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Joker Marchant Stadium / Detroit Tigers / Lakeland Flying Tigers

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Tiger Town is the last great traditional spring-training site still used in Florida. The Tigers have been training in Lakeland since 1934 (taking a break for the war years, of course) and 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. If you want a whiff of old-time Florida spring training, a stroll through Tiger Town is in order.

Joker Marchant Stadium


Capacity: 9,000
Year Opened: 1966; renovated in 2003
Dimensions: 340L, 420C, 340R
Surface: Grass
Local Airport: Orlando or Tampa
Home Dugout: Third base
Address/Directions: Al Kaline Dr., 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd., Lakeland. 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 ballpark.

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As one would expect from such an old facility, 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 6,000 graduated. Some of the remnants of that school still exist, including two hangars that have been renovated and used for various purposes. (You can see them in the city-owned industrial complex next to the Joker Marchant Stadium parking lot. Sadly, the most recent renovations to Tiger Town included the removal of a runway beyond the outfield wall. The photo below shows the two hangars on the bottom that still stand. Click on any image for a larger version.)

In keeping with the site’s history the ballpark décor changed before Spring Training 2007. Detroit’s Florida State League affiliate received a name change to the Lakeland Flying Tigers and adopted an aviation motif throughout the ballpark. As a result, concession stands are called canteens (among other things), and there’s a lot of camouflage in the concourse, as shown above.