Hammond Stadium – Minnesota Twins Spring Training
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Since opening its doors in 1991, Hammond Stadium has been the Grapefruit League home for the Minnesota Twins, as well as the Gulf Coast A Fort Myers Miracle. The park, with its Churchill Downs-inspired main facade, lies within the CenturyLink Sports Complex that houses the Spring Training facilities for all the Twins affiliates on its sprawling grounds. Hammond Stadium went through two major renovations in 2014 and 2015 that expanded the seating capacity to 9,300, widened walkways, and added more precious shade to the seats.
In addition to being a long-time Spring Break destination, Fort Myers has also been a long-time Spring Training destination, with four Grapefruit League locations within its confines, and two still in use. And what a two. The Red Sox’s brand-new jetBlue Park just down the road and Hammond Stadium are among the cream of the Grapefruit League crop, and while sharing the foibles of the Spring Breaker locale, Hammond Stadium gets a slight nod, with its copious food and drink, great park layout, and above average affordability.
Food & Beverage 5
Hammond Stadium is a big park with a lot of food and drink options, and (with the exception of double cocktails and beer buckets), everything is under $10.
The main “Ballpark Favorites” concessions around the concourse cover old and new ballpark standards, such as various hot dogs, burgers, brats, chicken sandwiches, pulled pork, pizza, and cheesesteaks. A grill out in left serves up most of the dogs and burgers fresh grilled at the same price. Smaller carts dot the walkways of the park serving up single specialties (dogs, cheesesteaks, nachos, etc), not to mention the Minnesota Favorites stand in right, with Midwest treats such as onion rings, curveball fries, and deep-fried cheese curds.
The beverage selection is even more extensive. Pepsi rules the non-alcoholic roost, and Bud and Bud Light are at most concessions. But it doesn’t stop there, and all the beers are $7.50 domestic and $8.50 import. Guinness, New Belgium, Corona, and Leinenkugel’s all have their own booths around the park, while Harp, Smithwicks, Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Angry Orchard, Landshark, Stella, and Minnesota Red are all available at certain concessions. A stand on the first base side offers up three types of beer shakes for $7, and outfield bars dole out various margaritas ($9.50), cocktails ($7/$9, doubles $11/$13), wine ($6.50), sangria ($7.50), and beer buckets ($18).
You’re in Twins Territory, so you might as well eat the part. Grab a brat ($6) and some cheese curds ($6.50), and wash it down with a Minnesota Red ($7.50) and ditch the Pepsi for a Killebrew Root Beer ($4).
With all its recent renovations, Hammond Stadium seems to be constantly upgrading in all the right ways. From the fountains at the entrance, leading up to the main plaza, this park has major league aspirations.
The entrance plaza connects with the outer promenade that goes around the exterior of the park. A home plate ramp leads right out to the seating bowl walkway, a nice touch that places experience over what has become prime seating. The box seats below are separated from the “View” seats above by an interior walkway that extends out to a boardwalk that encircles the entire outfield. The press box and suites level rise above on a second level from about first to third base, but new additions in 2015 are public shaded terraces connected to the suites level at the top of the areas between first base and right field and third base and left field, with their own seats and concessions.
Lacking a video board, an old-school electronic scoreboard sits in left field, with a small video strip below it, and a digital auxiliary scoreboard can be found above the home plate entrance ramp.
Bear mascot TC makes the trip down to Fort Myers to dodge the Minnesota winters and helps run the pregame and between inning entertainments. While not up to the regular minor league mayhem and time constrained by new pace-of-play rules, there’s still an assortment of between innings entertainment to be had.
Of course, Spring Training is all about getting close to big league stars. The practice fields and batting cages start just outside the main stadium for autograph hounds, and the fields extend over the giant facility. In fact, in a unique Grapefruit League feature, you can get into the park a stunning three hours before game time and go to the left field patio and sit in the ballpark looking out over the main practice field. For $40, you can even have an on-field batting practice experience. While a bit pricier than other offers of this type in the Grapefruit League, all the money goes to the local Boys & Girls Clubs. More conventional autograph hounds can park behind the home dugout on the third base side before the start of the game.
There are 17 different seating options at the park, and all seem to have good sight lines. If you’re looking for shade, as many Grapefruit League patrons pray for, terrace section 301 and 302 (or the top rows in sections 214-217 or 101-104) are your best bets outside of the suites. The center field grandstand seats are the cheapest in the park and still offer a great view of the game.
The go-to line that writers reach for to describe Fort Myers is “the place where retirees and Spring Breakers meet.” And those two large Florida contingencies are indeed found in force in the greater Fort Myers area. Unsurprisingly, the Spring Breakers mostly bask in groups on the beaches, which is a helpful hint for those who’d rather avoid what has made lists as a top-10 “trashiest” Spring Break destination (an achievement that local radio stations seem inordinately proud). But if that’s your poison, head out over the causeway to north Fort Myers beach, and all your food and drink and lodging and drink and entertainment and drink needs can be served out on the shore.
Some chain and local low-end eateries are around the park, but you’ll need to go to 41 to get quality eats such as local favorites Reuben’s Smokehouse, Trattoria Cafe Napoli, and Blue Windows French Bistro, or even further west for CIBO, considered by some to be the class of Fort Myers restaurants. Choice for suds have to be the two breweries in town, the Fort Myers Brewing Company (on 876 near jetBlue Park), and Point Ybel Brewing Company (on 865 to the southwest).
Where the retirees dominate, it is not surprising that there is golf. And so much golf. The main drag of country clubs and other courses runs from south of the park, between Hammond Stadium and jetBlue park, and to the north, though you really can’t go in any direction without hitting a golf course.
For those who enjoy nature without chasing around a little ball, then you can try the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve (right next to the park to the east), the Lakes Regional Park (just to the west), and Manatee Park (to the north). For some historic edification, the Edison and Ford Winter Estates are to the northwest by downtown, and to the southwest is the regional Zoomers Amusement Park for the kiddies.
Hammond Stadium (and nearby jetBlue Park) both reside more inland, where the retirees rule the roost. Away from the beach, over a dozen chain hotels cluster near Page Field airport (northwest from the park along 41) and by Southwest Florida Airport halfway to jetBlue Park (along 876 and I-75). All are a short drive away, and your cheapest bet is likely the Days Inn Fort Myers, while your priciest choice is the Homewood Suites, both on 41.
The joke would be that people from Minnesota would take any excuse to go to Florida in the winter, but whether for that, or baseball fanaticism (or some combination of the two), the Twins supporters make a great showing in Spring Training. The fans are there and involved, even if they are there to get away from the snow and Skyways.
The park’s capacity has only been going up, and the fans have been there to fill the seats. They are middle-of-the-pack for the Grapefruit League in terms of attendance on paper, but the crowd seems to occupy the big park they are in. The Twins fans are into the game and loud. They get there early and leave at the end.
Hammond Stadium is conveniently located under a mile to I-75 and Florida 41 that provides an easy in and out of the park. Remember that combination of retirees and Spring Breakers mentioned earlier? They can equal big traffic jams at the wrong time of day. You should be okay if you stay around the park or destinations east, but anywhere near the coast can present big waits if you’re unlucky. Parking in the extensive lots is the Grapefruit League average $10 and, in general, they empty out fairly quickly after games.
There are three spacious gates to get into the park (Gates 1, 2, and 3). All three empty into the base of park behind the fountain and lead to stairways up to the main entrance plaza. The three entrances don’t seem to clog up, but Gate 3 is the furthest away and will probably get you in slightly quicker if there’s a hold up.
The 2014 and 2015 renovations of the park included a number of improvements on getting around, and the results show. Outside of some crowding on the main plaza stairway on the way out, getting around the field is easy, though the spacious outer concourse will get you where you’re going faster than the infield path in the seating bowl. The baseball boardwalk in the outfield wraps all around the park, so you have a number of ways to get where you’re going.
Return on Investment 4
Spring Training is always a good value to get close to the major league heroes, and the Twins experience at Hammond Stadium is certainly above average even on that scale.
Tickets run in two tiers for Value (mostly weekday) and Premium (mostly weekend) games. Prices run from $10-$41 and $13-$44, respectively, with most tickets under $28/$31 dollars. Prices are a little above Grapefruit League average, but it is still possible to see these games on a reasonable budget. All food and nearly all drinks are under $10, parking is a league average $10, and the program is also a middle-of-the-road $5.
There are discounts for season tickets, group tickets, and senior citizens. Most of the food and drinks are already reasonably priced, so as long you don’t feel the need for the fanciest of drinks, you should do okay.
You will never forget what team you’re seeing, because even if you suffer from temporary amnesia, the Twins name and logo are everywhere on the facility, and signs that you are in “Twins Territory” are fairly omnipresent. Every row in the parking lot is named for a Twins’ great, and the team’s pennants and retired numbers are located on either side of the home plate entrance ramp. It gives the park a certain sense of place only matched in the Grapefruit League by Steinbrenner Field and jetBlue Park’s “Fenway South.”
A number of other memorials dot the park, including dedication plaques for the sports complex and the stadium promenade, and stadium namesake William H. Hammond (a Lee County Commissioner key in getting park constructed) has a standing plaque in the main entrance pavilion, along with some games for the kids. The Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame graces the bottom of the entrance area. The main team store was turned into a giant, split-level affair in the 2015 renovations for all your shopping needs.
And while there are lakes or swamps behind nearly every Grapefruit League park (usually with warning signs about gators), Hammond Stadium delivers unconditionally in that regard, as at least one of the resident alligators isn’t shy of people and regularly hangs out on the surface, viewable by the right field patio. The concessionaires can usually point him out if you can’t find him.
Hammond Stadium is easily among the best the Grapefruit League has to offer. It has a fantastic facility, with enthusiastic and friendly fans, offering a wide variety of consumables at reasonable prices.
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