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Progress Energy Park
Al Lang Field
Progress Energy Park.jpg
Former names Al Lang Stadium, Florida Power Park
Location 180 2nd Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
Opened 1947 (rebuilt 1976)
Owner city of St. Petersburg
Operator city of St. Petersburg
Surface Grass
Construction cost $300,000[1]
Capacity 7,227
Tenants
New York Yankees (spring training) (1947-1950,1952-1961)
New York Giants (spring training) (1951)[2]
St. Louis Cardinals (spring training) (1947-1997)
New York Mets (spring training) (1962-1987)
St. Petersburg Pelicans (SPBA) (1989-1990)
Baltimore Orioles (spring training) (1991-1995)
St. Petersburg Saints (FSL) (1955-1965)
St. Petersburg Saints (FIL) (1947-1954)
St. Petersburg Cardinals (FSL) (1965-1997)
St. Petersburg Devil Rays (FSL) (1998-2000)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Rays (spring training) (1998-2008)
The last pitch of the final spring game on March 28, 2008

Progress Energy Park (full name Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field) is a 7,227 seat baseball stadium located on the downtown St. Petersburg, Florida waterfront. It is named in honor of Al Lang, a former mayor of St. Petersburg who helped to bring spring training to the city. The facility was the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays from 1998 to 2008, but has been used by many other teams during its existence.

Contents

History

The "St. Petersburg Athletic Park" at the current site of Progress Energy Park was the spring home for the Boston Braves and New York Yankees from 1923 until after World War II, hosting such baseball greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, and others during that time.[3] The first incarnation of the current field was built for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947. The Cardinals beat the New York Yankees in the dedication game on March 13, 1947.[4] There was a major rebuild in 1976 brought the ballpark to its current configuration. A succession of teams used the facility until the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays started play in 1998 and moved into the stadium for their spring games. The Rays were the first major league team to train in the same city in which they played regular season games in almost 90 years - their summer home of Tropicana Field is just over a mile to the west across downtown St. Petersburg.

When the Rays began play in Al Lang Stadium in 1998, the naming rights to the park were purchased by local utility Florida Power for $150,000 per year, rechristening the site as "Florida Power Park at Al Lang Field." [5] When Florida Power's name was changed to Progress Energy in 2003, the stadium's official name was also changed.[6]

Progress Energy Park was home to many minor league baseball teams over the years, most recently the Class-A Florida State League affiliates for the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Tampa Bay Rays. The last minor league tenant was the St. Petersburg Devil Rays, who last played at the stadium in 2000.[7]

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End of an era

In 2005, the Tampa Bay Rays announced plans to move their spring training home to Port Charlotte, a town about 90 minutes south of St. Petersburg. Then, on November 9, 2007, Rays President Matt Silverman proposed a plan to build a new $450 million Rays Ballpark on the site to be ready in 2012.

These developments left Progress Energy Park without a regular tenant and with an uncertain future. The Rays played the last spring training ballgame at the stadium on March 28, 2008. [8]

The Rays shelved plans for a new stadium at the site in late 2008 and began a process of considering other locations, further clouding the future of Progress Energy Park. Meanwhile, for the first time in decades, the old ballpark sat idle during both spring training and the baseball regular season in 2009.

See also

  • Rawhide, a 1938 feature film starring Lou Gehrig, premiered in St. Petersburg by Mayor Al Lang
  • Al Lang Field featured prominently as the stage setting for the first 10 minutes of the 1955 motion picture Strategic Air Command, starring James Stewart and June Allyson.

References

External links

Coordinates: 27°46′06″N 82°37′59″W / 27.768470°N 82.633128°W / 27.768470; -82.633128


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