Payne Park is a 29 acre public park designed for recreational activities in downtown Sarasota. This urban oasis is a lovely greenspace with wide open grass fields, lots of mature trees, towering majestic Royal Palms, and several ponds filled with flowering plants, birds, and ducks. This city park has an interesting history. In 1924 a professional baseball park was built on 60 acres of land donated by Calvin and Martha Payne. The baseball park served as the Spring Training home of the NY Giants, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago White Sox. The baseball field was closed in 1989 when the Ed Smith Stadium opened. In 2007, the City of Sarasota opened the public park.
Payne Park features a variety of sports and outdoor activities including a skate park, walking & jogging paths, disc golf course, playground, large open fields, tennis courts, and amphitheater. My favorite aspect of the park is the walking and jogging path. There is a packed dirt path with loose small pebbles that is an excellent, level surface for running. This path is a 0.5 mile loop. The dirt path is bordered on each side with a paved sidewalk. About 75% of the path is shaded by live oak trees.
The disc golf course has 9 holes spread over the complex. The large grass fields are perfect for a game of soccer or football, and ultimate frisbee. On several occasions I have seen group fitness classes being conducted on the amphitheater field. The skate park is open daily from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. It is free and unsupervised. The Circus Park is an elaborate playground with a circus theme. The highly colorful playground looks like a dream come true and provides loads of fun with a splash area, music makers, and inventive and interesting structures to climb, swing, and explore.
“The Circus Park is an elaborate playground with a circus theme. The highly colorful playground looks like a dream come true and provides loads of fun with a splash area, music makers, and inventive and interesting structures to climb, swing, and explore. ”
There are several ponds throughout the park which are a great attraction for ducks and birds but are an obstacle for the disc golf course. The pond between the playground and the tennis courts has the most birds with a nice path circling the pond with a few benches under trees to sit and observe the wildlife. You may encounter the black-bellied whistling ducks which look comical to me and make me laugh. Look for the common moorhen with mostly black feathers and distinctive vibrant red bill. Larger birds like the handsome great blue heron and the pure white great egret can be seen at this pond too.
Payne Park Tennis Center
Payne Park Tennis Center (PPTC) is open to the general public. It is not a club; therefore, no membership is required. However, advanced reservations are required. PPTC has 12 Har-Hydrogrid tennis courts with locker rooms and showers. Due to pandemic the showers, lockers, and Court 13 are unavailable. The center offers lessons and clinics, tournaments, and evening play on lit courts.
Fees: 90 minute player pass:
Youth (17 $ under): $5
Hours: Open Monday – Friday
Monday – Thursday: 8 am – 7:30 pm
Friday: 8 am – 6 pm
Address: 2050 Adams Lane, Sarasota, FL 34237
Café in the Park
There is a petite café appropriately named Café in the Park serving sandwiches, salads, snacks, and hot and cold drinks. I haven’t eaten a meal there but in the winter I like to get a cup of hot tea and in the summer an artisan ice pop tastes so refreshing, cool, and yummy. It’s a charming spot to relax and watch all the people and activities.
Payne Park Auditorium
Payne Park Auditorium is a 4,000 square feet, air conditioned space with a wood floor, elevated stage, restrooms, and an adjacent paved parking lot. This venue is available to rent. I attended a community meeting regarding the Legacy Trail Extension. The lighting was bright, the acoustics were good, it was easy to see the screen on the stage, and the bathrooms were clean.
Phone: 941-954-4165 or 941-263-6283
Address: 801 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236
There are two paved parking lots accessible to the park. One of the lots is located off of School Ave and the other lot is adjacent to the Payne Park Auditorium on Laurel Street off of Washington Blvd. Parking is free in these lots.
Address: 2010 Adams Lane, Sarasota, FL 34237
Paved walking path
Gravel jogging path (0.5 mile loop)*
Skate Park (open daily 7 am – 10 pm, free)
Large open fields
Café In The Park (food & beverages)
Auditorium (meeting space, rental venue)
Tennis courts (open Mon – Fri, online reservations required, $5 youth & $10 adult)