CoolToday Park – Atlanta Braves Spring Training
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
CoolToday Park 18800 South, W Villages Pkwy Venice, FL 34293
Year Opened: 2019 Capacity: 8,000
New Day At CoolToday
Twenty twenty-one (2021) marks the first full Spring Training season for the Atlanta Braves in their new home at CoolToday Park. The team played the last game of the 2019 Spring Training season at the park and COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season before games even started. CoolToday Park was funded through contributions from Sarasota County, the state of Florida, the City of North Port, and the planned community of The West Villages. The Braves had been looking for a new site for Spring Training camp, as their former home at Champion Stadium in Orlando had grown increasingly isolated from the other Grapefruit League stadiums.
One of the first things you will notice when you pull up to CoolToday is that its entrance is elevated as you enter the park. The water table is so high in the area that it precludes digging a field down into the ground. The elevation also helps to keep the park cooler, as it catches more breezes in the area. The concourse at the top of the entrances is also designed to capture as much of this wind flow as possible.
There are two levels of seating in the park, along with special seating terraces on the first and third base sides of the field. The Coca-Cola Corner berm is located behind the left field wall. Another feature that will remind Atlantans of the Below the Chop area at Truist Park is the Centauri Super Suite which is built into the right outfield wall. The Budweiser Bench is yet another specialized seating area at the base of the scoreboard. Altogether, CoolToday Park has 6,200 fixed seats with an overall capacity of 8,000.
Food & Beverage 3
The concession offerings at CoolToday Park are mostly made up of your generic ballpark food. This includes hot dogs ($4), burgers w/fries ($12), tacos (2 for $9), corn dogs ($8), BBQ sandwiches ($8), Chick-fil-A sandwiches ($8), hamburgers ($10), nachos ($5), fried pickles ($5), pretzels ($5), popcorn ($5), peanuts ($5) and Cracker Jacks ($4). Drinks include water ($4), Coca-Cola brand sodas ($4), and 22 oz. draft beers ($8). There also three specialty stands, the Fish Camp, the Chicken Coop, and Green Fields. The Fish Camp features shrimp, conch fritters, as well as fried fish w/hush puppies and fries, served in a tackle box for $12-$16. Green Fields serves healthier options including salads and yogurt. The Chicken Coop serves both fried and grilled chicken plates, as well as tenders and wings which include fried pickles and boom boom sauce for $10-$16. You will not have to take your food back to your seat, as CoolToday Park thoughtfully has provided eating/drinking rails along the concourse.
In what seems to be a requirement in Florida stadiums, CoolToday has its own Tiki Hut, known as the Tomahawk Tiki Hut (well, so much for political correctness). The Hut serves $8 cocktails as well as an entire line of Budweiser products. There is also a craft beer bar located near third base which provides a rotating set of 12 beers for $9.
Fans who have been to the Brave’s former home at Champion Stadium noticed that the stadium carried little or no branding for the Braves. That is no problem when you drive up to CoolToday Park. The exterior walls feature murals with the Braves logo and large photos of Braves stars of the past and present. These include wall-size images of Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and current stars Freddie Freeman, Rafael Acuna, and Dansby Swanson. There are also salutes to Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews who starred for the Braves during their Milwaukee years. There is also a plaza outside of the park that features the oversized numbers of the Braves players who are Hall of Famers. The team store has now been expanded to two stories, with both spring training merchandise as well as regular season products.
One thing that is usually very popular during spring training is collecting autographs from the players. Unfortunately, this is not allowed at any of the spring training venues this year (2021) due to COVID-19 protocols.
Presently, the stadium is the neighborhood as it is seen as being the catalyst for development in the area surrounding it. Plans are to construct a hotel, a shopping center, and more housing units in the area. This score should increase over the next few years as construction gets underway and fills the area surrounding CoolToday Park with year-round services to persons living in the North Port area.
The Braves have always drawn well from their spring training sites. This dates to the days when cable TV was new, and they were one of the few teams that received national exposure as “America’s Team.” Traditionally, they have also seen many fans make the trip down I-75 from Atlanta, as it was the closest MLB franchise to Florida before Miami and Tampa had teams. Atlanta fans have also been reenergized by the team’s three straight Eastern Division titles and a near-miss at going to the World Series after the 2020 season.
CoolToday Park also sees some flow from other Grapefruit League parks located in close proximity to North Port. These include the parks in Port Charlotte, Sarasota, and Bradenton, all of which are less than an hour away. Ballpark hunters also make new ballparks a priority to visit when they open.
The Braves really do benefit from a home field advantage, as the fans from Atlanta bring their foam tomahawks (there goes that political correctness again!) to rally the team when they get on base. In addition, the Braves bring their talented organist down for spring training. He is known for his witty musical riffs on players from the visiting team. Blooper (whatever he is?) the team’s mascot also makes the trip south to keep the home fans entertained.
CoolToday Park is easily accessed via I-75. From the north, take exit 191 (North River Road) and continue until you reach West Villages Parkway. From the south take exit 191 (North River Road) and head west on Tamiami Trail until it intersects with West Villages Parkway
The real problem comes when you reach West Villages Parkway, as it is the only road that takes you by CoolToday Park. The stadium is designed to draw investment and development to the area as West Villages continues to expand. Right now, the ballpark has a great deal of open space around it that eventually will build-out. When you pull in at the stadium to park, you will be parking on a grass field. After the game, you will be exiting out the same way as everyone else in the park. Traffic can be a bear. Eventually, as development comes to the area, more streets and access points will be added.
Return on Investment 3
CoolToday has a wide range of ticket prices to fit any fan’s budget. For $10 you can get a General Admission ticket which gives you the ability to sit on the berm or spend your whole game watching the game from one of the drinking rails on the concourse. From there tickets go for $15 in the outfield bleachers, $25 to sit in the Budweiser Bench area, $30 for upper deck infield, $35 for lower deck along the baselines, $40 for dugout seats, and $45 for seats behind home plate.
Concession prices are typical of other Spring Training ballparks. In the case of CoolToday there are not many restaurant choices near the park for a pre- or post-game meal. Parking at CoolToday Park costs $10. Depending on what you spend at the team store, a day at a Braves Spring Training game can add up to an expensive proposition. However, the prices are in line with what many other Spring Training venues are charging.
CoolToday Park is near several other Spring Training stadiums. Port Charlotte (Rays) is only 15 minutes away. Both Bradenton (Pirates) and Sarasota (Orioles) are less than an hour’s drive away.
The concourse has sections above both bullpens that provide you with a great view of the pitchers warming up just feet below you.
Another extra goes to the team for honoring the stars of the past from both Milwaukee and Atlanta throughout the park
The Braves finally are in a Spring Training park where they can create their own identity as far as branding. They also had the freedom to install little quirks like the Centauri Suite that make the park unique. CoolToday Park will continue to improve as traffic access and restaurants and hotels locate closer to the park.