Joker Marchant Stadium renovations on tap

Joker Marchant Stadium at Tiger Town

The much-anticipated Joker Marchant Stadium renovations are closer to reality, as the city of Lakeland chose two construction firms to oversee the $37-million project that will upgrade the Detroit Tigers spring-training facility.

Lakeland city commissioners awarded the construction contract to Barton Malow of Southfield, Mich., in association with Rodda Construction of Lakeland. Barton Malow is a major player in the sports-facilities construction world, working on several large MLB and college-football projects, with several spring-training complexes in the portfolio. The Barton Malow/Rodda bid was chosen over two other bids.

The Joker Marchant Stadium renovations are tied to a new lease for the Tigers to remain in Tiger Town. The team has been training in Lakeland for 78 years, playing first Henley Field and then at Joker Marchant Stadium, and a new lease would extend the longest relationship in spring training. From the Lakeland Ledger:

The renovation project is to be paid for with $20 million from the state, $14.6 million from the Polk County bed tax and $2.4 million from the city. The Tigers’ portion of the payment will not be related to the overall cost of the renovation, but instead the day-to-day operations of the facility. For example, the Tigers are paying an additional $200,000 in utility costs.

Fans won’t notice anything until 2017, as construction won’t begin until April 2016, well after the end of spring training. The renovations, which should be completed for spring training 2017, include an expanded press box/suite level, upgraded concessions and replacement of the old bleacher structure for the left-field line. That bleacher structure features some of the worst seating in all of baseball; no one will shed a tear when it’s torn down.

If you’re into old ballparks, take note: while the Joker Marchant Stadium renovations are taking place in 2016, the Lakeland Flying Tigers, the High Class A Florida State League Tigers affiliate, will be playing out of Henley Field, the former Tigers spring-training home. Henley Field opened in 1923, with the current grandstand opening in 1925. You can read more about it here. It’s worth a visit if you’re in Lakeland for spring training: the Florida Southern Mocs play their home games there.

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