LECOM Park, home of the Bradenton Marauders (Florida State League), becomes the fourth winner in four years, grabbing top honors of the 2018 Best of the Ballparks fan vote for High-A facilities, winning by a slim 28-vote margin.
“It’s an honor for our home field to be selected as the top ballpark in the High-A classification,” Bradenton Marauders General Manager Rachelle Madrigal said. “The love our fans have for LECOM Park and the high regard baseball fans everywhere have expressed for this historic facility was evident in the voting.”
The 28-vote margin was the slimmest in a final round in Best of the Ballparks history, as LECOM Park prevailed over the 2016 champ, BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem Dash). LECOM Park was the #2 seed in the fan vote for the 29 ballparks in the California League, Carolina League and Florida State League, with last year’s winner, Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, as the number one seed. (Previous winners: Frawley Stadium in 2015 and BB&T Ballpark in 2016.) LECOM Park defeated Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium (Potomac Nationals), Municipal Stadium (San Jose Giants), Charlotte Sports Park (Charlotte Stone Crabs) and Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium (Lakeland Flying Tigers) before prevailing in the final round of fan voting. Overall, 155,000 fans have voted in the 2018 Best of the Ballparks fan vote, with over 31,000 fans weighing in for High-A ballparks.
“We’ve never seen a final vote this close at any level of play, and while we always tell fans their votes do count, a margin of only 28 votes proves that point,” said Ballpark Digest Publisher Kevin Reichard. “We had two great ballparks in the final round, so such an even split should not have been surprising. But it’s hard to argue that LECOM Park isn’t one of the great ballparks of baseball.”
Erected in 1923, LECOM Park has undergone a number of significant renovations over the last three decades to provide fans modern amenities while maintaining the feeling of a classic ballpark. The iconic Spanish mission style façade was constructed during a significant facelift of the stadium in the early 1990s. Lights came about in 2008. The Pirates, the City of Bradenton, and Manatee County partnered on a $10 million renovation of fan areas in 2013, including the addition of a boardwalk around the outfield and a tiki bar. The fan friendly upgrades were dubbed as the “Best Ballpark Renovation (over $1 million)” by Ballpark Digest in 2013. Ballpark Digest has previously recognized The Friendly City’s ballfield as “Best of the Ballparks” in the Grapefruit League. LECOM Park has held the top spot among Florida Spring Training destinations since 2016.