The top few stadiums on our Spring Training Grapefruit League list could be rearranged in multiple orders. But Charlotte Sports Park is #3 on our list, and it is home to the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Florida. The Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Class A Florida State League also play here in the regular season.
Many of the other Grapefruit League stadiums are located in bustling tourist areas that offer an array of things to do both before and after a game. Port Charlotte is a little bit different. It is in the middle of nowhere. That really is the only bad thing about the park is that it is so far away from anything else. Once you get inside the stadium it is as great a time as can be.
Parking at Charlotte Sports Park is basically confined to one giant lot. Don’t expect to park too close unless you have a handicap decal – there are rows and rows of handicap parking for guests. I’m not sure what the fan base is overall, but most of them were taken for the game I went to.
Much like the other criteria of top Grapefruit League stadiums, the home of the Rays has both shaded seating and grass seating for fans to enjoy the game wherever they please. Fans can also walk around the concourse of the stadium and see the action from any part of the field. What makes Charlotte Sports Park more enjoyable than most are the tables and seats that sit on the outfield catwalk for spectators to sit and enjoy the game. Leaning on a rail is nice for a quick view but is difficult to endure for nine innings.
Bullpens are stock full of pitchers during Spring Training, and fans get as close a look as at any other park. The catwalk looks directly over the both teams’ bullpens so you can watch players get loose before they go into the game. If you have never sat and watched (and listened) to the shenanigans that take place in a bullpen, you are in for a treat. Some players will put on a show if they know they are being watched.
The ballpark has a great atmosphere thanks to the fan friendly staff and enthusiastic fans. This is one of the best-staffed parks I have been to, and everybody is extra nice. It may be in part due to the older fan base, but friendly ushers are great no matter how old you are.
Although Charlotte Sports Park does have a nice team store, one oddity I found was that they were selling used game bats for close to $100. This would be fine except for that the bats were broken – not all the way but cracked somewhere in the middle. I would never make that purchase, but I’m sure some fan found it as a bargain.