Charlotte Sports Park – Charlotte Stone Crabs
Photos by Michael Rusignuolo, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Charlotte Sports Park 2300 El Jobean Rd Port Charlotte, FL 33948
Year Opened: 1987 Capacity: 7,000
Southwest Florida Baseball
The Charlotte Stone Crabs are a bit hidden away for a minor league baseball team in Florida. Their stadium is not near the main highway, and it is surrounded by preserve land and neighborhoods. Its location in Southwest Florida means you are likely to see rain clouds on any given day, just as much as you are to experience the stifling heat of Florida in the summer. The home of Tampa Bay Rays spring training isn’t the newest facility but it doesn’t retain the aged look of other minor league stadiums. That said, unique seating opportunities exist here that don’t in other stadiums, even in Florida. For that reason alone, this facility is worth a visit for any diehard baseball fan.
Food & Beverage 3
The food options here are fairly standard. Your range includes the typical baseball fare including hot dogs ($2.75-$3.75), burgers ($5), fries ($3.75), peanuts ($4), and a selection of both bottled and beers on tap ($5.75-$6.50). Other drinks include sodas and Gatorade ($3-$4). Ice cream and Dippin’ Dots are also available. Aside from the standard ballpark fare, nothing generally stands out above the crowd. Prices are low, thankfully, meaning you won’t have to break the bank to eat at the game.
The stadium itself at Charlotte Sports Park is pretty typical in its layout. It features a main seating bowl that is split into two levels accessible from one main concourse. The outfield features a walk around walkway that is built as a boardwalk one would typically see on the beaches of Florida. Out here you can find seating in the form of high top tables that overlook the outfield. In left field along the foul line, fans can sit and relax on the grass berm seating available. Shade in the outfield areas however is nonexistent. The seating also only features a roof covering the upper seating areas in the stadium, meaning you’re going to get a nice tan during day games.
Immediately around the stadium, you will find pretty much nothing besides housing neighborhoods and swamp/woodland. About a mile east of the stadium on Veterans Blvd you can find the closest dining options. Here, near a mall is a Steak N Shake and an Olive Garden. For lodging, you have to drive upwards of 2 to 3 miles from the stadium for the closest hotel (Days Inn Port Charlotte), and even farther for the next closest (Tropical Bay Inn Motel). Visitors to the area enjoy visiting southwest Florida’s beaches, which are a short drive west of the stadium. For nature lovers, Myakka State Forest is just northwest of the facility, featuring numerous hiking trails through Florida woodland.
The difficulty of having a baseball team in Florida is dealing with the weather. Any day in Southwest Florida has an equal chance of featuring stifling heat with no clouds or pounding, relentlessly violent thunderstorms. This tends to dissuade fans from attending many regular season games during the week. In addition, Southwest Florida is known for its aging population, many of whom aren’t exactly minor league baseball’s target demographic. These factors put together mean most games feature a sea of blue seats in the stadium that are empty for the majority of the night. The fans who do show up are generally enthusiastic, but the open nature of the stadium tends to let any cheering fade away into the humid Florida air.
To get to Charlotte Sports Park, one must take a bit of a detour from the main highway. I-75 is the nearest highway, with Exit 179 being your best bet. From here, Toldeo Blade Blvd is your best bet until you reach El Jobean Rd. From there, the stadium is just a mile west. Unfortunately, signage isn’t exactly plentiful around the area directing fans to the stadium. Parking on site is plentiful, and costs $4.
Return on Investment 3
Ticket prices are very affordable, costing just $8.50 for upper box and $9.50 for lower box. The team does offer a $0.50 military discount per ticket for members of the military. That said, the average fan can expect to pay $15 for a ticket and parking on game day. With concessions prices being relatively low, investment for a day at the ballpark is pretty affordable. Unfortunately, the lack of fans in the stands tends to lead to feeling like you have missed out on the stereotypical minor league baseball experience.
The team features the starting lineups for both teams in the main concourse on a large board. There also is a kids play area in right field the has several inflatable bounce houses, but is not free.
The Stone Crabs are one of several minor league teams in Florida, and their location away from a major city can mean they are likely to get lost in the shuffle easily. Despite this, their success over the past few years has drawn renewed attention to them, and while they enjoy a small local following among local residents, they are towards the bottom of the Florida State League in attendance every year. This is unfortunate as the stadium is among one of the nicer facilities in the league despite lacking any standout features.