The ballpark has been open for less than a week, but JetBlue Park, the new spring home of the Boston Red Sox, is drawing praise for easy accessibility and a Florida-themed design.
Year Opened: 2012
Budget: $77.8 million (includes $20 million for land and $7.2 million for design)
Construction: Manhattan Kraft Construction
Dimensions: 310L, 379LC, 420C, 380RC, 302R (note: these are not the same as Fenway Park dimensions)
Playing Surface: Grass
League: American League
Address: 11500 Daniels Pkwy., Fort Myers, FL
Directions: Daniels Parkway run east/west through south Fort Myers and is also marked as County Rd. 876. The ballpark is on the eastern side of the city, north of the Fort Myers Airport. From Fort Myers: Take Daniels Parkway east past I-75; the ballpark will be on your left past the airport turnoff. From I-75: Take exit 131 and head east. The ballpark will be on your left past the airport turnoff. The entrance is also marked at Fenway South Dr., but that address has not yet caught up with GPS systems. One thing to watch out for: there is heavy traffic before and after games, particularly if you're turning against traffic. Be warned.
Located on the outskirts of Fort Myers, the new spring-training complex solves a few issues faced by the Red Sox when training at City of Palms Park: the lack of a unified spring-training experience (the minor-league camp was located more than a mile to the east, forcing players and staff to shuttle between the two facilities) and the lack of any development opportunities around the ballpark. City of Palms Park is actually a decent little ballpark, through the stress must be places on little: landlocked in a sea of residential housing, there was no place to add capacity or other development, making the ballpark impossible to expand and forcing the Red Sox to use every little square foot of space. JetBlue Park, on the other hand, is a totally different experience. It seats 11,000 -- larger than City of Palms Park, but not as large as other spring-training venues coming online in recent years. It's partially based on Fenway Park in some overt ways (there is a Green Monster in left field) and some subtle ways. These subtle ways make the ballpark unique -- and also different from Fenway Park.
"What we really took as inspiration were neighborhoods of Fenway: the different seating areas throughout the ballpark," said Populous's Steve Caudle, project manager on the complex. "Yes, we have a Green Monster in left, but it's a ballpark wrapped with contemporary contextual Florida design."
All functions of spring training -- and player rehab, by the way, as well as rookie development -- are now in one location, with the mandatory quad of practice fields, two other practice fields (including one with exact Fenway Park dimensions) and the Fenwalk, slated for future development to contain tributes to Red Sox greats.
The Green Monster in Florida is much different than the original in Boston, which was built because of ballpark confines. In Florida, the Green Monster fronts the left-field clubhouse on the ground floor. The next level is also for team use, while on top there's tiered seating in front of the Monster Bar.
The signature item to the ballpark: the white canopy, which undulates like its inspiration, the cypress mounds (or groves) in the area. Cypress mounds are an important part of the local ecosystem: they provide shelter and shade for a host of animals and birds. Here, the canopy provides shade and shelter for spring-training fans. It doesn't run totally across the concourse: instead, it's broken into four sections, with three overlapping.
There's also a subtler signature item to the ballpark construction: the building material found on the walls of the ballpark structure. It's unique to Florida, say Caudle: the blocks are augmented with sea shells, and when the surface is polished, it adds a unique sheen to the construction.
And one final thing to note: unlike Fenway Park, JetBlue Park actually has a berm. Perfect for spring training.
IF YOU GO
There are two sets of concessions at JetBlue Park: inside the ballpark and outside. If you go to a game, eat before you enter the ballpark, as the good at the Taste of Fenway South is much better than the food inside the ballpark.
Taste of Fenway South doesn't look all that impressive -- it's basically a tent city -- but local vendors were asked to sell their wares at the ballpark, and that results in some pretty decent-quality food. We'd recommend starting with a crab roll, a takeoff on a New England lobster roll, from Pinchers Crab Shack: it is huge, flavorful and relatively inexpensive at $8. (On a cold day, the same stand sells crab chowder.) If you want your meat a little redder, go for a pulled-pork sandwich at Rib CIty. Top off the crab roll with a signature caramel turtle from Norman Love Confections, which is located a stone's throw away from the ballpark to the east on Daniels Parkway.
Inside the ballpark, you have a real Fenway Frank -- a little overpriced at $4.25 -- and many carryovers from City of Palm Park concessions, including a grill selling the familiar Italian sausages with peppers and onions and Sam Adams beer.
Images courtesy of Populous.
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