|PUBLIX FIELD AT JOKER MARCHANT STADIUM
|Year Opened||1966; renovated in 2003|
|Dimensions||340L, 420C, 340R|
|Local Airport||Orlando or Tampa|
|Tickets on Sale||Saturday, January 12, 10 a.m.|
|Ticket Line||866-66-TIGER (8-4437)|
|Ticket Web Site||tigers.mlb.com|
|Address||Al Kaline Dr., 2301 Lake Hills Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33805|
|Directions||Take exit 33 off I-4 onto Hwy. 33 South. Tiger Town and the ballpark are approximately 2 miles on the left. There is signage pointing out two parking areas next to the stadium.|
Detroit Tigers Spring Training: The Grand Tradition in Florida
There is now a single greatest institution in Florida spring training: Tiger Town in Lakeland. The Tigers have been training in Lakeland since 1934 and have been playing in Joker Marchant Stadium since 1966. In those many years Tiger Town has evolved into a complete training complex that includes the ballpark, other training fields, dorm, training facilities and team clubhouses.
Though Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium is the second-oldest ballpark still in use in spring training (LECOM Park dates back to 1923; Joker Marchant Stadium opened in 1966), it doesn’t feel old after the latest round of renovations. The Tigers and Lakeland have embarked on a few rounds of renovations in recent years; you can still see the original concrete risers in the grandstand, but otherwise everything else about the ballpark has been upgraded.
The changes implemented for 2017 were among the most extensive ever. On the player/front-office side, the old administration building was torn down, with a new administration building (complete with new clubhouses and training facilities) going up in right field. That’s a big change, but the other changes are focused on the fan side.
New in right field: a space the Tigers call the Runway, featuring a long drink rail, new concessions and additional four-top seating. The Runway is a reference to the site’s history as a aerial training center during World War II. When Joker Marchant first opened, the old training runway was still present past right field, as well as Quonset huts used to house pilots and trainers. (The Quonset huts are still there. You cannot see them from the ballpark, but they can be seen from the parking lot.) This is a huge area, and it also has one additional function: it makes Joker Marchant Stadium a more accessible ballpark with a 360-degree concourse.
Tiger Town is one of the more historically interesting sites in the Grapefruit League. It was built on the site of a World War II flight school, the Lodwick School. Between 1940 and 1945 more than 8,000 cadets, including British Royal Air Force cadets, attended the Lodwick School of Aeronautics and more than 6000 graduated. Some of the remnants of that school still exist, including several hangars that have been renovated and used for various purposes.
Spring Training History
The Detroit Tigers have trained in Lakeland since 1934. Other spring-training homes of the Tigers: Detroit (1901); Ypsilanti, Mich. (1902); Shreveport (1903-1904); Augusta, Ga. (1905-1907); Hot Springs, Ark. (1908); San Antonio (1909-1910); Monroe, La. (1911-1912); Gulfport, Miss. (1913-1915); Waxahachie, Texas (1916-1918); Macon, Ga. (1919-1920); San Antonio (1921); Augusta, Ga. (1922-1926); San Antonio (1927-1928); Phoenix (1929); Tampa (1930); Sacramento (1931); Palo Alto, Cal. (1932); San Antonio (1933); Lakeland (1934-1942); Evansville (1943-1945); Lakeland (1946-present).
Joker Marchant Stadium was built in 1966 and named after the city’s popular parks and rec director, Joker Marchant.
The 800-seat Henley Field, the former spring-training home of the Tigers, still exists and was used by the Lakeland Tigers for the 2002 spring training season. The Cleveland Indians used Henley Field for spring training from 1924 to 1927, and the Tigers used it for spring training between 1934 and 1966. Florida Southern University calls Henley Field home.