I'm hardly a sports fan, but I do enjoy attending games now and then. In fact, I would probably go to more, but I usually don't feel like dropping $50 on tickets, beer and food to attend an event that's only mildly engaging to me.
Fortunately, there are options for both budget-conscious sports fans and casual fans like myself. I'm talking about minor league baseball.
At the risk of seeming terribly uninformed, I was only half-aware that we even had minor-league teams in the area. One of them, the Clearwater Threshers, plays at Bright House Field, a venue that offers myriad drink options throughout the stadium — none of which are inflated to comical, major-sporting-event levels — and is home to a bar that is popular even when there's no game on. That bar is Frenchy's Tiki Pavilion, a huge, open-air tiki bar situated at the top of the leftfield stands.
Frenchy's is plain, aesthetically — a rectangular bar accessible from all sides, with a wide view of the field in front and palm trees and café tables in the back.
But functionally, you could hardly ask for anything better. Any seat in or around the bar offers unobstructed views of the entire field, and the drinks are generally as cheap as they come. Even with a ticket to the game, it would be tough to run up a tab of any significant amount, especially on Wednesday, which is, surprisingly, the big night at Frenchy's.
On Wednesdays, Frenchy's opens a couple of hours before game time and holds its weekly happy-hour special, featuring free drinks for ladies, $1 beers, and $3 cocktails, among other deals. The happy hour has proven to be quite popular, drawing large crowds even on non-game days, when the entertainment comes in the form of live bands and DJs.
On game nights, a ticket is required, but Threshers tickets are extremely affordable, and a Wednesday ticket comes with a free drink voucher, making it even more of a steal. While the combination of super-cheap drink specials and affordable game tickets is enough for most folks, there's an extra perk for dog lovers: Dogs get in for $5, and that money goes to the Humane Society.
The result is a cool combination of a traditional baseball atmosphere, with a laid-back tropical tiki-bar vibe, and a little bit of dog park thrown in. It sounds odd, but it's actually a lot of fun.
There are several specialty cocktails available, all involving some sort of tropical or fruity element, which makes them a perfect fit for the tiki bar theme, as well as cool refreshers during the summertime heat. I recommend trying one of these, but if you check the daily special, you may find a cheap option that will work, too. For example, on Thursdays, you can get 2-for-1 well cocktails all night. The selection is fairly diverse, so you have a lot to choose from.
Admittedly, the beer selection is a little light, with four drafts to choose from: Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light and Yuengling. The bottle selection isn't much more extensive. (Another stadium vendor, Beers of the World, sells an extensive selection of craft and import beers, but you won't be paying Frenchy's prices — they're all around $5 to $6 each.) I suspect that most people will be perfectly content to grab a cheap cold one from Frenchy's and watch the game from one of the best vantage points in the ballpark. — firstname.lastname@example.org