Coronavirus Florida: Wahoos stadium turned into open air restaurant with theme nights
Even on days without games at Blue Wahoos Stadium, the setting inside the ballpark offers a potential dining experience unlike any other in Pensacola.
Wide open seating. The sparkle of Pensacola Bay. A gleaming field. Boats on the water. Gulf of Mexico in the distance. Sunsets with spectacular colors.
Beginning on Wednesday, it will become an option for people to enjoy with a planned “Stadium Dining Experience” presented by the Blue Wahoos.
Dinner service is scheduled to be available Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A Sunday brunch is planned to be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For the dinner service, food can be ordered at the concession locations inside the stadium.
Lunch will be offered for pick-up or walk-up ordering outside at Hancock Whitney Club entrance, same location as current curbside pickup, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays (beginning May 11) through Thursdays each week. For lunch, people can order ahead, or at the curbside, then take the food package inside the ballpark to eat.
“I think it sets up so perfectly for what everybody is excited about right now,” said Shannon Reeves, the Blue Wahoos events coordinator. “It’s open air, you can’t beat the view. It’s just a big stretch of the prettiest water around.
“Our stadium provides a dining experience that people don’t get to have. For those of us who work at the stadium, we are there all of the time, and there are so many nights you’re just looking up thinking how pretty the sky is and how lucky we are to see this and have this.
“There are so many people in Pensacola that really haven’t experienced that yet.”
There will be no charge to enter the stadium. All meals and beverages will be purchased at the stadium and delivered to seating locations throughout the entire third base side of the stadium. There will be free access to dining at the Hancock Whitney Club tables on the third level.
Alcoholic beverages will be served for those of legal age and with ID.
It will be the first time in its nine-year existence that the stadium has been used this way. The dining option will enable many people who are not baseball fans and maybe have not been inside the stadium to enjoy the setting for its ambiance.
The dinners will provide the ability to enjoy a sunset across the bay. Previously, the curbside pick-up for lunches and the family dinner kits did not allow entrance inside the stadium to eat.
The Blue Wahoos food and beverage staff, led by executive chef Travis Wilson and Eric Kroll, the food and beverage general manager, will be helping prepare, organize and deliver the food.
Meanwhile, the Blue Wahoos baseball season is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused all levels of professional baseball on March 12 to suspend operations.
The Blue Wahoos announced Thursday that all games the month of May will be postponed.
While there remains hope for a partial season, the lifting of some restrictions for public gatherings, announced Thursday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, has allowed the Blue Wahoos to utilize the stadium in a new way.
“This is such a fun opportunity for people to see what we see all the time and maybe see the sky change colors while having dinner as the sun is going down,” Reeves said.
The plan is to have proper spacing designations on the stadium concourse and keep the diners spaced out.
“We are starting small,” Reeves said. “We will have tables at HWC and Dignity Deck (at end of left field). We want to have a limited capacity of about 200 people, so that is probably where we are going to need to extend in order to be responsibility distances.
“And we think that will work well for the first day and we’ll see how it goes and go from there.”
There are future plans in the works for potential movie nights on the stadium videoboard and possibly a fireworks show further down the road.
For now, the dining experience will be an experimental option to gauge other options.
“Basically it’s a 200-seat, open air restaurant that people can get a variety of food and people can spread out,” said Blue Wahoos owner Quint Studer. “There will be some other theme nights. This is dining at the stadium.
“A place to sit, so you don’t have to bring chairs. Clean restrooms. Space to physically distance. And unbelievable views.
“It’s like our first homestand each season with games. This first week will be learning experiences for us.”
Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and current senior writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Studer55. He can be reached at email@example.com
This story originally published to pnj.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.