The new spring home of the Cleveland Indians combines a state-of-the-art training complex with one of the more pleasant ballparks in the Cactus League.
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We also took an extensive tour of the Indians training facility. Splitting off the training facility from the ballpark is something that’s fallen out of favor in the Cactus League – recent complexes like Surprise Stadium have been built with everything integrated – but Goodyear presents a compelling argument toward keeping the two separate.
For starters, the arrangement keeps the ballpark open outside of spring training for youth and college tourneys, concerts and other events. The clubhouses temporarily used by each team for spring training will be open the rest of the year, and the venue will be free and clear for almost anything the four-person Goodyear stadium authority can book – including a possible move of the MLB winter league from Hawaii to Arizona.
It also gave the Indians a state-of-the-art training facility. With two MLB fields (one built to Progressive Field’s dimensions), four minor-league fields, smaller practice fields, a slew of batting cages and pitching mounds, it’s a place where the Indians can run operations year-round while giving the team some flexibility. For instance, the four minor-league diamonds are under control of the Indians only for spring training and extended spring training; they can be used for youth tournaments the rest of the year.
The goal with the training facility, according to the Indians’ Miller, was to give the Indians a place to focus on player development year-round. As such, it presents one of the best approaches to player development we’ve seen in a single complex (the new Dodgers/White Sox complex in Glendale similarly advances the state of the art; we’ll look at it on Monday) and sets a high bar for teams looking to upgrade their operations.
A dramatic three-story entrance, a soaring space that’s a marked contrast to the largely horizontal lines in the area, sets the tone for the entire facility. Upstairs are the team offices, including a large suite for Indians GM Mark Shapiro with a private deck overlooking the two main practice fields.
Downstairs is where the player facilities are. Three clubhouses can house over 200 players during spring training. As you might expect, the MLB clubhouse is the swankest: the lockers are arranged in such a way that there are no corners in the room, creating a very egalitarian space. The AAA/AA clubhouse isn’t as nice – the decorative finishes found in the MLB clubhouse are largely gone, and players have less room to move around – and the A clubhouse is very basic. That was purposeful, according to Miller: give the younger players something to shoot for.
There’s really not much difference between the MLB and MiLB spaces: they run parallel, with shared facilities like a 4,000-square-foot workout room and hydrotherapy area. If anything, the tone of the two areas is different: the artwork on the MLB side focuses on the long and proud history of the Indians, while the artwork on the MiLB side focuses on current starts like Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore – reminders to the minor leaguers that hard work can lead to stardom.