Friday, March 05, 2010

NatsTiki & Touring Space Coast Stadium

First came the Travelocity Gnome. Now, here comes NatsTiki.

Given as a gift by a contractor in the latest series of upgrades to Space Coast Stadium, Our Washington Nationals Spring Training Home will be using their own "mascot"--if you will--to promote the upcoming pre-season baseball games in Viera, Florida. For 2009, Space Coast Stadium will become the 4th Grapefruit League Team to incorporate a Tiki Bar for fans to enjoy--where liquor (not just beer & wine) will be served for the first time in the Brevard County complex's history. The Phillies, Mets & Rays are the only other Tiki Bar sites among Major League Baseball's 15 Florida Training Sites.

And NatsTiki will be the ballpark's public face this spring season. Fans will be encouraged to find NatsTiki located throughout the stadium on home dates featuring Our Washington Nationals, take pictures and link those photos through their facebook accounts to NatsTiki's.

This past Tuesday afternoon, Jared Lyon--Manager, Florida Operations for Our Washington Nationals, conducted a private tour of Space Coast Stadium's facilities for The African Queen and I. A 90-minute walk throughout the entire facility and a history lesson too.

Space Coast Stadium opened in 1994 as the Spring Training home of The Florida Marlins. And as every local will tell you, there was nothing else but farmland surrounding the ballpark back then. Now, 16 years later, Our Washington Nationals lease the baseball facility and training site from Brevard County. And Viera is now an ever growing city in central Florida--no longer just an exit off Interstate 95.

The ballpark and training complex is owned by Brevard County and leased to Our Washington Nationals. Interestingly, The Brevard County Manatees of the Single A Florida State League--an affiliate of The Milwaukee Brewers--sublease the stadium from April through early September. A 5 cents tourist development tax pays down the debt on the original construction costs. $2.6 million dollars has recently been put into life, safety and structural repairs (phase three of seven steps) to bring Space Coast Stadium up to par as a first rate Spring Training Ballpark. In 2008, new lights that are 80% brighter, but use 50% less energy, were installed--as was a new public address sound system. In 2009, a new 4 mega pixel electronic scoreboard was added--replacing the original hand operated one.

The 5th largest stadium in The Grapefruit League seats 8100 fans--including group purchases on The Berm over the left field wall--where the new Tiki Bar now stands. Ranging in price from $21 to $24 (depending on number of tickets purchased), The All-You-Can Eat Berm Group Ticket Area includes, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue chicken, cole slaw, popcorn, watermelon and coca-cola products. The Berm can officially hold 700 fans, but Space Coast Stadium staff usually limit the maximum to around 400 to ease congestion. Individual tickets are not available for purchase in The Berm.

Prices for individual tickets to spring training games have not increased since 2008 and include these choices: Batters Box $24, Lower Bowl Box $20, Reserved $17, Bleachers $10. There are 10 suites at Space Coast Stadium available ranging in group size from 12 through 39 persons. And priced from $348 to $1131. The largest employer in Brevard County, Harris Corporation, has their very own double sized 42 person suite decorated in their own company colors. This suite is available only for their employees, staff, family and friends.

Although not on the scale seen at Nationals Park, suites at Space Coast Stadium offer a different variety of food offerings above the usual ballpark fare. Three "Suite Ladies" work the venue for tips. Concessions are run by Ovations. Ovations also runs the food services for The Bowie Bay Sox Affiliate of The Baltimore Orioles in Prince Georges County, Maryland.

Our Washington Nationals use the entire complex for Spring Training. Once the team heads north for Opening Day, extended spring training, all rehab and Nationals related work moves over to the minor league complex buildings--which houses two clubhouses, four training rooms and eight offices. After the rookie draft in June, The Gulf Coast League (Rookie) Nationals practice and play at the complex with some games taking place at Space Coast Stadium--if the Manatees are not at home. There is no cost for GCL Nationals Games. Instructional League also takes place at the minor league training complex through October.

Other facts about Space Coast Stadium:

293 Seasonal Employees work the facility for each home spring game. The ballpark is non-smoking except for one small area located on the third base side rear concourse. Tempered glass is placed in every window that faces the ball field. They will not shatter upon being hit by a baseball--only splinter, like a spider web, within the glass itself. Each glass pane can be removed individually.

The Casey At The Bat Statue outside the ballpark is 18 feet tall and made of caste bronze.

The ballpark is called Space Coast Stadium due to the long standing working relationship of the county to the nearby Kennedy Space Center. For 2010, The Challenger and Columbia Commemorative Foul Poles at the ballpark will be upgraded with newer graphics.

A local semi-retired artist--Robert Lebron--loans some of his baseball related paintings to Our Washington Nationals for display in the team offices at Space Coast Stadium during Spring Training.

And finally--Jared Lyon took Sohna and I down to the field at Space Coast Stadium.

Then, into the Nationals Clubhouse. Considering all the players currently in Major League Camp, the facility is a little tight for space. Pitchers lockers are on the right side as you enter. Position players mostly on the left. Non-roster invitees closely packed together in the center. Really, not overly large.

Jim Riggleman has his own office. The coaches have their own dressing room.

Many thanks to Jared for his personal time to show Sohna and I around Space Coast Stadium.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Sam D. Mann said...

Thanks for the look inside. I'm certain that I enjoyed reading about it as much as you enjoyed the tour itself.

Presidents Race Fan said...

Great tour!

natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the virtual tour. Some day we'll get there, but for now the pics give a good feel for the facility.

Roger said...

I recall talk of nats moving, particularly as other teams went cactus league. I'm glad they are in that location. Easy access to Kennedy Space Center and Orlando/Disney.

I went to an Os ame there more than 10 years ago and loved it. I made it down for two Nats games a couple years ago.

I guess it isn't too late to go this year, but it doesn't see to be in the cards.