Fans mill around in front of the entrance to LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida.

360-degree sights help LECOM Park’s popularity soar


LECOM Park may have come in third in USA Today’s 2018 rankings of the spring training parks in the Grapefruit League, but to the hometown fans, it’s number one.

The 70-degree weather Sunday afternoon at the springtime home of the Pittsburgh Pirates couldn’t have been more ideal for a ballgame. Maybe it was the beautiful weather, or maybe it was the Pirates taking the lead in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays and never looking back, but fans were raving about the stadium and its amenities.

In 2013, the ballpark underwent a major $10 million renovation project, which gave fans many of the features they love today. The park – then named McKechnie Field – was awarded the “Best Ballpark Renovation” in 2013 by Ballpark Digest. During these updates, a 19,000 square foot boardwalk that stretched the length of the outfield was added, along with a tiki bar, new concessions and bathrooms.

The elevated boardwalk creates a 360-degree experience for fans. Visitors can walk around the entire circumference of the field, getting amazing views from every vantage point and seeing straight down into the home and visitor bullpens.

Amy Macon, a local who enjoys going to games on the weekends, said her favorite area of the park is the boardwalk.

“Pretty much anywhere you look is a place to buy food and drinks,” said Macon. “The view is great, too.”

Jimmy Hiers, a die-hard Pirates fan, has been going to games since he retired to The Friendly City in 2005. He remembered being a child and watching the Pirates win the World Series in 1971 and again in 1979. The team’s presence in Bradenton was a factor in him moving there.

He approved of the renovations completed, saying “you add more seats, you get more money.”

Although he likes the addition of the boardwalk, Hiers prefers to sit behind the Pirates’ dugout where he can be in a closer view of the players.

Even Blue Jays’ fans begrudgingly admitted the perks of the ballpark.

“This is where I have been able to get the most pictures with players and autographs,” said Tyler Meyers, a 25-year-old whose parents are from Canada.

Based on those reactions, LECOM Park may just have a shot at securing the top spot in the next round of rankings.

About Cassandra Swartz

Hey everyone! I am a third-year public relations major at the University of Florida with a love for all things sports. I hope to work in communications for an NFL, NWSL or MLB team when I graduate. If you ever want to talk Buffalo Bills, I'm your girl. During spring break I will be covering the following games: 2/29, Marlins @ Orioles 3/1, Blue Jays @ Pirates 3/3 Rays @ Braves 3/4 Blue Jays @ Rays 3/5 Astros @ Red Sox 3/6 Rays @ Twins

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