- Lloyd Brown
Ed Smith Stadium – Baltimore Orioles Spring Training
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Ed Smith Stadium 12th St and Tuttle Ave Sarasota, FL 34237
Baltimore Orioles Spring Training website
Year Opened: 1989
Orioles Sport the Best Nest
Ed Smith Stadium opened in 1989 and has served as the spring training home for the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. It was a basic ballpark that had begun to age. In 2010, that all changed when the Baltimore Orioles arrived in Sarasota. Before the team played its first game in the stadium, a more than $31 million renovation was underway to make the ugly duckling into the well-feathered nest of the Baltimore Orioles.
As the work got underway, refurbished seats from Camden Yards were installed to replace the worn, weather-beaten seats used by the Reds. The seats were also moved closer to the field. The concourses of the stadium were more than doubled in width to allow a better flow of fans during the game. Fan comfort was improved with the addition of three air-conditioned suites and the installation of a fabric sunshade to keep fans in the top ten rows out of the sun so they could enjoy the games in much more comfortable conditions.
Other amenities added to the stadium included increasing the number of concession outlets, addition of a gift shop, and a deli where people could enjoy their sandwiches in the comfort of air-conditioning. A new pavilion was added in left field, fitted out with tables and drink rails, and a bar for fans who liked to socialize during the game. The overall seating capacity was increased to 8,500.
The Orioles did not stop with the interior. The exterior of the stadium was redone with a Spanish Mediterranean finish that was much more inviting than the previous entrance to the park. Fans now enter the home plate gate through a grand hallway, complete with a chandelier made of balls, bats, and pennants the Orioles have won. To top everything off, ceramic oriole weathervanes were added to the top of the press box and the outfield’s HD scoreboard. Ed Smith Stadium had become one of the nicest stadiums in the Grapefruit League.
Food & Beverage 5
A nice-looking nest is fine, but it is equally important that your guests are well-fed. The Orioles added several outlets of their Birdland concession stands to keep the lines from backing up. The stands offer typical baseball fare, including hot dogs ($4.25), hamburgers ($7.25) pork sandwiches ($8), nachos ($5), popcorn ($4.75), sodas ($5.50), and domestic beers ($7.25) They also offer foods native to the Baltimore area, including seafood, chowders and crab cake sandwiches.
Boog’s BBQ joined the food stands in 2019, with the Oriole's former first baseman offering his famous fare. The Orioles also offer a deli-like concession area near the front gate called Café 54, which offers deli sandwiches, rollups, and vegan fare. The Orioles Fit Grill offers several healthy food options.
Ed Smith Stadium Boogs BBQ, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
If you close your eyes at an Orioles game, it is hard to believe you are not at Camden Yards when you attend a game at Ed Smith Stadium. You are sitting in a seat that once served in that iconic venue. The Orioles do a great job of branding, whether it is the Oriole weathervanes or the baseball chandelier you entered under before the game.
The Baltimore fans get fired up even before the games start, as they shout “O” at the beginning of the national anthem (after all … the battle the song about happens literally in their backyard!) They continue their cheering through the announcement of the starting lineups. Typically, the stadium announcer gives the Baltimore weather report, which is usually much colder than Sarasota, which elicits yet another cheer from the crowd.
You will need your car after the game is over as there are not much entertainment or eating options nearby. The stadium itself is surrounded by the Orioles training complex which is off-limits to fans. You will need to travel south on Tuttle to visit the many attractions and great restaurants downtown Sarasota has to offer. If you are lured to the coastal beaches, head west on 12th street. For those who are baseball fanatics, both Bradenton and Tampa have spring training complexes less than an hour away… you can catch a day/night doubleheader!
Despite their poor record in the last few years, the Orioles have a very loyal fanbase. You will see many Baltimore natives make the trip down from Maryland. They know the team well and are happy to talk baseball with visitors. Another contingent will be locals from Sarasota. They are very proud of the investment they made in the stadium, especially when major league baseball was threatening to leave town due to its poor condition.
Sarasota is less than 50 miles from several other spring training facilities, and it is not unusual to see people in the stands wearing colors other than the competing teams. Many people without a specific loyalty to a team come to Florida on vacation to escape the cold weather and have an opportunity to see MLB when they may live hours away from a major league team when they are at home.
The best thing about spring training crowds is that they do not take the games too seriously. They understand games will feature youngsters trying to make the team and that veterans are not likely to start or play in games early in camp.
Ed Smith Stadium is easily accessible via I-75. Coming from the north: take exit #213 (University Parkway. Go west on University to Tuttle Avenue. Turn left on Tuttle and the stadium will be on your right at the corner of Tuttle and 12th Street.
Coming from the south: Take I-75 to exit #210 (Fruitville Road) Go west on Fruitville and turn right on Tuttle. The stadium will be on your left. Parking in a stadium lot is $12. Stadium lots can accommodate up to 1,800 cars.
Return on Investment 3
Let’s face it…. going to Florida in late winter/early spring means you are going to pay high season prices. Spring training fans book their hotels months in advance as they know they sell out way in advance. If you are from the Northeast, it may be cheaper to fly rather than to spend days on the road to get there.
Flights to Tampa are easy to get and, in some cases, you can even fly into airports in smaller cities like Bradenton or Sarasota. Your expected cost for an Orioles game can run between $20-$40. Parking is going to be another $12 and a family of four can easily eat $60 worth of food at the concession stand. If you did not drive down in your car expect premium prices for that rental car.
However, these costs may be worth it, as going to as many spring training games and sites are often a bucket list item for many people. Enjoy… the bill won’t come for another month and your friends will be so jealous about your great trip.
One big extra to the Orioles for the massive transformation they made in Ed Smith Stadium. A second extra for being in Sarasota…a city filled with beaches and interesting museums to visit before or after the game.
Another extra goes to having the regional favorites (a taste of home) at the stadium’s concession stands. A fourth extra is fans can once again go out and see live baseball!
If you close your eyes at an Orioles game, it is hard to believe you are not at Camden Yards when you attend a game at Ed Smith Stadium.