SBJ/April 3-9, 2017/Facilities

Upgrades make outfield a destination at Tigers’ spring home

Don Muret
The renovation of Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., extends the life of a historic facility where the Detroit Tigers have played spring training games for 81 years.

The $40 million in upgrades, designed by HKS and completed earlier this year, focused on developing more hospitality areas in the outfield to accommodate groups and individual fans, said Ron Myers, Tigers director of Florida operations. Previously, there was just one small picnic area for groups.

As part of the renovations, project officials built a new Corona-branded bar under a roof cover in left field. The Adirondack-style chairs facing the field in front of the bar sport Corona’s blue and gold color scheme. They were produced by DutchCrafters, an Amish-owned company in Sarasota, about 80 miles to the southwest. Thirty-two of the 40 chairs were sold as a season ticket at $20 a game, Myers said.

Restaurant chain Cracker Barrel supplied some of its rocking chairs for seating in Joker Marchant Stadium. 
Photo by: MARK CUNNINGHAM / DETROIT TIGERS
Right field features another nontraditional seating product. The Tigers signed a one-year deal with Cracker Barrel restaurants to supply 10 of their signature wood rocking chairs and three checkerboards to “jazz up” the new plaza space in that area, he said. The chairs are accessible to all fans.

In addition, Cracker Barrel sponsors a fourth-inning promotion called “Home Away From Home.” The Tigers randomly select a ticket holder, and the crowd gets three clues posted on the new video board to correctly guess the individual’s hometown. The ticket holder receives a dinner for two to Cracker Barrel and a game-used ball. Myers got the idea for the rocking chairs after seeing some non-Cracker Barrel rockers in place at Regions Field in Birmingham, Ala., during a tour of minor league and spring training parks to get ideas for improving the facility.

The new Margaritaville group area takes up a big chunk of the new right-field space. The Tigers signed a two-year deal with a local distributor of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville brand rum and tequila.

Game tickets cost $50 and cover food, water and soft drinks.

Delaware North Sportservice, the Tigers’ longtime concessionaire in Detroit and Lakeland, paid for the construction of Margaritaville, Myers said.

The ballpark is also home to the Class A-Advanced Florida State League’s Lakeland Flying Tigers.

> KEEP ON TRUCKIN’: Spectra has taken the food truck experience inside Talen Energy Stadium, home of MLS’s Philadelphia Union. Spectra, the team’s food provider, has replaced two concession stands on the main concourse with new structures replicating food trucks.

The Cow and the Curd and Baby Blues BBQ, two vendors that previously operated outside the stadium among a small group of food trucks, are both set up in two locations: midfield on the west side and in the southeast corner.

The stands are not actual trucks. As a safety measure, local building codes prohibit those vehicles from taking up space on the concourse, said Linda Recke, Spectra’s regional vice president.

The Cow and the Curd offers bratwurst, cheese curds and beer. Baby Blues BBQ’s menu consists of pork and beef sandwiches, smoked wings and Memphis-style ribs. The new stands officially open April 8.

Spectra officials expect to recoup their $30,000 investment over the first year of operation, Recke said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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