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Jet Blue Park is absolutely incredible

Mar 7, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

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FORT MYERS — I have seen the future of spring training complexes, and its name is Jet Blue Park. Or maybe it’s not the future, because frankly, I’m not sure who else is going to shell out the kind of dough this place likely cost besides big money teams like the Red Sox (or the cities which pay for them on the promise of hordes of fans coming from up north to visit). But either way it’s a palace.

The scale of the complex is the first thing that struck me. It’s out on the edge of Fort Myers, out by the interstate and the airport and thus they had all the land in the world on which to build it. And they used all of that land, it seems. I can’t find such figures for every park, but I’d be shocked if Jet Blue didn’t take up more square acreage than any other spring training complex, for whatever that’s worth. And there are more golf carts on site schlepping people around than I’ve seen anywhere. When I got out of my car to head over a dude came by on a cart and asked me if I wanted a ride. I declined, but by the time I got to the back fields and the clubhouse I sorta wished I had.

And it’s not just acreage. This is the clubhouse:

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Well, it’s not just the clubhouse. It’s the minor league clubhouse too. And team offices. And the weight room. And a dining hall of players and coaches. It’s just a massive building that — perhaps apropos given the name of the place —  makes one think of an airport more than a baseball facility. As do the batting cages:

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“Attention, we have a gate change  . . . your flight will now be departing from Gate E  . . .”  Even the retired numbers are huge:

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I literally couldn’t get into a good position to get them all in one shot. Had to settle for only some of them.

The massive scale is paired with some nice style, too. Unlike every other clubhouse I’ve ever been in, the Sox’ clubhouse has high ceilings and tons of natural light. What a concept: sunlight in a locker room. And tons of room to spread out. Indeed, most veterans have two lockers. You sometimes see a superstar with that setup in spring training, but lots of guys have it here.

On to the ballpark itself:

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It is, as many have noted, Fenway South. That’s actually the formal name of the complex — jetBlue Park at Fenway South — and the name of the street it’s on too. It has exactly the same dimensions as Fenway Park and the same quirks. A manual scoreboard. A Pesky Pole. And, of course, a Green Monster:

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The difference, as you can see, is that there are actually seats in the middle of the Monster, not just the top (where that red umbrella is on the top here is the actual home run line of the Monster in Boston). In order to keep things the same as in the real Fenway, there is a net in front of those middle seats:

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If the ball hits off of it it’s still in play, just as if it were to bounce off the Monster in Fenway. That’s great for the players, I suppose, but it kinda stinks for the people in those seats. I bet a lot of them would love to catch a Fenway double.

But despite all of the major league qualities of the place — and the sheer size — this somehow still feels like a spring training park. This is in contrast to Steinbrenner Field up in Tampa. That place is taller, has tunnels and too much poured concrete and it doesn’t have the same number of areas where people can hang out. It’s in the middle of a city, not some area where you’d plausibly vacation. This place is as imposing as all get-out — it’s not quaint like TigerTown in Lakeland or even the Phillies’ place in Clearwater — but it doesn’t have that same impersonal feel the Yankees’ joint does.

There is probably some larger conclusions and comparisons to be drawn from all of that.  I’ll let you draw them.

  1. Ryan - Mar 7, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    I love the funky roof line. Very cool bit of architecture; cooler than you would expect for a spring training ballpark.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 7, 2014 at 12:45 PM

      According to the info sheets on the place, the roofline is supposed to mimic the treeline of the surrounding area. Which, it kinda does.

    • rje49 - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      The grandstand roof lines remind me of Dodger Stadium’s bleachers rooflines.
      By the way, what happens if the Red Sox ever get a new stadium in Boston that doesn’t look anything like the old Fenway?

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:50 PM

        That will never happen silly, they’ll just make the new one the same as the old one.

  2. 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Thanks, taxpayers of a region still reeling from the crash of the real estate bubble!

    • petey1999 - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      So Craig, who DID pay for it? You don’t seem to know.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        Lee County did. What makes you think I didn’t know that? My comment in the article was about any number of other teams building a similar place, hypothetically-speaking.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:25 PM

        I’m pretty sure the Red Sox threatened to go to Sarasota if Lee County didn’t build this ballpark for them. Might be misremembering things.

  3. historiophiliac - Mar 7, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    I’ll be honest, I think that kind of park would really confuse the old people who are Tigers fans visiting spring training. Plus, it doesn’t look knee or hip replacement friendly. Hello, snowbirds. Actually, I’m a little amused picturing my aunts and uncles going there. What’s the RV parking like?

    • raysfan1 - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:53 PM

      Having been built after 1990, it’s a given that the place is ADA compliant.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:12 PM

        You’d be surprised by how many places really aren’t compliant. My favorite is that within the last year the City here redid an intersection and then put posts in front of the cutouts for the sidewalk (and a post in the middle of the sidewalk — not wide enough to move a wheelchair around). I know you can only make a ballpark so compliant, but with the number of older persons in Florida, you can’t seat everyone on the breezeway level. But, I was only partially serious. I just loved the mental picture of my family getting confused by it all. My oldest uncle is 80. He pretty much just wants to watch the dang game. BTW, I took an ADA training course from one of the guys who was active in getting accessibility/accommodations implemented in Baltimore. That was cool.

  4. ricardorobertasq - Mar 7, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    When Spring Training is over, will you give us your rundown of best and worst Spring Training Parks? Maybe rank them 1-32?

    • karlkolchak - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      Even if Craig were also going to Arizona that would be a good trick since there are only 30 teams.

      • jwbiii - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        And at least two facilities are shared.

      • ricardorobertasq - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        Sorry, 30, was thinking of the NFL

  5. ningenito78 - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    If you like it so much why don’t you have sex with it?

    • historiophiliac - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      I’m pretty sure that even in Florida that would get you arrested.

      • jwbiii - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        You can certainly get arrested for having sex in a park in Florida. I imagine having sex with a park will also get you in trouble. Contains dirty words:

        http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/pair-popped-park-tryst

      • historiophiliac - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” ― Anatole France

      • TheMorningStar - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        If one feels threatened by the park, could you shoot it and then use the ‘stand your ground’ law to escape liability?

        Seeing that Jet Blue Park is white, the local DA would probably conviene a grand jury and charge you with attempted murder.

        If the ballpark was black? No charges probably would br filed.

      • dcarroll73 - Mar 8, 2014 at 9:29 AM

        Or historio, as John Lennon wrote, “Why don’t we do it in the road?” (I’m pretty sure that would get you arrested in Florida also – except in a really wild spring break.)

  6. pastabelly - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Craig, coincidence that the Braves are in town the day you review JetBlue Park? :)

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      Actually, it is. I mapped out my trip based on park/home team. And the fact that I’m flying home from Fort Myers. Just happenstance that I got the Braves and Yankees three times each.

  7. psly2124 - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    I’ll be at the game tomorrow night. I live 5 minutes from the stadium. The worst part about the stadium is listening to the boston fans with there idiotic accents

    • aceshigh11 - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      “…THERE idiotic accents”

      Nicely done, Slingblade. Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        Wasn’t Slingblade in Arkansas? In which case, it’s probably: “they’s” or “thems’.”

    • jcmeyer10 - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      He without sin may cast the first stone.

      • jimeejohnson - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        OK.

    • convincedofthehex - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      Try going to a Sox/Yankees spring training game, twice as bad with the accents. Within 2 innings you’ll slit your wrists.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Oh, please. As if the worst thing about us is our accents.

        Speaking as a fan of one of those teams, I WISH the worst thing about us was our accents.

      • jcmeyer10 - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        If you hated WHAT the fans said and not HOW they said it I would take your point more seriously.

  8. bisonaudit - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Acres are a measure of area. They’re already square. ‘square acres’ is somewhere between redundant and nonsensical.

  9. ez4u2sa - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    You should expect nothing less from a first class organization like the Red Sox.

  10. themagicfanguy - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Going to a game in a few days, can’t wait to check it out.

  11. Matt Aromando - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    I’m on board with the idea that government funded stadiums are a bad idea because:
    a) Team owners are billionaires, they should pay for their own stuff; and
    b) They don’t bring the cities new revenue streams, people just spend their money at the ballpark instead of movie theaters and bowling alleys.
    But in this case, isn’t there at least credibility to bringing in tourism?

    • 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      17 home games over the course of a month. 11,000 seats. It’s just not bringing that much money, and a huge portion of the money that comes in goes to the team.

      • Matt Aromando - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Right, but it’s bringing people to the county who are also presumably staying at hotels, going out to restaurants, and renting cars. People are more likely to make a vacation out of going to Spring Training than say, a regular season game. I’m speaking from the point-of-view of someone who’s done this very thing.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        Totally agree, actually. I’m just skeptical the cost the investment is worth it to the region’s economy. Craig noted how beautiful this stadium is, which means it’s really expensive. Would Red Sox fans still visit if it weren’t as nice? Probably.

        The shame is, we can never seem to have reasonable discussions about the costs and benefits of stadium construction because the people pushing for the stadiums overstate the benefits and dismiss the costs (especially the opportunity costs).

      • dcarroll73 - Mar 8, 2014 at 9:40 AM

        18th, we can have reasonable debate on it, but since all the “post building” studies I have heard of have the same conclusion (i.e. there is no particular boost, and certainly not what other business assistance and infrastructure spending would achieve), one side really has no argument. What that side comes down to is naked blackmail, “build and pay for this stadium or we will move.” Since all localities are scared by this, it works. It should be flat-out a criminal use of government funds to spend on these projects with time in the big house for any official or team minion involved, but we will never see that since in a post-Citizens United world these folks now own our government.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      Some folk do go to FL specifically for spring training. Then again some do travel from out of town/state to attend regular season games at MLB parks too–thus they do generate revenue outside the park via restaurants, hotels, and any shopping they might do.

      Others go to Florida at least partly for spring break, the theme parks, beaches, etc. a lot would probably go even if there were no Grapefruit League. The largest percentage either live in FL or winter there.

  12. timpaz - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Maybe the Sox can invest in the dump called Fenway in Boston.

    • ltzep75 - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      You sound confused. Perhaps you’ve mistaken City Hall in Boston for Fenway Park.

    • jcmeyer10 - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Awww, they have trust me. Went to a Sox/Yanks game quite a few years ago and was standing in a couple inches of water in the concourse behind home plate.

      Not saying it’s Coors Field by any means but they have shored up a lot of the foundation damage that takes away from being able to enjoy it as a historical site.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        The old owners were letting the place fall apart. (Tom Yawkey, Hall of Famer!) John Henry realized that Fenway itself is one of the reasons tourists come to Red Sox games and is propping it up. Much smarter business move.

      • jcmeyer10 - Mar 7, 2014 at 5:20 PM

        18th Street. Same reason why I went to a Cubs game while I was in Chicago (no it wasn’t for the unofficial mascot). They have become institutions above just being baseball fields.

  13. Jason @ IIATMS - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Those giant numbers are a direct “borrow” to the retired numbers outside Dodger Stadium.

    • 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      Camden Yards, too.

      Both of them, though, stole the existence of numbers from the ancient Babylonians, who invented the system of Arabic numbers. Hypocrites.

  14. psuorioles - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    No backsies Craig… you said the O’s Spring Training Facility was the best ever…

  15. djpostl - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    The butthurt Braves fan always finds a way to take a couple of swipes at the Yankees lol.

    Don’t hate them. Hate the scrub ass Braves teams who couldn’t even win one home game in two different trips to the Fall Classic asainst the Yankees.

  16. theeperspective - Mar 7, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    Did you say tons of natural light??? Now I’m thirsty.

  17. psly2124 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    Morning star you are a brain dead liberal idiot

    • 18thstreet - Mar 8, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      You should have ended your sentence in a period.

      First graders learn this.

      • shadowshand - Mar 8, 2014 at 6:55 PM

        “In a period” or “with a period?”

      • 18thstreet - Mar 8, 2014 at 7:04 PM

        I’m not sure. I’m learning about prepositions when I get to second grade.

  18. keltictim - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    Ownership has recently claimed that Fenway won’t be going anywhere for at least ten years, so having to change Jet Blue to match a new park isn’t much of a concern. That being said since Fenway is the greatest park in the history of baseball (homer alert) it would make sense that Jet Blue must match it in awesomeness.

  19. keltictim - Mar 8, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    The facts of the matter is it’s not criminal nor should it be. If the citizens of the community don’t want the project approved they can voice their opinion at the ballot box. Since I don’t recall too many people losing their elected offices over a publicly subsidized stadium the majority of the citizens in those communities must be ok with it. Obviously there is a benefit to be had from having a team in the first place or we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Stadiums produce jobs, taxes, pride, and a bunch of other benefits. The benefits far outweigh the cost of subsidizing a stadium, as long as it’s not Detroit, or a city that financially cannot afford to subsidize a pencil let alone a stadium.

  20. beanocook - Mar 9, 2014 at 12:49 AM

    Arizona spring training blows away Florida. It’s not close.

  21. beanocook - Mar 9, 2014 at 12:56 AM

    Camelback Ranch is a $121 million stadium
    Talking Stick Stadium is $100 million

    Both nicer looking. jetBlue is nice but it’s not breaking barriers.

  22. beanocook - Mar 9, 2014 at 12:56 AM

    jetBlue was merely $77 million

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