From AT THE YARD - Minor League Baseball Magazine - www.attheyard.com|
Stan Meradith, principle architect for DLR Group, says he was simultaneously thrilled and anxious when he began designing Legends Field. The firm had designed Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida and Jerry Uht Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, but this was something entirely different.
“The Yankees are steeped in so much history,” explains Meradith. “The biggest challenge for us was to pay homage to the history of Yankee Stadium in New York while also making the ballpark look like it fits in Tampa.”
One thing that did not bother Meradith was working with Steinbrenner, as the architect and his staff had several meetings with “The Boss.”
“Mr. Steinbrenner always treated us very well,” Meradith recalls. “He was extremely caring about what was designed and produced, but to a large degree he let us do what we’re good at.”
WHEN IT OPENED IN 1996, Legends Field became the largest ballpark in the Florida State League, with a CAPACITY SURPASSING 10,000. Its vertical design, however, makes it feel cozy. The stadium features a RAISED CONCOURSE and large-scale graphics on the first and third base side of the grandstand spelling out, “Yankees.”
Under those palm trees at the ballpark entrance is a miniature Monument Park. The Tampa version features blue plaques show-casing Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Thurman Munson and other Yankee greats.
Inside Legends Field, the seats are the same blue as the seats in Yankee Stadium. Banners surround each of the six entrances into the seating bowl paying respect to the Yankee tradition.
“Basically the Yankees had won world championships over the course of several decades, so each one of those entrances is themed by a decade,” explains Meradith. “Theming is important because the Yankees have so much history.”
The Yankee mystique is evident beyond the stadium design. Fans are also likely to see the parent team playing on the televisions at the concession stands. In addition, they’ll also note the giveaway promotions often tie in with the Bronx Bombers.
“We’ve given away past World Series pins,” says Tampa Yankees director of ticket sales Vance Smith. “We also have an ALS/Lou Gehrig giveaway. Almost all of our giveaways are labeled with the Tampa Yankees and New York Yankees logos.”
Yankee fans also fill the stands at Legends Field. Smith notes that the Tampa area is home to a number of New York area transplants who support the Yankees’ Single-A farm club.
“We have season-ticket holders who are die-hard Yankee fans and enjoy watching Yankee baseball,” says Smith. “They enjoy seeing guys in pinstripes. The only time we may not see them is if the Yankees are in town to play the Devil Rays.”
New York expatriates, no matter how long removed from the city, are just as vocal as the fans at Yankee Stadium. If an umpire makes a questionable call in Legends Field, he’ll hear about it in a “New York minute.”
And who knows? If a visitor is lucky enough, they may catch a glimpse of “The Boss” himself. Smith says Steinbrenner, whose office is among the 12 luxury suites overlooking Legends Field, always attends games when a big leaguer is rehabbing. He has also been known to attend
a random Tampa Yankees game.
After thirty-three years in Fort Lauderdale, the Yankees move to Legends Field in 1996 brought the plush touches of the present combined with the feel of the old, to Tampa area fans. It also brought the Bronx Bombers and the Baby Bombers to the Gulf side of Florida for years to come.
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