Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium – Miami Marlins Spring Training
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Roger Dean Stadium is (currently) unique among Grapefruit League parks in that it hosts two teams: the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. Named for a local car sales magnate, the facility is neatly split into two halves, with the Marlins headquarters on the left field side of the park, and Cardinals on the right field side. Until 2003, the 6,871-seat park was shared by the Cardinals and the Expos, before the later became the Nationals and sought other Spring facilities further north, and the Marlins moved in from the south.
While the physical park might be equally divided, the fan base is not. The Cardinals clearly dominate over the much closer Marlins in nearly every aspect, making the Fish second-class citizens in their own Grapefruit League home. And although the stadium is in great environs, the cost of the experience exceeds the majesty of at least one of the teams that call it home.
Food & Beverage 3
The food and drinks are mostly located in the exterior walkway that surrounds the seating area. Standard ballpark fare (hot dogs, pizza, burgers) are available at most concessions, with a twist or two such as brats and cheesesteaks thrown in. The pick of the ballpark grub is either the Super Dean Dogs (available at the “Stadium Favorites” concessions, $9.50), a truly jumbo dog in a pretzel bun that comes with an order of chips, or the “Island Grill” concessions, which serve up Shrimp Po-Boys, Crab Cake Sliders, and Mahi Mahi Tacos ($9 for each of the selections). The MVP Grille has Miami-specific concessions (Miami Dog, Bill Fish sandwich, and Sony BBQ – all $9-$9.75), as well as St. Louis favorites that are available during both teams’ games.
The beer choices are more modest. Your choices are mostly the Bud family, Rolling Rock, Yuengling, but Monk in the Trunk, Landshark, and some other more micro-brew selections are available at smaller concessions around the park. One of those concessions with specialty beer, Island Cocktails, also doles out mixed drinks and cocktails, as well as wine ($8 for each).
Roger Dean Stadium has a fairly common minor league layout. The field boxes (closer to the field) run from outfield to outfield around home plate. A second tier of loge seats, separated by the main walkway from the field boxes, runs from about third to first. Above them, the press box and luxury suites sit right around home plate. A party tent and small bleachers section sits out in left field, and the Cassidy Cool Zone (an air-conditioned group area with an all-you-can-eat buffet) and a small picnic berm sit in right. The view in the outfield is a pair of executive offices (the Marlins in left and the Cardinals in right).
The doors open two hours before game time from three gates arrayed around the park. Crowding isn’t an issue. The left side/right side split between the teams holds up everywhere. The Marlins use the third base side as their home dugout, and adventurous Marlins autograph seekers can hang out by the player gates outside of left field.
Both Roger Dean residents offer on-field experiences during home batting practice for $15 per person. For the cost, you get a personalized lanyard and an escort to a roped-off area behind home plate for the duration of batting practice and the best chance at autographs. You have to check in at the desk outside of Gate B, and it isn’t clearly marked. If you’re looking for home autographs, get there early (it opens three hours before game time), as starting players take batting practice first and then disappear to the practice fields. Like everything else in the park, the Marlins practice fields are on the left side. Follow the sidewalk beyond left field, and you’ll see the entrance.
All the seats offer good views close to the action, but there is nearly no cover from the elements unless you spring for a luxury box or group event area. The only regular seating with any sort of protection is the last three rows of the loge boxes in front of the press box, but not directly underneath the first base luxury boxes. Sitting anywhere else? Load up on sunscreen and pray it doesn’t rain.
The mascot doesn’t make the trip up for Spring Training, and there are limited between-inning contests compared to a regular minor or major league contest. These are more modest with the new between-inning pace-of-play clock, but fun is still to be had.
Roger Dean Stadium is located within the planned community of Abacoa within Jupiter, Florida. It is a development of different areas, each themed on different architecture, with plenty of shopping and dining available. A Florida Atlantic University campus also lies just south of the park.
Jupiter houses many top notch golf courses that attract PGA talent, and it is a boon for any duffers. In addition to the ocean beach and the inlet area to the northeast of the park, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is of historical significance, and the Hibel Museum on the FAU campus offers a dash of culture.
The Abacoa development has a lot of restaurant and bar options within a few blocks of the park. Those looking for a drink after the game will find JJ Muggs Stadium Grill right across the street, while Rooney’s Public House, and DAS Biergarten are just slightly further down the road. Eateries include the Copa Cabana, Le Metro Neighborhood Bistro, Costello’s Trattoria, Jumby Bay Island Grill, and Hokkaido Hibachi & Sushi.
With the myriad of attractions, Jupiter has a number of hotels to service tourists. Closer to downtown and the beach, there is a Comfort Inn & Suites, La Quinta Inn Jupiter, Best Western Intracoastal, and the Jupiter Beach Resort. Nearer to Roger Dean is the Homewood Suites by Hilton, and the Courtyard Marriott across the street from the stadium is about as close as you can get without an invite by one of the teams.
The Marlins haven’t quite been embraced by the locals in Miami, and sadly, this disengagement seems to extend slightly up the coast in the Spring. The Marlins and Rays jockey for the shortest Grapefruit League commutes, but that doesn’t seem to help out the Fish’s attendance. Far-off visiting fans seem to dominate the stadium over the home team for under two hours away.
The lack of fan support can be summed up in one anecdote. On a day when the Cardinals weren’t even playing a game at the park, there were at least twice as many Cardinals fans sitting outside the gates of the Redbird’s training entrance looking for autographs than there were on the Marlins side. Ouch.
Jupiter is nestled on the southeast Florida coast, and the park is conveniently right off of both the (toll) Florida Turnpike and I-95. The park is about a half-hour by car from sister Grapefruit League locale Port St. Lucie, a little over two hours away from family vacation hotspot Orlando, and slightly more than an hour and a half to Miami in the south. Parking can be had for $5 for the uncovered grass lots or $10 for one of the parking decks (available for pre-order).
For anyone looking to take public transport to the game, Palm Tran Buses on Route 10 ($2 per trip, $5 for unlimited pass) have a stop right by the stadium (University Blvd @ Main St), and they serve Jupiter and surrounding cities, such as West Palm Beach. But a car is nearly a necessity for moving about Florida, especially if you’re going to multiple Grapefruit League parks. Palm Beach International airport is just twenty minutes south for those coming from further away.
Getting around the park is a breeze. A wide exterior walkway extends from left to right field, servicing all entrances and getting people to the concessions that line the walkway, as well as the stairways up to the seating bowl. Another comfortable walkway splits the field and loge boxes seating areas on the inside of the park. The standing room sections are on this walkway, which could clog it up, but it doesn’t seem to be much of a danger at Marlins Spring Training games.
Return on Investment 2
The prices at Roger Dean Stadium are simply too high for Marlins Spring Training. This is more offset with a franchise with a long history and fervent fan base as the Cardinals, but it is definitely not so for the young and (currently) lowly Marlins.
Tickets are on three tiers (Regular, Premium, and Super Premium). Box seats can go for as much as slightly worse tickets at the major league park down the road, and standing room tickets can crack double-digits. For Spring Training, that’s simply too much. Mini-plans and “season” tickets can bring that price down a little, but not enough.
Food and drink aren’t cheap, either. Many food items go for MLB-level $9 and above, and souvenir soda and water will set you back $6.50 and $4.25, respectively. There are some relatively cheap eats (brats go for $5.50 and regular hot dogs for $4.25), but you’ll get what you pay for there. Beers run $7.75-$8.55, and a wine and mixed drinks will cost you $8. There are kids meals (hot dog, chips and a soda for $5) and some adult combo meals that help make it more affordable, but not enough.
It’s all too pricey for a Marlins exhibition game.
A $6 magazine program is available, and not worth the price for the content. Everything as far as signage is split fairly evenly between the Marlins and the Cardinals. The Marlins parking lot features a large mural celebrating their two World Series championships, and the Marlins “M” is proudly displayed on the facing of their left field offices.
Some small plaques commemorate the stadium construction and a county administrator who championed it (Alan Tarlow), and a large plaque commemorating the park’s first Cardinals and Expos season ticket holders is seemingly disregarded behind the home plate concessions. The Palm Beach County Hall of Fame is celebrated in banners along the right field concourse, and a well-appointed brick fan walk is located outside the main entrance, surrounding a copse of trees.
There is a small inflatable golf pitch stand for the kids in right field (a nod to the large golf presence in the area), and a sizable team store hawks merchandise for the Cardinals and Marlins, as well as their minor league franchises which inhabit the park after the spring.
Roger Dean Stadium is a nice ballpark in a great community, but when the Marlins are using the facility, they are still overshadowed by their park cohabitants and the hefty prices they can expect their fans to pay. If you have a choice during Spring Training, come for a Cardinals game at Roger Dean Stadium.
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