|Dimensions||335L, 385LC, 400C, 385RC, 335R|
|Tickets on Sale||Monday, November 19|
|Ticket Web Site||ticketmaster.com|
|Address||700 S. Victory Lane, Lake Buena Vista, Disney World.|
|Directions||Lake Buena Vista is located in the southwest corner of Orlando. Take I-4 to Hwy. 192 West and follow signs to Magic Kingdom/Wide World of Sports, right onto Victory Way. (Directions at Disney World are clear and plentiful. Follow the signs to Wide World of Sports.)|
Atlanta Braves Spring Training: In the House of the Mouse
Champion Stadium (formerly known as Disney Field, Cracker Jack Stadium, Disney’s Wide World of Sports and The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports) is architecturally one of the flashier venues for spring training. It’s also one of the largest: with 9,500 seats (80 percent between the first and third bases); only the largest Arizona stadiums can complete in terms of sheer size.
This will be the last year for Atlanta Braves spring training at Champion Stadium and ESPN Wide World of Sports: the team is shifting operations to Sarasota County and North Port in 2020.
The stadium sits within a larger sports complex in the southwestern corner of Disney World; next door, there’s the Milk House (an indoor arena used for AAU events), and close by there are tennis courts, a track-and-field complex, youth and adult baseball and softball fields, and other various athletic fields. Between baseball seasons and when the Rays are out of town the stadium and the complex is used frequently for a variety of AAU and NAIA college events.
There is a very agreeable spaciousness to the ballpark, despite almost all the seating being concentrated in the two-deck grandstand. The lower level features two concourses — a small one at the back of the grandstand and a much larger one within the grandstand — while the upper level features a large concourse within the grandstand, four luxury boxes and two open-air suites. The wider concourses makes for some pleasant milling around during the game, and there’s an expanded area outside of the grandstand that can accommodate groups.
The design is in a Florida Spanish Mission design (you’ll find similar design motifs scatted throughout the state), with some Art Deco touches, such as the large left-field scoreboard. The scoreboard was a disappointment, as you can tell by the picture on the left: huge parts of it were covered up, probably because the sponsors underneath the coverings had signed up as Orlando Rays sponsors and not as sponsors for spring training. The scoreboard is equipped with fireworks, some of which are fired after the singing of the National Anthem, and others
If you find the grandstand seating too confining — which you probably will, especially if you’re there with a family — get to the game early and score some of the berm seating down the left-field line and across the outfield to the scoreboard. Except for a bare-earth walking area in the back, the berm slopes down toward the playing field. It had rained the entire day before we visited what was then known as Cracker Jack Stadium, but the berm didn’t appear to be worse for wear: there was no mud anywhere, and the grass appeared to be in excellent shape (surprising, since we visited quite late in spring-training season). If you do plan on sitting on the berm, don’t bother bringing a lawn chair, as the ground has too much of an angle for a chair. Instead, bring a large blanket and plop down in left-center field.
For the Braves’ last spring in the House of Mouse, Disney is offering some new concession and merchandise offerings:
- New menu items include a Thai Curry Rice Bowl and a Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich.
- A new concessions area will focus on delicacies from the home towns of visiting teams. No word on the specifics, but you can bet there will be something like a Philly cheesesteak on the menu when the Phillies are in town, for instance.
- To lessen the impact on the pocketbook, Disney is offering a $50 Shop & Dine Card that buys you $60 worth of offerings throughout the ESPN WWoS complex. That will buy you a boatload of Shiner Bocks at the Champion Stadium concession stands.
The Braves home schedule launches Feb. 25, when the Washington Nationalshead up the Turnpike for a day game.
Spring Training History
The Atlanta Braves have trained at the following sites since the team’s entry in the National League as the Boston Beaneaters: Norfolk, Va. (1901); Thomasville, Ga. (1902-1904, 1907); Charleston, S.C. (1905); Jacksonville (1906); Augusta, Ga. (1908-1912); Athens, Ga. (1913); Macon, Ga. (1914-1915); Miami (1916-1918), Columbus, Ga. (1919-1920); Galveston, Texas (1921); St. Petersburg (1922-1937); Bradenton (1938-1940, 1948-1962); San Antonio (1941); Sanford, Fla. (1942); Wallingford, Ct. (1943-1944); Washington, D.C. (1945); Fort Lauderdale (1946-1947); West Palm Beach (1963-1997); Orlando (1998-present).
The Atlanta Braves moved their spring-training games to what was then known as Disney’s Wide World of Sports in March 1997, shortly after the ballpark opened.
The Orlando Rays (Class AA; Southern League) played at Champion Stadium between 2000 and 2003.