• Charlotte County Sports Park

    http://www.charlotteharbormeetings.com/sports_park.php

    Charlotte Sports Park, in Port Charlotte, Fla., is the home field for the Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Spring Training home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Originally built in 1988, the main stadium underwent a renovation that was completed in January 2009 at a cost of $27 million.

    Prior to the Rays, the stadium was once home of the Texas Rangers’ Minor League affiliate, the Charlotte Rangers, and has played host to amateur baseball tournaments, including the Port Charlotte Invitational.

    Tenants

    • Texas Rangers (1988- 2001)
    • Tampa Bay Rays (2009-present)
    • Charlotte County Redfish (2007)
    • Charlotte Stone Crabs (2009-present)

    Charlotte Sports Park (formerly Charlotte County Stadium) was originally constructed in 1987 as the spring training facility for the Texas Rangers and served in that capacity until the team moved to Surprise, Ariz. in 2002.

    During the Rangers’ tenure, the stadium was also home to the Charlotte Rangers, the Class A Texas affiliate that played in the Florida State League. When the Major League team left in 2002, the Minor League affiliate left with them, leaving Charlotte County without baseball until the Charlotte County Redfish occupied the stadium during the summer of 2007.

    The Redfish were part of an independent baseball league called the South Coast League that was not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Former Major Leaguer Cecil Fielder served as the manager for the team that finished in last place with a 22-64 record in what turned out to be its lone season. Under financial pressure, the South Coast League suspended its 2008 season indefinitely, and the Redfish left Charlotte County.

    Charlotte Sports Park was not without a tenant for long though. In 2006, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they would move their Spring Training to Port Charlotte in 2009 and signed a 20-year agreement with the city, thus guaranteeing baseball in the Charlotte County community until at least 2029. Renovations estimated at more than $27 million started in summer 2008 with plans for the Rays to host Spring Training beginning in March 2009.

    On Aug. 25, 2008, the Rays announced that they would partner with Ripken Baseball to purchase and move their Class A Advanced affiliate from Vero Beach to Charlotte County. Not only would the Rays move their Spring Training to Port Charlotte, but the Stone Crabs would also play their home games at Charlotte Sports Park.

    The Stadium was re-opened on February 25, 2009, when the Rays played the first Spring Training game of the 2009 season.

    Stone Crabs

    About the Stone Crabs

    http://charlotte.stonecrabs.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t2730

    The Charlotte Stone Crabs are a Minor League Baseball team in the Florida State League based in Port Charlotte, Florida. The team is the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and is owned by Ripken Baseball.

    The team is named for a type of crustacean called the Florida stone crab, which is indigenous to the Charlotte County region.

    The Charlotte Stone Crabs were formerly known as the Vero Beach Dodgers then the Vero Beach Devil Rays. The Vero Beach teams played at Holman Stadium, the former spring training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Aug. 25, 2008, it was announced that the Vero Beach franchise was sold to Ripken Baseball, which resulted in the move to Charlotte County, Florida.

    In the team’s Inaugural Season, the Stone Crabs won the FSL South Division after defeating the I-75 division rival Fort Myers Miracle in the Division Series. Off the field, the team led the league in attendance with more than 176,000 fans through the turnstiles during the 2009 season.

    Both Ripken Baseball and the Charlotte Stone Crabs promote affordable, family-friendly entertainment, so please call 941-206-HITS today to find out how you can enjoy Southwest Florida’s best entertainment option!

    Tampa Bay Rays Training

    http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/spring_training/tickets.jsp?c_id=tb

    ARTICLE about Rays coming to Port Charlotte

    http://www.baseballpilgrimages.com/spring/portcharlotte.html

    For 15 years the Texas Rangers called Charlotte County Stadium their spring training home. But the Rangers left after the 2002 season, heading west to Arizona for a newer and bigger ballpark in the city of Surprise. That left the ballpark in Port Charlotte without a Grapefruit League tenant and, because it was a rather pedestrian facility to begin with, it seemed unlikely another Major League team would ever move in.

    And that would be partially true, as the stadium as it existed during the Rangers tenure was stripped to its skeleton in 2007. But spring training once again returned to Port Charlotte in 2009 when the Tampa Bay Rays decided to relocate there after reaching an agreement with the county to rebuild the stadium and bring it up to modern state-of-the-art standards. The $27.2 million needed to do so was more than five times the original $5 million construction cost and when the extensive renovations were completed the Rays new spring training home was literally new itself.

    The improved stadium, designed by HOK Sport, has a berm down each baseline, suites and a total capacity of 6,823, fixed seats accounting for 5,028 of the total with general admission (berm) making up most of the rest. The berm was originally to have been built around the outfield but that turned out to be cost prohibitive and problematic, as the reclaim storm water lakes next to the ballpark would not allow for an earth berm to be constructed there.

    Instead, a 19,000-square-foot wooden boardwalk was built in its place, becoming the signature feature of the Rays’ spring digs. Known as the Baseball Boardwalk, it’s home to a tiki hut in center field that operates as a full service bar before, during and well after games, as it stays open 90 minutes following the last pitch. Replica vintage baseball cards are beneath the tiki hut’s glass countertops and fans seated at the bar rest their beers on top of the posed photos of Lefty Gomez, Mel Ott and other players from yesteryear.

    Fans can also rest drinks of their choice on the railings that surround the stadium’s sole scoreboard, which was built into the boardwalk a short distance from the tiki bar. The boardwalk is also littered with deck chairs, many reserved for private and catered parties. Standing room is plentiful along the length of the boardwalk’s planks, including behind each team’s bullpen – the Rays in right field and the visitor’s in left.

    The wooden boardwalk attaches to the interior concrete aisle that encircles the ballpark and separates the box and reserved seats in the grandstand. Most reserved seats (200-level) are either covered by a roof are shaded by it.

    Berms can be found down both outfield lines at Charlotte Sports Park Where the grandstand ends is where the dual berms begin and behind each are concession carts set up under large blue canopies. The first baseline berm is smaller than the berm down the third baseline, which wraps around the left field foul pole. The same area in right field is occupied by a party deck. Fans sitting there get better treatment than some members of the media, as the press box is a tad on the small side. As a result, auxiliary seating for the media was placed within section 207, where the top four rows are comprised of folding chairs and tabletops.

    The dugouts are anything but small and are so expansive that fans can easily peer into them from many seats in the grandstand, which is the stadium’s biggest flaw. Rather than raze it and start over, the position of the grandstand remains the same as when it was constructed in the mid-1980s. This forces the concession stands that serve most fans to be behind the grandstand, which is a minor annoyance in an era when open concourses have become the de facto standard.

    But the biggest problem with the grandstand is that it’s angled behind home plate instead of being gently curved, which means seats in general are further away from the field than necessary while those seated in what are normally good sections near the on-deck circle have to put up with seats that are poorly angled.

    The ballpark in Kissimmee, which the original Charlotte County Stadium was clearly patterned after, has a similarly shaped grandstand that causes similar problems for fans sitting in the angled corners behind home plate.

    Although both ballparks underwent extensive renovations two decades after they opened, there was no way to fix the grandstand in either without leveling and rebuilding it. In both cases, that wasn’t on the agenda because it wasn’t in the budget.

    With the going rate for spring training ballparks reaching the $100 million plateau in 2009, the designers in Port Charlotte didn’t have the funds Goodyear ($108M) and Glendale ($100M) had at their disposal, so they instead opted to replace the grandstand’s original seats, adding cup holders to them in the process, and focus on the exterior of the ballpark, which was in dire need of an aesthetic improvement.

    That mission was accomplished with flying colors. Charlotte County Stadium had one of the ugliest exteriors I’ve ever seen. Its appearance resembled that of an oversized ice box. Big, white and square, it lacked any flair. That’s not the case any more, as the exterior facade was transformed into a much more open, angular and colorful edifice made of various materials, including glass. Besides the press box and suites, the extremely made over structure contains a 2,800-square-foot team store.

    Although the original gravel pathway in the parking lot did not get paved, the drop off point that was added outside of the home plate entrance did. The gate at home plate serves as the stadium’s main entrance. Two much lesser used gates are found behind first and third base.

    Renovations, which began on August 20, 2007, were mostly finished by January 2009 and included the construction of new administrative offices and a 44,000-square-foot clubhouse, all of which occupy the two story building behind right field.

    Near the players clubhouse is the Kids Clubhouse, which contains a small playground placed atop mulch. The Kids Clubhouse is at the end of the street level first base concourse. Above it is a picnic patio, but most of the blue picnic tables on it have no view of the playing field, which was refurbished and ever so slightly expanded for 2009. Previously the outfield dimensions were 338′ down the lines and 402′ to center. Now they are 343′ and 414′ respectively.

    The cost of the stadium’s renovations were borne by three parties, the biggest chunk ($15 million) coming from the state of Florida. The Rays contributed $4 million to the project and Charlotte County was responsible for the remainder. The county’s share will come from a 1% hotel bed tax increase, which is expected to generate $450,000 per year for the life of the Rays’ 20-year lease.

    As part of the county’s contract with the Rays, the team can sell naming rights to the ballpark and will get to keep all of the proceeds when they do so. In the meantime, the completely renovated Charlotte County Stadium will sport a slightly modified name as it was reborn as Charlotte Sports Park.

    This sports complex is just a short drive to the Riverwood Community.

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