We end 2016 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #9: Spring training facility overhauls.
Even though no new spring training ballparks opened this year, 2016 still provided plenty of activity in Florida and Arizona. As two teams began to prepare for the opening of their state-of-the-art ballpark, many others lined up key details for major renovations.
This year, progress continued at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the future spring home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. Both teams are planning to move to the facility when it opens next spring, and its arrival will be one of the most intriguing aspects of the 2017 spring training season.
In March, we previewed the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, and learned how the facility could stand out for its design and fan experience:
That heightened spring-training experience is the goal at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, set to open in 2017 as spring home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. We talked about the ballpark’s design with Mo Stein, Principal and Senior Vice President, HKS; Fred Ortiz, HKS Principal Designer; and Tom McNicholas, President of McNicholas & Associates, whose public-affairs firm has been working with Palm Beach County on the ballpark project.
“We are introducing a plan that allows the most experiential layout possible,” Ortiz said. “In most spring-training facilities, you have parking on the sides and training fields to the rear. That creates a sense of disengagement.”
To that end, Stein and Ortiz created a ballpark designed to present the essential Florida experience – or experiences, whether it be memories of old golf resorts or lazy spring-break days spent at the beach. And they’re also focusing on the essential spring-training experience — not just the games.
The arrival of that facility will generate some buzz, but there are also major renovations in the works at other ballparks, some of which made significant progress this year.
Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland was shut down after the Detroit Tigers concluded their 2016 spring training, clearing the way for a major overhaul that will be completed for the coming spring. It was also announced in August that the ballpark was picking up a naming rights partner, as the grocery chain Publix signed an agreement for Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Just down the road in Tampa, the New York Yankees are set to debut some major upgrades at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Renderings for the project were released this fall, highlighting some of the ballpark’s latest features, including loges, cabanas, decks, pavilions, clubs, and more.
In the coming years, 2016 could be remembered as turning points for plans in Florida and Arizona. The City of Scottsdale contracted Populous to create a master plan for upgrades to Scottsdale Stadium, the home of the San Francisco Giants.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays announced their intention to work with Dunedin, FL officials on extensive overhauls to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the off-site Englebert Complex.
In addition, the Atlanta Braves continued their ongoing search for a new spring training facility. While they are expected to play at Champion Stadium through 2018, the Braves will keep looking for a facility somewhere in Florida, with Sarasota and Palm Beach counties among their options.
With those developments taking place, 2016 gave fans plenty to look forward to in the coming years.
Rendering courtesy of Populous and the New York Yankees.
Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2016 List:
#10: Savannah Bananas