Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
McKethan Field 2800 Citrus Road Gainesville, FL 32611
Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 7,000
Gators Aided by Their New Stadium
The Florida Gators baseball team moved into their brand new $65 million ballpark in time for the 2021 season. The Gators have a long tradition in the sport, as they have fielded a baseball program since 1912. The team has won 15 SEC Championships, 7 SEC Tournament Championships, and made 12 College World Series Appearances. They won the NCAA National Championship in 2017.
Florida Ballpark was built to help the Gators compete in the very competitive SEC baseball wars. In recent years, the University of Alabama, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State University have either built new ballparks or undertaken major renovations to improve their baseball venues. The new home of the Gators seats 7,000 which includes 4,000 chairback seats, 700 club seats in its second level, and seating for 2,000 on the berms in the outfield. Florida Ballpark also offers a 360-degree open concourse to allow for easy navigation around the field. The stadium now has a permanent Sports Shop, replacing a pop-up version that was used at the former site.
The stadium also has a state-of-the-art sound system and a giant LED scoreboard/videoboard in right field. The facility has a grass field. The dimensions of the field are 330’ to left field, 400’ to center, and 330’ to right field.
Food & Beverage 5
One of the major improvements of Florida Ballpark over the former home of the Gators is the food and beverage selection for the fans. Each stand in the park offers a different set of food options.
The 1st Base Line Grill offers brisket nachos ($16), smoked BBQ pork melts ($15), chicken tenders ($12), cheeseburgers ($12), chicken Caesar wraps ($12), and hot dogs ($5). Snacks include popcorn ($4), pretzels ($5), peanuts ($4), and candy ($4). This location includes a Watermelon Refresher ($9), which includes watermelon cubes, lime juice, and chili seasoning as a great way to cool off. Beverages include Pepsi brand sodas ($6), water ($4), coffee ($4), and of course, Gatorade ($4).
The 3rd Base Line Grill offers shrimp po’boys ($12), a classic Cuban sandwich ($15), chicken tenders ($12), several choices of pizza ($7), and a Fried Key Lime pie ($11). The same beverages are sold at this location as the 1st Base Line Grill.
The outfield berms and Dizney Grove are serviced by a rotating set of food trucks. These include B’z Gelati, The Chili Wagon, Kona Ice, Big Lee’s BBQ, Mayflower Cellars, and Hick’s Grill Shack.
Food can be ordered via the Florida Gators app and picked up at the Express Line, saving fans from having to get in a long line between innings.
The athletic department wanted to ensure the comfort of fans attending the games in the hot and humid weather that Gainesville can experience in the late spring. They included ceiling fans along the concourses and included a canopy to cover all the fans in the club level and other shade-providing structures in other portions of the park. These were major improvements over the former home of the Gators.
Sun Shade Structure at Florida Ballpark, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
The addition of the Dizney Grove and berm seating areas have created some non-traditional seating areas and have been very popular with the Gator fans.
The new home of Florida Gators baseball has been relocated across the university campus from its former home next to the McConnell Center. It now is located on the southwest corner of the campus. This was not the original plan, but designers felt the footprint of the old stadium location was not large enough to include all the features that the athletic department wanted as a part of the new facility. The new site enabled the facility to include several hundred parking spaces adjacent to the stadium, doing away with the shuttle bus system that was required in the congested area of the former ballpark. Another reason for choosing the new site was that the playing field could be reconfigured to have home plate relocated to face northeast so the sun would not be in the fan’s and players’ eyes.
You can usually expect a full house at Gator baseball games. The fan base has lofty expectations every season, as the baseball program has been a regular in the NCAA baseball playoffs and the College World Series. The 200 level at Florida Ballpark is filled with the boosters and monied alumni of the school. They typically are decked out in the blue and orange colors of the team.
The main seating bowl is a mix of the old guard and younger alumni with their families. They enjoy the games but can be pried away by visits with the Gators mascot Albert. This lower level gets excited when someone starts the Gator Chomp cheer, and it winds up going around the stadium like a wave.
The berms and Dizney Grove areas behind the outfield fences are mostly populated by University of Florida students. These areas are great for spring sunbathing and other social activities. To serve these students’ dining needs, the stadium has lined up a rotating set of food trucks to be present at each game.
Florida Ballpark has greatly improved the accessibility compared to the former stadium site. McKethan Stadium was in a very congested area which included the McConnell Center and many other athletic structures with little or no parking adjacent to the park. The new site has parking for more than 400 vehicles. It is also located closer to another entrance to the University of Florida campus that is far less congested than when it was alone.
The stadium has 4 major entrances, with one each along the third base, first base, and first baselines and one leading into the berm seating area in Dizney Grove. The concourses are much wider than before, and ticket entry is much faster as the site uses a touchless ticketing system.
Return on Investment 4
An afternoon or an evening out at a Gators baseball game will not cost you a lot. Tickets start at $5 for berm seating in the outfield with other price points of $10 down the first and third baselines, $20 for seats behind home plate, and $30 for club seats on the second level of the stadium. Parking is free at Florida Ballpark. The food and beverage cost inside the stadium is average for any ballpark.
If you are traveling to Gainesville from out of town, there is a wide range of accommodations near the ballpark that can meet any price point. Lodging is much cheaper in the spring than it is during the football season. Gainesville is serviced by its own airport, but it can be very pricey. It is much cheaper to fly into Jacksonville and then drive the 90 minutes to Gainesville.
Florida Ballpark has several areas around the stadium that feature highlights of the Gators baseball programs, past championships earned by the programs, and Gator players who have gone on to major league baseball.
Kudos go to the designers for including several features in the park that provide protection from the sun and hot and muggy weather.
The food offerings at Florida Ballpark are much more diverse than most college baseball stadiums.
The University of Florida has made a major step forward in SEC baseball with the opening of McKethan Field at Florida Ballpark. It offers several amenities that improve the fan experience, including sunscreens to provide shade from the hot Florida sun, a diverse menu of concession items, and unique seating options in the Dizney Grove and berm areas. The new stadium will also serve as a major recruiting tool for future Gator ballplayers.