|Charlotte Sports Park received a second life when the Tampa Bay Rays made the decision to move their spring training here starting in 2009. After serving as the spring home for the Texas Rangers from 1988-2002, it appeared that this park might never see pro baseball again. While the ballpark did host an independent team (the Charlotte Redfish) for one season (2007), it really got a revived with the $27 million in renovations that were put into prior to the Rays moving here. I did see a couple of spring games here in the 1990’s and it was a very ordinary park. It had an ugly concrete façade and much of the seating was just metal bleachers. The renovations have done wonders for it, however. Everything about the park was completely refurbished and it now measures up to most other spring training venues. On the exterior, new entrances were built and landscaping was added, which included many palm trees. On the inside, all the seats were replaced with brand new fold-downs, the concession area was redone, and a new team store was built. But the biggest change of all is the new outfield concourse which now allows fans to completely circle the ballpark on a “boardwalk”. There are several picnic areas, a tiki bar, and plenty of standing room only available along this new concourse. Grassy berms were also added down both lines. The seating bowl, which was not touched during the renovations, has a cantilevered roof which provides shade for about one-third of the seats. I have not seen a spring training game here, but was fortunate enough to see a Stone Crabs game. The atmosphere actually felt like a real minor league game, something that isn’t found at most Florida State League ballparks. Contests and giveaways were done between innings and the team has a mascot, Stoney, yet he had not yet been unveiled when I visited in April of ’09. The variety of concessions was a bit limited in ’09, but with a new franchise, I’m sure they wanted to get the basics right first. Chik-fil-a sandwiches are one of the specialties they have, though unfortunately I went on a Sunday when they are unavailable. Prices seemed pretty reasonable and the quality was good. It’s nice to know that ballparks can get a second chance, especially one that was only built in 1988. The renovations have made Charlotte Sports Park a top notch facility and a place actually worthy of checking out for ballpark enthusiasts. For photos of Charlotte Sports Park before the 2009 renovations, click here.