Article and photos by Joe Mock, BaseballParks.com
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During my trip to Florida to write about the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches (see our in-depth review of it here), I made a point of attending games in Lakeland and Tampa. The reason? Both had undergone sweeping renovations in preparation for this year’s spring-training exhibitions.
As this panoramic photo (taken on the roof) shows, Lakeland’s Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium looks tremendously different than it did even a year ago. Part of the year-long transformation was the extension of the grandstands down both foul lines.
Several new group spaces were also created, like this patio near the right-field corner (below left). Above the stands on the 1B side is the plush ’34 Club (below right), so named because the Tigers first came to Lakeland for spring training in 1934, where they’ve remained ever since (except during World War II). This is by far the longest tenure of any MLB team in its spring-training city.
Previously, fans looking for Tigers merchandise had to make do with shopping at an outdoor kiosk. Now there’s an enclosed, air conditioned store (below left).
In creating an outfield concourse so that fans can now walk completely around the field, a brilliant idea was implemented. A long concrete runway (above right) was constructed beyond right field to honor the fact that this complex was built on the site of an airfield where pilots were trained in World War II. I think this is the best, most clever of all of the renovation ideas.
Counting the enlargement of the Tigers’ clubhouse, improvements to their practice fields, a new video board and the other seating enhancements, the renovations at Tiger Town cost $37 million. HKS, the same architecture firm as The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Salt River Fields, handled the design work.
Over in Tampa, Yankee fans are enjoying the additions to George M. Steinbrenner Field. The price tag on those upgrades totaled $40 million. In exchange, the Yanks extended their lease another 30 years, to 2046.
The most visible additions are a pair of two-level “clubs” near the foul poles. The one down the 3B line is above left. On the first level is a bar where any fan can go. The upper level (above right) is reserved for groups. There is a nice breeze and a great view of the action from the roofs of these two clubs.
As fans arrive, they will instantly notice the drastically different entry area (above left), with the exterior of the significantly enlarged merchandise store. If you’ve ever tried to purchase Yankees souvenirs there in past years, you know how cramped the old store was. Now it spans two floors and offers much less crowding (above right).
Populous was the architect on this round of renovations. Back in 2008, $7.5 million was spent on upgrades, including a new bar area beyond right field. This time around, they greatly enlarged that area, plus they added a walkway (above) that connects it with the left-field concourse, giving fans the ability to go 360 degrees around the field.
So the renovations at both complexes offer fans tremendously better amenities — plus now you can get in some exercise making a full lap around the ballparks!