Joker Marchant Stadium and Tiger Town will undergo a series of dramatic improvements beginning in 2014, under a $50-million plan unveiled by the Detroit Tigers and the city of Lakeland.
The improvements, set to be completed by 2016, will address both the seating bowl and berm at Joker Marchant Stadium as well as the workout facilities throughout Tiger Town, under the plan from HKS Sports and Entertainment.
The public areas of Joker Marchant Stadium will be expanded with a 360-degree concourse, the installation of new seating and new concessions, and expanded public areas in back of the grandstand. Those dreadful bleachers down the third-base line will be done, replaced by modern seating angled toward the infield. Right now there’s minimal shading at the ballpark (the Tigers say there’s 15 percent of the seating shaded; we don’t think it’s that high), and the renovations will yield a situation where half the seating is shaded.
Right now the concessions areas in back of the grandstand are difficult to maneuver, but the renovations will expand that area. Concessions and restrooms will be expanded as well.
Left untouched: the popular berm area in left field. However, the space in back of the berm will be enhanced with a new restaurant and tiered seating. The restaurant is envisioned as a year-round destination, perhaps leased and operated by a third party.
The area beyond the right-field home-run fence will be overhauled as a result of the wraparound concourse. The batting cages currently there will be moved, and a new party deck/Tiki bar will be installed, along with a new scoreboard.
The capacity at Joker Marchant Stadium will remain the same: 9,200.
The renovations will extend to the player facilities, designed to cement Tiger Town’s place as a year-round training facility. A new clubhouse -- or, rather, basically two new clubhouses, with separate spaces for both major leaguers and minor leaguers -- will feature an expanded weight room as well as training and rehab facilities. Batting cages will be rebuilt, and the conversion of a practice field from grass to turf, allowing for live workouts during winter months.
None of this is groundbreaking, but it does represent the state of the art when it comes to spring-training facilities. There are really three goals to the makeover: improving the fan experience, transform Tiger Town to a highly functional year-round training and rehab facility, and enticing the Tigers to sign a long-term lease to stay in Tiger Town. Now, there wasn’t a huge chance the Tigers would move: the team has trained in Lakeland since 1934 and Joker Marchant Stadium/Tiger Town since 1966, and the team has a lot of psychic energy invested in Lakeland.
Funding for the project will come from the state, local sources and the Tigers.