheer them on. Some of the other promotions include Military Family Sunday, in which active and retired military personnel receive discounted tickets, and Money Monday, in which a minimum of $1,000 is given away. In addition there are Taste of Pensacola Tuesdays, Wine & Sign Wednesdays where you can get autographs of several players in the team store during pregame, and enjoy half-price glasses of wine throughout the game, as well $2 draft beer on Thirsty Thursdays and Giveaway Fridays where the first 2,000 fans receive a gift, plus fireworks on Saturdays.
Those are just some of the traditional promotions they do on a nightly basis. But every night is also a different themed night, so the other between-innings entertainment is tied into whatever theme that night is. The Wahoos creative service team goes above and beyond with its many different themed nights, for instance on Field of Dreams Night the outside of the stadium’s main gates were covered with corn stalks similar to the movie. When it was Anchorman Night many of the employees dressed as Ron Burgundy and characters from the news team, and the stadium played the soundtrack from the movie.
On Five Flags Fiesta Night, which was the night that honored Pensacola’s founding, the team wore special throwback jerseys where they honored the old Pensacola Dons franchise, which was named after Don Tristan de Luna, who founded the nation’s first settlement in the 1600s – the staff and employees were decked out in colonial settler attire similar to pilgrims. Some of the planned themed nights for the upcoming season include Legalize Marinara night on April 20th, a Wahoos Stadium bar crawl, Bark in the Park, Mardi Gras Night, Star Wars Night, Festival of Crabzilla, and Negro Leagues Night, in which the Wahoos will honor the former Negro League team as they become the Pensacola Seagulls for the evening.
The stadium itself is located within Community Maritime Park, a 27.5-acre park that includes Blue Wahoos Stadium, an amphitheater for concerts, a boardwalk/walking trail that lines the water, a playground, and an outdoor fitness center which resembles a smaller Muscle Beach in California. The location on the water definitely gives the stadium that Florida-beachy feel, as all throughout the outside the stadium is lined with palm trees, and on any given day you can find tons of people jogging the boardwalk or fishing. Even the exterior of the stadium ties into the surrounding area, with that sandy color and brick facade found on numerous condos near the beach. Also, just behind left field is the Port of Pensacola and the marina, which houses many expensive high-priced yachts, and you can view all the boats from the concourse.
There are three main entrances into the stadium, with the main gate located on the west side. Blue Wahoos Stadium faces southeast with beautiful and spectacular views of Pensacola Bay, and throughout the game it’s very common to see a ton of different boats and sailboats out on the water. In fact, the seating behind home plate in Sections 100 and 101 has been voted the best view in baseball multiple years in a row.
As soon as you enter the main gate you go up two sets of stairs to the seating area. Because of its location on the water in a prime hurricane area, the concourse is built pretty high up. Also, the concourse is built like most minor league parks nowadays where you can walk around the stadium and never miss a pitch. The venue is lit up nicely with the HD LED ribbon board around the concourse, providing fans with plenty of light; the seating bowl has a typical setup, and because of its size there is not a bad view in the house no matter where you sit.
Behind home plate is the Bait & Tackle Team Store which is open on non-game days as well, and right next to that is the Cox Clubhouse which includes kids’ games, a blown up bouncy house, three televisions, and a virtual reality room that has multiple different sports games. Blue Wahoos Stadium does not have any suites, but the Hancock Whitney Club located on the third floor over the third baseline is an open area seating space that can hold all types of different functions. In addition, there is a full spread here of all different types of food for fans to enjoy, not to mention you can’t beat the views out over the Pensacola Bay on a summer night.
With its downtown and waterfront setting, Blue Wahoos Stadiums is located in a prime location. The main road through downtown Pensacola, Palafox Street, is located about two blocks away from the stadium and you should be able to find any kind of restaurant or bar imaginable there. Popular bars and restaurants on this strip of Palafox include Jackson’s Steakhouse, Bodacious Shops, O’Riley’s, Intermission, Graffiti Pizza, World of Beer, Taco Agave, Old Hickory Whiskey Bar, Blend Lounge, Tin Cow, Wild Greg’s Saloon, and Play Pensacola, an arcade style bar.
But no stop in Pensacola would be complete without a trip to the famed Seville Quarter, which is modeled after New Orleans’ French Quarter. It features seven saloons, including the oldest and most famous, Rosie O’Grady’s. Famous for its Hurricane cocktails and dueling pianos, this two-story bar has been serving patrons since the 1920s. The Seville Quarter is filled with options whether you want to hang out with the local military presence at Marlene’s Aviators pub, or dance to club type music at Apple Annie’s and Rosie’s; if you’re in the mood for seafood the Palace Oyster Bar and District Steak have you covered as well.
Just east of Blue Wahoos Stadium is the famous McGuire’s Irish Pub, one of Pensacola’s favorite restaurants. Over 100,000 one-dollar bills line the ceiling at this restaurant, but prices are reasonable unless you want to try McGuire’s famous $100 burger. Across the street from McGuire’s are the famed Fish House and Atlas Oyster House, two popular seafood restaurants overlooking the bay. Other popular restaurants in downtown include Union Public House, Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille, Nick’s Boathouse, Joe Patti Seafood, Shoreline Foods, Five Sisters Blue Café, Dwarf Chicken Stand, and Chizuko. There are also three breweries located in downtown as well – Gulf Coast Brewery, Emerald Republic, and Pensacola Bay Brewery.
Perhaps the most visited Pensacola attraction is the Naval Aviation Museum, a fascinating tribute to aviation history on the grounds of the world’s largest naval air station. The only museum in the world devoted exclusively to Naval Aviation, this museum has something for everyone. You can ride in a motion simulator or try the controls of a jet trainer, or wander among hundreds of full-sized aircraft. Admission to the museum is free and you can’t beat it. Or, if in town when the famous Blue Angels flight squadron is practicing, I recommend viewing one of their shows. Sometimes the Blue Angels practice right out over the water of the bay, and you can get a clear shot of the planes from the right field party deck.
Right across the street from the Naval Aviation Museum is the Pensacola Lighthouse – the old lighthouse is open for tours and you can climb the 171 steps to the top for sweeping and breathtaking views of the beach and the surrounding area. Be careful though, as the steps are steep and the lighthouse is rumored to be the most haunted lighthouse in the country, having even been featured on Ghost Hunters and numerous others shows. In addition, Fort Barrancas, an old Civil War fort controlled by the Union, is located on the grounds of the Naval Air Station as well, and Fort Pickens is located just across the bay as well for history buffs to explore.
Some people do not know that Pensacola was the first official settlement in the US – it was founded in 1559 and predates St. Augustine by 6 years, however a hurricane destroyed the colony two years after its founding and the city would be abandoned for over 150 years. Pensacola has been ruled by five nations, hence its nickname the City of Five Flags. As such, Pensacola has a lot of historic buildings and interesting structures in the downtown area, so history buffs will have a good time making a stroll around downtown. The Historic Pensacola Villages features over 10 historic homes and museums that are available for touring as well; you can purchase a ticket for $8 and have a week to visit the many historic buildings in the area.
If you want to make a beach trip, the beaches of Pensacola Beach are located on Santa Rosa Island just across the bay – there are also tons of attractions and restaurants located on the Island as well. The resort town of Destin is about 45 miles to the east, while the towns of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are each about 30 miles to the west. If staying the night there are tons of different hotels in Pensacola; just remember the closer you get to the water, the more expensive the hotel rooms.
Last season the Blue Wahoos averaged about 4,300 fans a game, which places them third in the Southern League. However, the Wahoos have the largest number of season ticket holders of any team in the league, despite having the smallest seating capacity of 5,038. The Blue Wahoos consistently sell out almost every game, so despite the capacity being small it actually looks really good with so many seats packed on a nightly basis.
There are multiple different types of fans who the Blue Wahoos appeal to in the area. Pensacola is a big military town so there’s a constant military presence at games, but the panhandle area of Florida also attracts a lot of snowbirds, retirees who move south to escape the harsh conditions in the north. All throughout the game you’ll catch people wearing jerseys from their respective home towns, and you’ll see teams represented from all over the country including minor league teams and major league teams. In fact, one of the great reasons for the Wahoos to be affiliated with the Twins is that there are a lot of transplanted Minnesotans in the area.
The final group of fans you’ll find at Blue Wahoos Stadium are the family vacationers from out of town who are vacationing at one of the many area beaches. Working in the front office last season I met so many different people from all over the country and the world, from as far away as New Zealand and Japan – you’ll catch a full melting pot of different cultures from all walks of life, people of all ages, and families at a Blue Wahoos game.
The one drawback to attending a game at Blue Wahoos Stadium is the access, as there are several different routes headed into the stadium, but depending on the time of day traffic in downtown Pensacola can be a nightmare. The stadium is located in downtown Pensacola right on Pensacola Bay, a couple of blocks west of the main road through downtown Palafox Street. If coming from out of town from the north just take I-10 to the I-110 interchange, which empties into downtown after about four miles. Blue Wahoos Stadium can be kind of difficult to find if you not familiar with the area, so my suggestion would just be to turn on your GPS. Also, the roads in downtown can be confusing since some of them are only one-way as well.
Parking can be kind of difficult at Blue Wahoos Stadium; there is a small lot outside the stadium that costs $7 to park in but it fills up quickly, so my suggestion would be to park at the season ticket holder’s grass lot on the corner of Devillers and Main Streets. This lot is well lit and monitored and despite games often being sellouts, the lot never fills up because it’s so huge. There is also a van and shuttle that runs fans from this parking lot to the stadium.
There are several parking lots downtown a couple of blocks away from the stadium as well; these lots cost $5. Once inside the facility the concourses can get pretty jammed, and concessions back up especially during weekend games. But overall the concourses are easy to navigate, and you should have no problem finding your seat.
Return on Investment 4
Last season (2019), minor league baseball released the average cost for a family of four to attend a baseball game at 160 minor league stadiums, factoring in the price of four tickets, four hot dogs, four drinks, and parking – the Blue Wahoos ranked as the 12th-least expensive with an average price of $51. They also finished as the second most affordable team in the Southern League behind the Chattanooga Lookouts.
The prices of Blue Wahoos tickets vary depending on the day of the week. Weekend games obviously cost more, and tickets purchased ahead of time are going to be cheaper than tickets purchased the day of, but typical prices are as follows: Regions Club seats behind home plate are $17 on weekends and $12 on weekdays, while General Admission seats are $10 on weekends and $7 on weekdays. This is an absolute steal for this level of baseball at one of the prettiest stadiums in the entire country – you are paying not just to watch a baseball game, but you are paying to experience a top-notch atmosphere, easily one of the best in Double A baseball.
Since 2015 the Blue Wahoos have been partly owned by two-time Masters Winner and Pensacola native Bubba Watson, who, when not on tour is a constant presence at Blue Wahoos games. He’s down to earth and when in town can often be found sitting behind home plate with his wife and kids. Some teams have celebrity owners who don’t even attend the games, but Watson not only attends as many as he can, but can also be seen mingling, interacting, and sitting with the fans. Another co-owner is Pensacola native, NFL Hall of Famer, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Florida State linebacker Derrick Brooks, who co-owns it with Watson, while Quint Studer owns the other half. Bubba Watson also owns an ice cream shop a couple of blocks away from the stadium called Bubba’s Sweet Spot.
Since opening in 2012 Blue Wahoos Stadium has also picked up countless awards over the years, including Groundskeeper of the Year for five straight years (2013-2017), Best Minor League Experience (2013-2015), Ballpark of the Year (2012, 2016), Broadcaster of the Year (2015), Organization of the Year (2012, 2015-2016, 2018), Executive of the Year (2015), and countless other community service awards.
The seats in the top row of section 101 have also been selected as The Best View in Baseball; the sweeping views of Pensacola Bay remain unmatched from any other venue in all of baseball. In addition, behind left field the water comes within about 15 to 20 feet of the left field fence, so like McCovey’s Cove at San Francisco’s Oracle Park, it’s very common for batters to hit home runs into the water beyond left field.
The Blue Wahoos have been voted top Fan Experience in Baseball multiple years in a row now, and they are constantly putting their fans first above all else. One key feature that makes the Wahoos stand out above other teams is their constant use of fan engagement surveys and their implementation of net promoter score (the likelihood that people are recommending the Wahoos to others) – in fact, least season the Blue Wahoos NPS was 85 out of 100, which places it higher than Walt Disney Company. Fan engagement surveys are sent out via e-mail to every person who purchased a ticket, and ask fans what they enjoyed most and didn’t enjoy, and also asks them to give a brief overview of the overall fan experience.
Blue Wahoos Stadium is truly a multi-purpose facility that hosts up to 200 events every year. For example, in addition to Blue Wahoos baseball, every fall the stadium is transformed into a football field as the home field for the West Florida Argonauts; the UWF football team recently won the D2 National Championship. Blue Wahoos Stadium also hosts football and baseball games at all levels, from the Soul Bowl, which showcases area youth football teams, to the Cox Diamond Invitational, which is a 3-day college baseball tournament featuring four D1 teams.
The Wahoos also have a fully functioning in-house catering staff led by Executive Chef Travis Wilson, and the views from the Hancock Whitney Club provide the perfect backdrop for numerous dinners, banquets, and parties throughout the year. Community Maritime Park, where the stadium is located, also hosts a plethora of different events such as concerts, runs, and festivals throughout the year. It’s safe to say that Community Maritime Park and Blue Wahoos Stadium have been a huge success for the City of Pensacola, and will continue to serve the community well for years to come.