LECOM Park – Bradenton Marauders
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
1611 9th Street West
Bradenton, FL 34205
Year Opened: 1923 Capacity: 8,500
Marauders Home Turns 100
Minor League Baseball’s second-oldest ballpark celebrated its 100th anniversary during the 2023 season. LECOM Park, home of the Bradenton Marauders, opened its doors in 1923. The ballpark opened as City Park and has gone through five name changes during its one hundred years of use. It was known as McKechnie Park from 1962-2017, becoming LECOM Park in 2018 as a part of a naming rights agreement with the Bradenton-based Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, or LECOM for short.
As you can imagine, the ballpark has gone through numerous renovations over the years. When it opened, it only had 1,300 seats and cost $2,000 to build. Today it holds 8,500 and includes amenities that could not have been dreamed of a century ago. Major renovations were required after a hurricane hit the park. Lights were added to the ballpark in 2008.
The other two renovations took place in 1993 and 2013. The earlier renovation replaced the seating that had been in the park for 70 years and replaced many of the mechanicals that had become obsolete over that period. The 2013 renovation enhanced the fan plaza and completed a boardwalk beyond the outfield walls that allow 360-degree access for fans around the playing field.
Even though the ballpark has been used for a century, the Marauders are only the second minor league team to use the facility, and the first to use it since 1926. The Marauders became the Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. The team has won two league championships during its existence, with a Florida State League Championship in 2016 and a Low A Southeast Championship in 2021.
One of the nice things about LECOM Park’s location is its proximity to Florida State League parks in nearby Dunedin, Tampa, Sarasota, and Clearwater.
Food & Beverage 4
LECOM Park offers a wide range of food and beverages at its concession stands. The concession stands under the grandstand are open for every game at LECOM, while many of the plaza spots open only on Friday/Saturday/Sunday when attendance is larger. Here is a brief overview of each stand:
Pirates Cove is along the first base concourse. It offers pulled pork sandwiches, jumbo hot dogs, cheeseburgers, brats, fried fish sandwiches, and Italian Ices.
The Home Plate Express offers pizza slices, nachos, popcorn, chips, and pretzels.
The Hot Corner Deli is on the third base side of the field. It offers a wide variety of deli sandwiches, garden salads, and chef salads.
The Snack Station is located at the base of the video board in the center field area of the boardwalk. This stand offers BBQ pork fries, chicken tenders, grilled chicken sandwiches, and cracker jacks.
The Craft Beer Corner offers a wide selection of craft beers and mixed drinks.
All stands offer Pepsi brand products and bottled water.
It is immediately apparent that you are at one of the most historic venues in baseball when you arrive at LECOM Ballpark. The exterior skin of the stadium is constructed in the Spanish Colonial style that is so classic in Florida. Most of the stands offer shade from the Florida sun under roofs or canopies. The steel girders of the stadium are exposed, showing you how the ballpark was built.
The first area you enter after you pass through the ticket gate is the Fan Plaza. It is filled with booths offering a wide selection of food and drink. Make sure you check out the historical exhibit that shares the story of LECOM Park on a decade-by-decade basis.
The plaza also offers several lawn games on its grass surfaces. If you just want to relax, there are several Adirondack chairs under the shade of a palm tree. Make sure to allow enough time to check out the Marauders team store, which is also on the Plaza.
As you head into the seating bowl, you’ll notice that shaded seats are covering both the home plate area and down each of the baselines. The largest of these is the grandstand behind the home plate, which is covered by a steel roof. The press box sits high above these seats. After visiting the infield sections of the seating bowl, take the time to head out to the outfield seats via the boardwalk. This allows you to circle the stadium and check out the different angles to watch the game.
When you reach center field, you’ll be entering the Boardwalk BBQ area, which handles groups of 25 people or more. The large videoboard towers above this section of the boardwalk. As you head towards the right field, you’ll come to the Kona Tiki Bar. There are also drink rails along the boardwalk in this section of the boardwalk.
The Boardwalk at LECOM Park, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Marty the Marauder is the team’s swashbuckling mascot. He roams the stands throughout the games and is very happy to pose for a selfie with your family members.
LECOM Park is located at the corner of 17th Avenue West and Ninth Street West. This site puts you right in the middle of a city neighborhood in Bradenton. There are plenty of things to do before or after the game within walking distance of the stadium.
The Village of the Arts is located next door to the park. It is a cottage-like neighborhood filled with galleries, studios, restaurants, and shops. The Bishop Museum offers you a unique opportunity to learn about the manatees that inhabit the wetlands surrounding Bradenton. If you would like a cold beer after a humid night at the ballpark, you can’t go wrong with Darwin Brewing. It is across the street from LECOM, and it offers a wide selection of craft brews.
Like most Florida State League franchises, the Marauders have a very loyal fan base. Bradenton has a very large retirement population, and many of these seniors are season ticket holders. They are very knowledgeable about the game, and they love to share the history of the stadium and of the many players who have passed through Bradenton on the way to the big leagues. They tend to be more traditional in their enjoyment of the game, and you’ll notice that there are fewer loud songs and gimmicky activities on the field as a result.
LECOM Park is easy to get to from I-75 via State Route 64 West. Getting to the park is easy, it is a little more difficult to find parking once you get there. There are two dedicated parking lots for the ballpark that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. They are the Outfield Lot and the Home Plate Lot. These lots fill very quickly.
However, many local businesses, churches, and charities will allow you to park in their lots after hours for the same price charged by LECOM Park in its lots.
Once you are at the ballpark, the stadium gates open one hour before the first pitch. This allows you plenty of time to check out the team store on the Fan Plaza or to get something to eat at one of the concession stands.
Return on Investment 4
You won’t need a dead man’s chest to pay for a day or night out at a Marauders game. Tickets are $12 for seats in the infield and home plate grandstand areas. Outfield seating is $8.
Parking at Marauders games is free on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. Saturday games cost $5 for the Outfield Parking Lot and $8 for the Home Plate Lot. Prices are quite reasonable for food and beverage items. Drink discounts are available on Thirsty Thursday games.
Games were suspended during World War II. The ballpark was used to store military equipment during those years. Make sure to say “Thank You” to the ticket takers, ushers, and concession workers as they are all volunteers.
During the spring, LECOM Park serves as the Spring Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Among the former Marauders who have gone on to play in the major leagues are Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, and Gregory Polanco. Fireworks follow the games on Saturday nights throughout the season.
LECOM Park offers you a unique opportunity to check out a ballpark that has seen players like Willie Stargell, Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Bill Mazeroski, and Ted Williams play on its field. Its Spanish Colonial architecture, and the roof-protected shade over much of the grandstands all bring you back to baseball as it used to be.