Fort Myers, FL
Review by Mike
JetBlue Park is the Spring Training home of the Boston Red Sox. After several different Florida locations, including Winter Haven and downtown Fort Myers, the Red Sox built a semi-replica of Fenway Park way out along a highway east of Fort Myers, with only one access road, creating huge traffic jams prior to games. The location doesn’t bring to mind images palm trees and sandy beaches. It’s just kind of stuck out there in the middle of nowhere.
Gary and I both found JetBlue Park wanting for… something. There was the Green Monster and the manual scoreboard and the funky angles in centerfield and the bullpens right over the short right field fence and the Pesky Pole and that was all pretty cool, but the ballpark itself just didn’t feel right. The grandstand felt really far from the field and went back more than it went up, creating more distance from the action.
The white roof undulated like it was built by a drunken sailor, which should have been interesting, but somehow wasn’t. The press box level was also white and very plain, like a cheap mid-60s office building with plate glass windows instead of open suites. It all felt kind of cold and unwelcoming. The concession lines were very long, although I did like the food trucks outside the main grandstand along the 1st base line, reminiscent of the street fair atmosphere outside the real Fenway on game day.
There were good things, notably the fact that fans are allowed to go into the Monster Seats after the 7th inning, ticket or no ticket. This is a nice experience. JetBlue’s Green Monster has a long horizontal strip taken out of it to allow for two levels of Monster seating; one on top and another right in the middle and, blissfully, in the shade. The lower section is protected by a net which is “in play”, so that a batted ball striking the net and dropping to the field is a live ball.
One of the coolest things about the ballpark is also inexplicable. The famous manual scoreboard at the base of the Green Monster is reproduced at JetBlue Park, but for some reason they didn’t build it to be updated from inside the wall, as is the case at Fenway. Instead, every time a run is scored, a harried staff member opens a door and runs along the warning track carrying a metal stepladder, props it on the wall, climbs up and changes the appropriate digit. Then, with the new pitch clock counting down to the next hitter, he or she must sprint back to the door and close it before play resumes. And the door isn’t even close to the scoreboard, but a good 50 feet away! You’d think that in a $78,000,000 ballpark, they could have put the door NEXT to the scoreboard. Still, the entire comical scene made our day. Hats off to the staffers getting their steps in keeping the score updated.
All in all, JetBlue Park was a mixed bag for us. There were a lot of fun features as one would expect in a stadium emulating Fenway Park and the staff were very nice in allowing us to roam and take photos and climb the big wall in left, but the location, the excessive roominess, the tiny and useless video board in right field, and the bland design of the seating bowl itself left us a little cold.
Where They Played Before
Chain of Lakes Park
From 1966 thru 1992 the Red Sox trained in Winter Haven, Florida at Chain of Lakes Park. Sadly, when Gary and I dropped by in the spring of 2023, we were told that the stadium had begun to collapse and had been condemned. It looks like it was a fine ballpark.
Where They Played Before
City of Palms Park
After Chain of Lakes, the Red Sox moved to downtown Fort Myers and spent the next 19 springs at City of Palms Park. Damage from a recent hurricane was still evident in the spring of 2023, as several roof panels were missing. The ballpark is now home to Florida Southwestern College.