Spring training is just around the bend in Florida and I’m teaching a class as an adjunct in the building almost next door to the largest spring training stadium in the Florida Grapefruit League, George Steinbrenner Park, spring home of the New York Yankees.
Florida’s Biggest Spring Field Has Exact Yankee Stadium Field Dimensions
I’m getting out at the time the spring games start in Florida so I just realized I might have to consider a new route home to avoid a traffic delay on busy Dale Mabry Highway. The oldest spring training facility anywhere is down in Bradenton – beloved MeKechnie Field (1923) now used by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s been renovated twice but not moved from what is now a residential neighborhood.
Bradenton’s MeKechnie Field (1923) Is The Oldest
Floridians love their sports stadiums but the largest stadium is not a football stadium. It is the second largest sports facility in the United States – the Daytona International Speedway with a capacity of 167,785 seats. As you probably now suspect the nation’s nation stadium is the Indianapolis Speedway.
This Is Florida’s Largest Sports Stadium
College football stadiums beat professional football stadiums in Florida. Ben Griffin Stadium, seating 88,548 and home to the University of Florida Gators, is the largest football stadium. Their rival Florida State University plays at Doak Campbell Stadium, capacity 79,560, second in size.
The Home of the Gators
The largest professional football stadium is Hard Rock Stadium (once known as Sun Life Stadium), capacity of 78,468, home of the Miami Dolphins. But it is also the playing field of the University of Miami. The stadium is not in the City of Miami, but in Miami Gardens.
When the Orlando City Soccer team started play in the 1936 Florida Citrus Bowl (capacity 70,158), they were playing in the large professional soccer field in the nation.
Look Carefully, Folks, Floridians At A Soccer Match?
You could argue that stadiums tell you football rules over baseball in the Sunshine State. The largest professional baseball stadium is domed Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins, with a capacity of just 36,742, and the Tampa Bay Rays play in another indoor field, Tropicana Field with the smallest (31,042 seats) in the MLB.
Florida Baseball Is An Indoor Sport – The Marlins
Professional Basketball is competitive size wise in Florida. The Miami Heat’s downtown American Airlines Arena was a capacity of 21,000, just 1,000 more than the Miami Magic’s Orlando Amway Center.
At the college level Florida State University’s Donald L. Tucker Arena with 13,800 seats is the fourth largest in the powerful ACC with has Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, seating 35,446, the nation’s biggest college basketball site. Then I discovered that tiny Jacksonville University is playing games in the Jacksonville Memorial Auditorium which fits 14,091 seats.
Professional Hockey is doing near capacity business in a state where no lakes freeze over. The largest hockey rink is the BB&T Center in Sunrise, home of the Florida Panthers. It’s official capacity is 20,737.
Guess What Sport Are These Skybox Fans Watching? See below
But not all stadiums in Florida showcase the biggest team sports. The Gainesville Raceway, now known as Auto Plus Raceway, is a quarter-mile drag strip surrounded by 30,000 seats and VIP Skybox Suites which you associate with a football stadium.
Gainesville and the Gatornationals Are A Dragstrip Showdown
Tennis is still popular in Florida and the Tennis Center at Crandon Park is not used for other sports. It has a capacity of 13,800 seats so it resembles a basketball arena.
The Tennis Center At Crandon Park – Williams Sisters Turf