Professor Steven Ericson of the University of Alabama recently took a trip to Tampa for a conference. While in Tampa, Ericson journeyed to three minor league parks in the Tampa area: Steinbrenner Field (Tampa), McKechnie Field (Bradenton), and Brighthouse Field (Clearwater).
Ericson, a fan of Minor League Baseball, wrote about his experiences in each park on his blog, My Geography Lessons.
On April 16, he visited Brighthouse Field. Of the Threshers’ home, he writes:
While the weather was overcast and a little nippy by Florida standards, it was a great experience. The food was reasonably priced, the workers were friendly and the stadium had a plethora of entertainment options. It’s also important for me to say that while I’m not a Phillies fan because I grew up in the Atlanta area cheering on the Braves in the early-’90s, I am definitely a fan of the Threshers and their friendly landshark.
On April 29, he wrote about his experience at McKechnie Field:
I certainly came away a winner after my experience in Bradenton. Yes, I was disappointed that there were no unique food items that I “had” to eat. No, the lack of a marquee food item did not deter from my enjoyment at McKechnie Field.
Yes, the stadium has a wide selection of quality beers. What the Marauders lack in the food department, the beer offerings more than make-up for it.
Most importantly, the hospitality of the staff stands out. Every staffer that I spoke with about food or while perusing the Clubhouse Store was extremely helpful, and made sure that I found anything I wanted.
On May 5th, he wrote about his experience at Steinbrenner Field:
Despite the pricey beers and lack of signature food items, the gameday experience at George M. Steinbrenner Field is enjoyable. Ticket pricing certainly makes it an attractive option for families, whether they live in the area or are visiting an want to attend a game. While I understand the appeal of making the stadium experience like a visit to mini Yankee Stadium, I hope the staff can incorporate some uniquely Tampa items into the food and souvenir selections.
Ericson also has plenty of pictures from his travels. If you are a fan of Minor League Baseball, there are definitely some good shots.
I am always curious to read what people think of the Tampa Bay baseball experience. Ericson didn’t have a chance to visit Tropicana Field as the Rays were on the road during his visit. He did however enjoy himself at each Minor League park he visited.
One trend in his reviews was that he looked for local cuisine. Had he visited Tropicana Field, he would have been able to taste a Cuban sandwich. According to this article, as of 2011, Cigar City beer was also sold at Tropicana Field. So Ericson could have had a solid Tampa Bay culinary experience if the Rays were in town.
Restaurants and vendors will obviously partner with the entity that gives them the most exposure. In the case of Tampa Bay baseball, that is usually the Rays.
Few people realize how highly competitive the Tampa Bay baseball market is. With one major league team and four minor league teams competing for the same dollar, Tampa Bay is unique among baseball markets. Especially when you consider the size of the market compared to other markets that have multiple teams.
Ericson’s write-ups can provide good feedback to the Tampa Bay Minor League teams as they look for ways to appeal to consumers. It is always good to get an outsider’s view.