Chain Of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida

March 1st, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Chain Of Lakes Park (also known as Chain O’ Lakes Park) is located at 500 Cletus Allen Drive in Winter Haven, Florida. The ballpark opened in 1966 as the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter  Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Red Sox previously had trained in Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, from 1933 until 1958, with the exception of the war years from 1943 to 1945. From 1959 until their move to Winter Haven in 1966, they trained in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1971, the Red Sox relocated to Winter Haven their minor league spring training operation in Ocala, Florida.

Chain O' Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida - Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

Chain O’ Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida – Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

After the 1992 season, the Red Sox departed Winter Haven and relocated their spring training headquarters to Fort Myers, Florida, and City of Palms Park. All told, the Red Sox trained at Winter Haven for 26 seasons, the longest they ever had, or ever have, trained at one location.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox from 1993 t0 2011

In 1993, the Cleveland Indians moved their spring training home Chain of Lakes Park.

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Since 1947, the Indians had trained at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona.

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Cleveland Indians continued to train at Chain of Lakes Park until the end of the 2008 spring season, returning in 2009 to Arizona, and Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona.

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Minor league baseball was played Chain of Lakes Park every year that a major league team trained there as well, beginning with the Florida State League Winter Haven Sun Sox in 1966, the Winter Haven Mets in 1967, the Winter Haven Red Sox from 1969 to 1992, and the Gulf Coast League Indians from 1993 to 2008.

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Winter Haven had a covered grandstand from first base around the third base, providing fans plenty of shade from the Florida sun.

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although the ballpark was renovated prior to the Indians’ arrival in 1993, Chain of Lake Park retained much of its 1960s “charm.”

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

It was a wonderful place to watch a ballgame, whether from the grandstand or on the outfield berm behind left field.

Indian's Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Indian’s Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although not quite like Wrigley Field and Waveland Avenue in Chicago, a condominium development beyond right field provided owners  of the units who back up to the ballpark an excellent view of the action on the field.

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The same can be send for view provided the pitchers in the bullpen just beyond the right field corner.

Cleveland Indians Logos  on Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Watches the Action for from the Bullpen Just Beyond the Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The third base grandstand and bleachers were set into the side of a small hill which provided a nice touch of unencumbered green space.

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

One downside of the ballpark’s design was most of the concessions and souvenir stands were located down the third base line, making the area quite jammed during the game.

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

During the Indian’s time at Winter Haven, one of the true pleasures of attending a game there was the chance to meet and talk with Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who was a fixture at Indians spring training. For a modest charge of $10 he would autograph any item you brought with you, or for an additional $5 sign one of the pictures he had on hand.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

When grandstand seating for games sold out, it was still possible to buy a ticket and sit on the outfield berm. Sometimes it felt as if there were just as many fans sitting past the left field fence as there fans in the grandstand.

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Once the Indians announced their intentions to depart Chain of Lakes Park after the 2008 season, you could sense the disappointment of those who worked at the ballpark that professional baseball no longer would be played in Winter Haven.

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

For several years after the Indians departure, it looked as if Chain of Lakes Park might become yet another lost ballpark, as plans were floated for demolishing the site and constructing a shopping center and condominiums.

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The good news is that, at least for the foreseeable future, baseball will continue to be played at Chain of Lakes Park. Winter Haven has turned the former spring training site into a first class amateur baseball venue with events held by such organizations as The World Amateur Baseball Association and college invitational tournaments, including the RussMatt Central Florida Collegiate Baseball Invitational.

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Posted in Chain of Lakes Park, Florida ballparks | Comments (1)

  • […] trained at Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida (through 1958), Scottsdale, Arizona (1959 to 1965), and Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida (beginning in 1966). The Red Sox’s minor league clubs continued to […]

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