|ED SMITH STADIUM|
|Year Opened||1989; renovated in 2011|
|Dimensions||340L, 375LC, 400C, 375RC, 340R|
|Tickets on Sale||January 26, 10 a.m.|
|Ticket Web Site||orioles.com|
|Address||2700 12th Street (12th Street and Tuttle Avenue), Sarasota, FL 34237|
|Directions||Coming from the north on I-75, exit at University Parkway; go west on University to Tuttle; turn left and head south on Tuttle; stadium is located on the right at the intersection of 12th and Tuttle. There is adequate signage to the stadium.|
Baltimore Orioles Spring Training: Revival in Sarasota
Some background is in order in a discussion of Ed Smith Stadium and the Baltimore Orioles. First: We’ve been attending spring-training games there since the earliest days of the facility, when it opened in 1989 as the spring home of the Chicago White Sox. It never was a particularly appealing facility: it was generic during the White Sox era, up and down during the Cincinnati Reds’ tenancy, and fairly generic during the first year the Baltimore Orioles started training there.
But then something fairly amazing happened. The Orioles, under the direction of ballpark whiz Janet Marie Smith, partnered with the city of Sarasota on a renovation that turned a limited ballpark on a small footprint – literally built on a dump, no less – into one of the nicer facilities in the Grapefruit League. As most fans still remember the concrete heaven that was the original Ed Smith Stadium, the realization that the old place is rejuvenated should be a call for a return this spring.
The renovation kept the good parts of Ed Smith Stadium and overhauled the weaknesses. On the plus side, Ed Smith Stadium has always been a very intimate ballpark: you’re never really far from any action at Ed Smith as there’s little foul territory, so the first few rows are very close to the action, and a fairly narrow walkway runs between the ballpark and 12th Street (formerly open and the site of Marge’s hamburgers, now a covered area). The whole complex occupies a relatively small footprint in Sarasota, so it’s easy to get around with easy access to players and facilities.
The renovation took the bones of Ed Smith Stadium and put a shiny new Spanish Mediterranean veneer over the concrete, transforming Ed Smith’s brutalism to a very nice Florida-themed design featuring light stucco and decorative clay elements. What came out of the plan from Smith, Sarasota-based Hoyt Architects and Washington-based architect David Schwarz (who worked on Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, among other facilities): a second-level concourse, new entryway, extended canopy, berm seating, expanded clubhouses, picnic area, and 1,500 more seats (with a total of 7,100 seat reclaimed from Oriole Park at Camden Yards), all built in what’s known locally as the Sarasota style of architecture. The total cost of the project was $31 million, and that included upgrades to the adjacent Sarasota Sports Complex – which features four-and-a-half practice fields and 35,000 square feet of clubhouses and office space – as well as renovations to the run-down facilities at the Buck O’Neil complex at Twin Lakes Park (6700 Clark Road). The issue of the playing fields and clubhouse conditions at Twin Lakes Park was a contentious one before renovations; some other MLB teams refused to send their minor-league squads games for spring-training games, so a 2011 renovation of the entire facility was undertaken.
If your memories are of Ed Smith when the Reds or White Sox played there, you owe yourself a return visit.
Spring Training History
The Baltimore Orioles have trained at the following sites (including their years as the St. Louis Browns): St. Louis (1901); French Lick, Ind. (1902); Baton Rouge (1903); Corsicana, Texas (1904); Dallas (1905-1906); San Antonio (1907, 1919, 1937-1941); Shreveport (1908, 1918); Houston (1909-1910); Hot Springs, Ark. (1911); Montgomery, Ala. (1912); Waco (1913); St. Petersburg (1914); Houston (1915); Palestine, Texas (1916-1917); Taylor, Ala. (1920); Bogalusa, Ala. (1921); Mobile, Ala. (1922-1924); Tarpon Springs, Fla. (1925-1927); West Palm Beach (1928-1936); Deland, Fla. (1942); Cape Girardeau, Mo. (1943-1945); Anaheim (1946); Miami (1947); San Bernardino, Cal. (1948, 1953); Burbank, Cal. (1949-1952); Yuma, Az. (1954); Daytona Beach, Fla. (1955); Scottsdale (1956-1958); Miami (1959-1990); Sarasota (1989-1991); St. Petersburg (1992-1995); Fort Lauderdale (1996-2009); Sarasota (2010-present).
Ed Smith Stadium opened in 1989 as the spring-training home of the Chicago White Sox. When the ChiSox moved spring operations to Arizona, the Reds moved to Ed Smith Stadium from Plant City in 1998. The Reds moved to Goodyear to share a ballpark with the Cleveland Indians beginning in 2010.
Major-league teams have trained in Sarasota since 1924. The New York Giants, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago White Sox played there in past spring-training camps. Most of those teams trained at Payne Park, which opened in 1928 and was torn down in 1990. The White Sox trained at Payne Park before moving to Ed Smith Stadium; the Red Sox trained there between 1933 and 1942 and again after World War II between 1946 and 1958.