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Baseball's ultimate party deck, at Coors Field

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Coors Field

It wasn't that long ago when the Colorado Rockies shut down the right-field upper deck at Coors Field because of a lack of fan interest. Now, it's the hottest place in the ballpark -- and a model for other teams seeking to generate some buzz.

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Turner Field / Atlanta Braves

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It's not considered a prime example of the retro ballpark at work, but the Atlanta Braves have worked hard over the last 15 years to transform Turner Field from a bland, corporate ballpark to a place where team and regional baseball history are celebrated, and where fans can have a good time watching a game. For the most part, the work has paid off.

Turner Field

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JetBlue Park at Fenway South / Boston Red Sox

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JetBlue Park

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.

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AT&T Park / San Francisco Giants

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The concourses are surprisingly narrow, the traffic outside the ballpark stifling and you’re likely spend part of a game peering at the action through a light mist. Having said that, one thing is clear: watching a San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park is one of the greatest experiences in Major League Baseball, one that should be experienced by everyone who cares a lot or a little about baseball.

AT&T Park

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Digital Domain Park / New York Mets / St. Lucie Mets

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The trend in spring-training facilities is to locate new ballparks in the midst of megadevelopments that could be located anywhere. While these new ballparks have the amenities fans expect, they’re generic in nature. Maybe we’re a little too nostalgic, but we want the spring-training experience when we head to Florida: we want the palm trees, the alligators, the quaint ballparks located in out-of-the-way neighborhoods. That’s why Digital Domain Park is a breath of old school in the Grapefruit League.

Digital Domain Park

FAST FACTS

Capacity: 7,800
Year Opened: 1988
Dimensions: 338L, 410C, 338R
Home Dugout Location: Third-base side
Phone: 561/871-2115; 718/507-TIXX (in New York)
Former Names: Thomas J. White Stadium (1988-2004), Tradition Field (2004-2010)
Local Airport: Palm Beach
Address/Directions: 525 N.W. Peacock Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, FL. From 1-95, take Exit 63-C (St. Lucie West Blvd.), east to Peacock Blvd, north to stadium. From U.S.# l: Take Prima Vista Blvd., west to Peacock Blvd., north to ballpark.


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There are no developments within walking distance of the ballpark, just some municipal buildings next door, commercial buildings and warehouses nearby, and an RV resort up the street. No sports bars, no hotels, no entertainment complex, no trendy shops. Park on the right-field side of the ballpark and you’ll wander across a sign warning you to stay away from the swampland because of the presence of alligators.

While we wouldn’t exactly call the Digital Domain Park location bucolic — commercial development in Florida tends to sprawl, and there’s definitely a lot of sprawl near the ballpark — you definitely know you’re in Florida when you attend a Mets spring-training game.

Digital Domain Park went from one of the dumpiest spring-training to one of the better ones in 2004, when the former Thomas J. White Stadium underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation that added more seating and clubhouse space, as well as some decorative elements that spiffed up the place.

As you approach the ballpark, take a minute to look at the monument across the street from the main entrance gates and underneath the American flag. The two pillars of steel come from the World Trade Center, salvaged after terrorists struck the New York City landmark on Sept. 11, 2001. It was donated to St. Lucie County by a local chapter of retired New York City firefighters and installed in March 2005.

It is a sobering reminder that even in this small Florida community Mets fans are never too far away from New York City.

Previously the ballpark was fairly generic in nature. A red-brick and blue-steel façade replaced the old concrete façade, while a picnic area and a tiki bar replaced some aluminum bleachers down the left-field line. In addition, the Mets installed a grass berm outside the right-field fence, perfect for lounging. It’s still not an ideal ballpark: access to the grandstand seating is through some fairly narrow walkways, and the concession areas still leave something to be desired. But the many changes over the years have made Digital Domain Park a very pleasant spring ballpark.

One plus: a large canopy ensures much of the grandstand seating is in the shade; only the bleacher seating down the right-field line offers massive exposure to the sun, and the seats between the dugouts are shaded most of the game.

The cheapest seats in the house are in the outfield berm. If you’re attending a game with a bunch of kids, that’s the place to go: the kids can run around while you claim one of the new picnic tables. A few beers from the nearby concession stand won’t hurt, either.

But be warned there are a few drawbacks to berm seating. You don’t have access to the grandstand or its concessions if you have berm-seating tickets: the berm has a separate entrance and separate (limited) concessions. The berm can also be a sun field with limited shade, and during an afternoon game you’ll spend a lot of time fighting the sun. so bring those sunglasses, caps, and sunscreen lotion.

Because of the large number of New Yorkers in the area, a Mets spring-training game seems like a Citi Field match gone tropical. Interestingly, the New Yorkers didn’t live in Port St. Lucie before the Mets moved spring-training operations there in 1988, but the ballpark and the Mets’ presence are cited as prime reasons why New Yorkers pushed the Port St. Lucie population by 28 percent since 1998.

The complex also houses the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League and the Mets’ minor-league operations.

The ballpark originally was named for the late Thomas J. White, who founded St. Lucie West and worked to bring the Mets to the area. Naming rights were sold in 2004 to Core Communities, developer of the Tradition development near the ballpark. In 2010 the naming rights were sold once again to a local business.

Ballpark History
The New York Mets have trained at Digital Domain Park since it opened in 1988.

Concessions
While it’s not exactly like being in the Big Apple, the concessions at the ballpark will ease the homesickness somewhat.

Normally you don’t think of a knish as a ballpark food, but it’s offered at Digital Domain Park during spring training. And it’s a traditional knish: mashed potato wrapped in dough and then baked. For $3, the huge knish certainly was filling, and on a cool spring day it was comfort food to the max. More comfort food can be found down the third-base line, where a local bagel shop offers bagel and deli sandwiches made with Boar’s Head meats.

If you’re looking for New York takes on traditional ballpark foods, Nathan’s hot dogs are served throughout the ballpark, as are hot pretzels, sausages, cheesesteaks, and Carvel ice cream. The beer selections are more Florida than New York City: Yuengling, Rolling Rock, and Bass, among others. Popular among Mets fans: buckets of ice and six Buds, Michelob Ultras or Bud Lights selling for $25. The tiki bar and a bar in back of the grandstand offer more exotic beer choices, like Land Shark Beer, as well as mixed drinks and frozen concoctions.

Almost all concessions are located in back of the grandstand, although some items are sold in the left-field tiki-bar area. You will miss the action when you head out for that knish, so plan accordingly.

Autographs
There are no formal places for autographs at the ballparks, fans gather next to the dugout in hopes of snaring a wayward Met. You can also try hanging around the clubhouses before and after the games. 

Parking
Parking is $5 during spring training and located adjacent to the ballpark. Arrive early: With only two entrances to the parking lot, things can back up close to game time. You could scout for some free parking on the adjacent streets, but this isn’t a very pedestrian-friendly area, so beware.

Minor League Complex
The minor-league complex is located directly north of Digital Domain Park, while the main practice field is located directly west of the ballpark. The minor-league complex features a separate entrance and parking area; access it via Peacock Boulevard.

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