At a time when training means more than a six-week camp in the springtime, facilities are increasingly important – which is why the new Lew Wolff Training Complex may be as important for the Oakland Athletics as the springtime move to Hohokam Stadium.
The Athletics had a smaller training facility at the Papago Park complex, but the move to an expanded Fitch Park complex allowed the team to add around 26,000 additional square feet of training space. The team, along with architect Gensler, took the Chicago Cubs’ old spring-training complex, scrubbed out any hint of blue and red and replaced it with gold and green, and built out to what amounts to be a new facility.
“With this amount of green and gold, it’s either us or the Packers,” quipped Ted Polakowski, Oakland’s director of minor league operations, who oversaw the renovation (shown above). “We have definitely rebranded.”
That means lots of Athletics logos throughout the facility, as well as murals with former greats, uniform displays and reminders of the team tradition that began with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The renovation, which built out to the west and north, definitely was built to order, designed to serve different needs at different times of the year. A meeting room can be used at the beginning of spring training for player gatherings, combined with the adjoining cafeteria for mealtime when the minor leaguers report, and used for yoga lessons in the offseason. (Yes, the A’s offer yoga classes to players year round.) Baseball is now a year-round endeavor, and the Lew Wolff Training Complex reflects that schedule.
While this sort of multi-use facility isn’t unusual in the world of Major League Baseball, it is a major step forward for the A’s. Professional baseball is now a matter of maximizing development, whether it means good nutrition, sound rehab, and efficient, guided workouts. That means a good treatment facility for year-round rehab (hence the three new hydrotherapy pools), four clubhouses that can be used in a variety of situations (minor leaguers, World Baseball Classic teams), and war rooms for coaches working to distribute talent in the Minor League system. And, of course, state of the art means a large weight room with windows opening up to a playing field.
All in all, the A’s went from an 18,000-square-foot training facility in Papago Park to a custom one measuring some 55,433 square feet at Fitch Park. (That total, by the way, is the fourth-largest training complex square footage in the Cactus League, according to Polakowski.) The exterior renovation matches upgrades to Hohokam Stadium as well. The total cost for the training complex and ballpark renovations: $26.9 million.
Despite the large new facility, the A’s still ended up splitting facilities between the Lew Wolff Training Complex and Hohokam Stadium. Major leaguers dress at the ballpark and have their own weight room there.
For fans, a visit to the Lew Wolff Training Complex for workouts is a more comfortable experience, as they enter off Center Street at East 6th Place. There is covered bleacher seating next to the main practice fields (no more concrete seating a la Papago Park), with a small concessions stand in the middle of the cloverleaf. There are four full fields, and each was revamped by the A’s with new drainage and sprinkler systems, along with new batting cages and revamped bullpen areas.