|Year Opened||1923; renovated in 1993 and 2013|
|Dimensions||335L, 375LC, 40C, 375RC, 335R|
|Local Airport||Sarasota or Tampa|
|Ticket Prices||To be announced|
|Season Ticket Prices||To be announced|
|Tickets on Sale||To be announced|
|Ticket Web Site||mlb.com|
|Address||1611 9th Street W. (17th Avenue West & 9th Street West), Bradenton FL 34208|
|Directions||From St. Petersburg, go south on Hwy. 41, make a right turn onto 17th Avenue West and continue to LECOM Park.|
Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training: Tradition in Bradenton
It is authentically old, without the faux sheen of retro features so prevalent in ballparks these days. The first version was built for $2,000 in 1923 for the St. Louis Cardinals, and the modern version was known by many old-timers as the former spring home of the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, LECOM Park is basically the same ballpark where Roberto Clemente gracefully patrolled the outfield, where Willie Stargell engaged the fans, and where Henry Aaron awed onlookers with his sheer power and determination. It’s not the gaudiest of ballparks, and the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t exactly crammed with superstars these days, but spring-training aficionados know LECOM Park is a throwback to the way spring training used to be: an intimate affair played in a neighborhood ballpark.
The original 1923 ballpark is not on the LECOM Park site; it was east of the current ballpark. Today’s LECOM Park has its roots in post-World War II America, where a military facility site was used to build the first version of what we would cover LECOM Park. That ballpark was built for the Boston Braves.
True, it’s not totally the same as it was when Clemente and Aaron took the field. It’s been changed several times in the past – a 1993 renovation added a larger press box and some amenities, while lights were installed before the start of spring training in 2008 – but perhaps the biggest changes to the ballpark since 1993 was unveiled last spring, when a $7.5 makeover will added plenty of fresh qualities to one of our favorite facilities: an outfield berm, outfield seats, new grandstand seating, and outfield Tiki bar.
With these improvements, you’ll want to plan a visit to Bradenton for a Pirates game. It’s close enough to Tampa Bay that you can do it on an impulse, and with the Pirates not likely to sell out most of their games (unless the Red Sox or Phillies are in town), you don’t need to plan weeks in advance.
The Florida State League’s Bradenton Marauders play in LECOM Park the rest of the season.
Be warned the Pirates don’t actually train at LECOM Park when spring training starts: the team trains at Pirate City, five miles away from LECOM Park.
Spring Training History
The Pirates have been training in Bradenton and playing games at LECOM Field (previously known as McKechnie Field) since 1969; before that the Pirates trained in Ft. Myers from 1955 to 1968. Other spring-training homes of the Pirates over the years: Selma, Ala. (1900); Thomasville, Ga. (1900); Hot Springs, Ark. (1901-14; 1920-1923); Dawson Springs, Ky. (1915-17); Jacksonville, Fl. (1918); Birmingham, Ala. (1919); Paso Robles, Cal. (1924-34); San Bernardino, Cal. (1935; 1937-1942; 1946; 1949-52); San Antonio (1936); Muncie, Ind. (1943-45); Miami Beach, Fla. (1947); Hollywood, Cal (1948); Havana, Cuba (1953); and Fort Pierce, Fl. (1954). The Bradenton Growers of the Florida State League played there in the 1923, 1924 and 1926 seasons.
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