Champion Stadium (formerly known as Disney Field, Cracker Jack Stadium, Disney's Wide World of Sports and The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports) is architecturally one of the flashier venues for spring training. It's also one of the largest: with 9,500 seats (80 percent between the first and third bases); only the largest Arizona stadiums can complete in terms of sheer size.
The stadium sits within a larger sports complex in the southwestern corner of Disney World; next door, there's the Milk House (an indoor arena used for AAU events), and close by there are tennis courts, a track-and-field complex, youth and adult baseball and softball fields, and other various athletic fields. Between baseball seasons and when the Rays are out of town the stadium and the complex is used frequently for a variety of AAU and NAIA college events.
There is a very agreeable spaciousness to the stadium, despite almost all the seating being concentrated in the two-deck grandstand. The lower level features two concourses -- a small one at the back of the grandstand and a much larger one within the grandstand -- while the upper level features a large concourse within the grandstand, four luxury boxes and two open-air suites. The wider concourses makes for some pleasant milling around during the game, and there's an expanded area outside of the grandstand that can accommodate groups.
Having most of the seats crammed into grandstand does have its pluses and minuses. On the one hand, we were sitting in the last row of the second deck (an open-air luxury suite was right behind us), but the view of the field was excellent. But these views came at a price: we were definitely crammed into narrower seats and there was very little leg room between rows. We saw a night game, but it didn't look like the stadium afforded very much relief from the hot Florida sun: the second deck doesn't cover much of the first deck, while there's no roof at all shading the second deck. Also, there were no beverage holders attached to seats, so you pretty much have to hold onto your beverages in fear of someone kicking them over.
The design is in a Florida Spanish Mission design (you'll find similar design motifs scatted throughout the state), with some Art Deco touches, such as the large left-field scoreboard. The scoreboard was a disappointment, as you can tell by the picture on the left: huge parts of it were covered up, probably because the sponsors underneath the coverings had signed up as Orlando Rays sponsors and not as sponsors for spring training. The scoreboard is equipped with fireworks, some of which are fired after the singing of the National Anthem. (One would also assume that some sort of fireworks go off when the home team hits a home run, but I couldn't tell you -- the Braves were shellacked 22-0 by the Cleveland Indians the night we visited then-Cracker Jack Stadium.)
If you find the grandstand seating too confining -- which you probably will, especially if you're there with a family -- get to the game early and score some of the berm seating down the left-field line and across the outfield to the scoreboard. Except for a bare-earth walking area in the back, the berm slopes down toward the playing field. It had rained the entire day before we visited what was then known as Cracker Jack Stadium, but the berm didn't appear to be worse for wear: there was no mud anywhere, and the grass appeared to be in excellent shape (surprising, since we visited quite late in spring-training season). If you do plan on sitting on the berm, don't bother bringing a lawn chair, as the ground has too much of an angle for a chair. Instead, bring a large blanket and plop down in left-center field.
Spring Training History
The Atlanta Braves have trained at the following sites since the team's entry in the National League as the Boston Beaneaters: Norfolk, Va. (1901); Thomasville, Ga. (1902-1904, 1907); Charleston, S.C. (1905); Jacksonville (1906); Augusta, Ga. (1908-1912); Athens, Ga. (1913); Macon, Ga. (1914-1915); Miami (1916-1918), Columbus, Ga. (1919-1920); Galveston, Texas (1921); St. Petersburg (1922-1937); Bradenton (1938-1940, 1948-1962); San Antonio (1941); Sanford, Fla. (1942); Wallingford, Ct. (1943-1944); Washington, D.C. (1945); Fort Lauderdale (1946-1947); West Palm Beach (1963-1997); Orlando (1998-present).
The Atlanta Braves move their spring-training games to what was then known as Disney's Wide World of Sports in March 1997, shortly after the stadium opened.
The Orlando Rays (Class AA; Southern League) played at Champion Stadium between 2000 and 2003.
“People ask me what I do in the winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
About Spring Training Online