Without spring training in Charlotte County for the Tampa Bay Rays, fans and nearby restaurant owners are disappointed.
The Charlotte County Sports Park is a staple in the Port Charlotte community, but after Hurricane Ian, it’s not safe for players to practice in. The damage was so bad that the sidewalk in the parking lot near the stadium wasn’t accessible.
Charlotte County has not released specifics about that damage.
Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training stadium. CREDIT: WINK News
Since the Rays won’t have spring training at the Charlotte County Sports Park, it’s unclear where they will begin in 2023.
Karabeth Schliech, a big fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, spoke to WINK News about the team training elsewhere.
“We also went to spring training when the Rays came out with the pitchers, and the catchers would report. We were the first ones out there on opening day,” Schliech said.
“We had the best time getting signatures on baseballs and caps and meeting the players. They would sit and talk,” Schliech said. “It was like they were coming, and it was the first day of school, and everybody was glad to see everybody. So, I’m going to miss the fact that that’s not going to happen this year.”
Schliech Tampa Bay Rays team flag outsider her house. CREDIT: WINK News
Schliech enjoys it so much that she recruited people from Tampa to come down to spring training with her.
“I really liked it because I didn’t worry about seeing the players at the Trop, because there’s so many other people to see them. And I could see them at spring training and stuff. I’m real sad. I’m gonna be there to see them,” Schliech said.
Nearby restaurants counting on the Tampa Bay Rays to boost business also feel the sting.
“It’s different having like, the actual Rays players right here in our backyard; we’ve had an opportunity to meet a lot of the people that come through here. They definitely have a big fanbase, obviously, the Tampa Bay Rays. So they bring a lot of people here locally, into the restaurant,” said Austin Gringer, a manager at Twisted Forks.
The Rays and Charlotte County said they plan to develop a restoration plan for the park in the coming weeks.