|Setting||8/10||1 Thumb Up||Location/Access||8/10||1 Thumb Up|
|Architecture & Aesthetics||20/28||Thumb Sideways|
|Exterior Design/Aesthetics||6/10||Thumb Sideways|
|Interior Aesthetics/Visuals||11.5/15||Thumb Sideways|
|Concourse Aesthetics||2.5/3||1 Thumb Up|
|Functionality & Essentials||20.5/25||1 Thumb Up|
|Sightlines||8.5/10||1 Thumb Up|
|Seat Comfort||4.5/5||1 Thumb Up|
|Concourse Functionality||4.5/7||Thumb Sideways|
|Scoreboards/Tech||3/3||2 Thumbs Up|
|Amenities & Features||18/20||1 Thumb Up|
|Concessions||9/10||1 Thumb Up|
|Premium/Group Seating||4/4||2 Thumbs Up|
|Social Spaces||4/4||2 Thumbs Up|
|Kids Areas||1/2||Thumb Sideways|
|Atmosphere, Vibe, & Policies||15/17||1 Thumb Up|
|Ballpark Personality||10/10||2 Thumbs Up|
|Fan Support||5/5||2 Thumbs Up|
|Ballpark Policies/Staff||0/2||2 Thumbs Down|
|Ranking||FL: #6(t)/13; Overall: #10(t)/23|
By: Cole Shoemaker
Reputed as a cold facility lacking the fan-friendly atmosphere or intimacy synonymous with spring training, Steinbrenner Field (née Legends Field) has historically suffered from a poor reputation.
A rather pompous-looking structure, Legends Field was different. The first to seat 10,000 in the Grapefruit League, Tampa’s Yankee Stadium mini-me was big, expensive, and primarily geared toward generating revenue. Lacking both the warmth and the amenities of other spring parks beyond its 12 corporate boxes, Legends Field was all about packing the fans in and celebrating Yankees baseball.
Despite being equipped with distinctive Yankees windscreens and the iconic Yankee Stadium frieze, an overabundance of grey concrete made the aesthetics rather dreary as well.
Indeed, it’s hard to get past these old impressions. Heck, it’s even hard to get past the new name. Steinbrenner Field. But even Yankee haters would be smart to give this place a second look. After over $40 million in renovations in 2017, Steinbrenner Field is a new spring training cathedral, worth a visit for Yankee diehards and everyday baseball fans alike.
Yes, the aesthetics are still bland, and yes, we take the unfriendly ballpark policies into account. But the renovations are dramatically successful in improving the ballpark experience for all fans, not just corporate patrons and season ticket holders. For years, Steinbrenner Field was only a good park if you were lucky enough to be sitting in the lower bowl, as there were few creative comforts on the concourses. Now, with a 360-degree system and numerous thoughtful fan-friendly features, Steinbrenner Field is a treat for everyone.
From top to bottom, the new amenities are simply phenomenal, blowing every other spring park in Florida out of the water. Couple that with plenty of nods to Yankees history and improved essentials, and you have a gem.
Located in the largest market for spring training in Florida, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees training anywhere else but Tampa. Across a pedestrian bridge from the Buccaneers’ NFL stadium, Steinbrenner Field’s local scene isn’t prime, but it has a little bit of everything you would expect from a major city. This isn’t the laid-back spring training norm, but I give it a boost for its central location in a major market.
Architecturally and aesthetically speaking, Steinbrenner Field suffers from both poor timing and a lack of creativity. Like Fenway Park, the original Yankee Stadium was an American classic.
The problem with Steinbrenner Field is that it’s an invocation of the wrong Yankee Stadium. Built in 1996, Steinbrenner celebrates the renovated concrete monstrosity that was Yankee Stadium II, not your grandfather’s original (1923-1973) or the reasonably attractive retro successor (2009-present).
So naturally, Steinbrenner Field is characterized by concrete inside and out. While the pedestrian bridge makes for an inviting stroll, the façade on the other side is as bland and characterless as they come. Renovations improved the landscaping, expanded the right field entrance, and added a nice glassed-in team store, but it strains credulity to call the outside attractive, comparatively speaking.
The interior aesthetics are better, but again don’t meet the high standards of other Floridian parks. The aforementioned Yankees windscreens and frieze contribute to much of the distinctiveness, but the new outfield scene still looks cold, disjointed, and solely functional.
The other problem with Steinbrenner Field is that it doesn’t reflect Florida. Unlike the Red Sox JetBlue Park, this is a Yankee Stadium mini-me shoehorned into the landscape without any proper regard for its context. It’s a very inward-looking building. Overall, I grade the interior aesthetics as below average.
Once we get past the aesthetics, Steinbrenner Field ranges from good to best in spring baseball, presenting a consistent and memorable ballpark experience. Improved by the renovations, Tampa scores perfectly in ballpark personality, with tasteful nods to Yankees history and Yankee Stadium inside and out.
Notable elements inside include dimensions that mirror Yankee Stadium, the aforementioned aesthetic flourishes, and championship banners atop the roof, but the showstopper is the new historical references on the concourses. Evoking a visual timeline museum unlike anything else in spring training, the grandstand portals sport graphics of Yankees history arranged by decade from the 1920s to today. Plenty of Yankees imagery in the bars and clubs too. Other features inside include giant retired numbers of Yankee greats. The exterior retains the famous mini-monument park and the George Steinbrenner statue.
While the concourses still don’t meet the standards of the best parks, the renovations made Steinbrenner Field a pretty functional park. Steinbrenner Field has the least foul territory of any spring park, leading to sightlines that feel close to the action. No orientation issues down the lines here either. Enhancements added new wider fold-down seats all with cupholders. The state-of-the-art videoboard is one of the largest in the Grapefruit League.
While still closed from the field and above street level, the main concourse is mostly sufficient in width. But out of all renovation projects I’ve seen, Steinbrenner Field’s new 360-degree concourse is the most disjointed. The main concourse intuitively continues into the outfield corners before cutting off, as the transition downward to the outfield concourse one floor below comes earlier and is easy to miss. While replete with nice amenities, the actual outfield concourse is essentially a walkway not evocative of a continuous 360-degree system.
Tampa spring training has the best fan amenities in the Grapefruit League. Significantly enhanced, the variety and quality of concessions is very good. Mexican, BBQ, Poke, Boar’s Head Deli Sandwiches, and healthy grab-and-go items are notable.
Steinbrenner Field has the most robust series of destination bars, quasi-restaurants, social spaces, and sitting areas in spring training. For one, if you just want to enjoy the game, I don’t think I’ve seen another park with so many free places to sit and just hang out. The entire outfield concourse is filled with first-come first-serve drink rail seating along the wall, as well as plenty of tables and chairs backing that seating. Fantastic.
The Yankees are one of the few teams that have climate-controlled bars and eateries accessible to all fans. The closest thing to a full-service restaurant in spring training, two nearly identical indoor spaces down each line have a full-service bar and tabled seating with a food menu. Photo montages celebrate Yankee legends and retractable doors provide field views. There are also lounges backed by an autograph wall.
Rounding out the experience is an open-air, full service bar beyond right field. While additional seating options give this a leg up as well, the outfield bar is more in the vein of tiki bars seen across spring training.
Steinbrenner Field scores the best in spring training for unique ticketed seating options, group areas, and premium seating by an even greater margin. New group options include the right field terrace, the left field deck, and private outfield cabanas. Resembling the home plate clubs of MLB parks, the 104-seat all-inclusive Spectrum Dugout Club in the first two rows continues to be unparalleled in spring training. Supplementing the now 13 luxury suites, the Yankees added a series of loge boxes atop the seating bowl on a new upper concourse. They also come with access to open-air all-inclusive clubs atop the climate-controlled eateries down the lines.
It’s all objectively unmatched. The renovations didn’t add any other kid friendly amenities, but Steinbrenner Field has speed pitch games in line with an average facility.
Overall, superior amenities, great functionality, and one of the best ballpark atmospheres in spring training put the polarizing Steinbrenner Field in the conversation for best Grapefruit League park. However, I understand the critique that the venue just doesn’t feel like spring training.
In sum, a quick overview of Likes and Dislikes:
Likes and Dislikes
Things I like:
- Location in a major Florida market
- Distinctive Yankee windscreens
- Steinbrenner statue
- Mini-Monument Park
- New seats
- Quasi 360-degree concourse
- One of the largest videoboards in spring training
- Excellent ballpark atmosphere
- Upgraded concessions
- Vastly superior premium seating
- So many places to hang out or sit down and eat
- Nods to Yankee history in the portals on the main concourse
Thing I don’t like:
- No true outfield concourse
- Awful ballpark policies
- They kept the infamous “No Loitering” signs! You’d think the PR department would have conveyed this in a less menacing way