We begin our celebration of a century of great ballparks with a visit to Joker Marchant Stadium, one of the grand dames of spring training. Tiger Town dates back to the end of World War II, when the former Lodwick School of Aeronautics was converted to a training complex; Joker Marchant Stadium opened in 1966 as the spring home of the Detroit Tigers. Together the pair make for a prototypical Florida spring-training experience.It seems appropriate to begin a celebration of a century of great ballparks with a visit to one of the grand dames of spring training: Joker Marchant Stadium, which opened in 1966 as the spring home of the Detroit Tigers, adjacent to Tiger Town, the training complex carved out of a former aviation training school after World War II.
Joker Marchant (MAR-shaunt) is now the second-oldest spring venue in the Grapefruit League (only Bradenton’s McKechnie Field has been in use longer), named for the long-time Park and Rec director in Lakeland. Tiger Town has been around even longer: the site of the former Lodwick School of Aeronautics was converted to a spring-training complex after World War II, and some of the old hangars are still in use by other companies.
It is a place where tradition is maintained and revered, even after a 2005 renovation that added a new exterior and amenities and took out the remnants of the runway beyond the right-field bullpens.
That tradition was on full display for the first Tigers game of spring training on March 2, a matchup against the Florida Southern College Mocs. Same as it ever was for the Tigers. After 10 or so days of drills and practices, fans and players both were ready for some real action.