As you plan your 2018 spring training trip, there are some ballpark changes you should note. Most are of the minor variety, but they are still worth mentioning here.
Spring 2017 was a time of big change in the Grapefruit League and, to a lesser extent, in the Cactus League. In the Grapefruit League, we saw welcome renovations to George M. Steinbrenner Field and Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, as well as the opening of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. In the Cactus League, we saw the end of a multiyear renovation at Peoria Stadium.
This year won’t see that level of activity. But here are a few things worth noting.
First, you’ll see extended netting throughout most, if not all spring-training facilities. In most cases, netting will be extended to the far end of the dugouts, while in the past netting ended at the near end of the dugouts. There have been grumbles from fans who see some access to players cut off with the extended netting. The tradeoff, of course, is a much safer spring-training experience. One other complaint is that the netting will obscure the view of the action. We’ve seen the new generation of netting in action, and we think most fans will be pleasantly surprised as to how unobtrusive it is. New netting sports a finer mesh and smaller knots, and it’s green (as opposed to black), which blends in better with the turf.
Second, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is totally completed for 2018. As you’ll recall, 2017 saw the ballpark open despite some fan amenities not open. This year will see the spring home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals open fully completed. And you’ll also see some changes, as adjustments were made after 2017. You’ll see an overhauled bar behind third base, set up to better serve patrons. We’d recommend checking out the Shock Top Picnic Patio, located down the left-field line. It features an all-you-can-eat menu, as well as open seating on the berm or the picnic tables. You can wash down the ballpark food with a brew from the nearby Craft Beer corner bar.
Third, we have some more changes at Roger Dean Stadium for 2018. We’ve seen annual changes at the spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins–new canopies and more shade–and this year sees more. First, you won’t need to pay ATM fees to buy some favorites at concession stands: every point of sale will be equipped with credit-card readers. Second, the suites are being redone in an upscale fashion. Third: more shade! Fourth, the playing field will sport new turf, with the first replacement in nine years. That’s actually pretty amazing, considering how often the ballpark is in use, between two MLB teams and two Florida State League teams. Finally, there are new concessions, including a tiki-themed concession stand in the left-field corner, next to the bullpen. The 15-feet-by-30-foot chickee hut will be sponsored by local restaurant Guanabana, with food prepped there and bought to the ballpark. It’s being positioned as a social space, with shaded tables set up adjacent to the hut.
Fourth, this will be your last chances to see three classic, somewhat dated facilities before extensive renovations take place. Maryvale Baseball Park, spring home of the Milwaukee Brewers (shown above), Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, spring home of the Toronto Blue Jays, and First Data Field, spring home of the New York Mets, are in line for extreme makeovers after spring training ends this year. At Maryvale Baseball Park, most of the upgrades will be focused on the first-base side of the facility, with upgraded concessions and restrooms. At Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, fans will see a new 360-degree concourse, upgraded seating and more shade. And at First Data Field, fans will enjoy a new 360-degree concourse, improved concessions, renovated clubhouses, a new player dorm, and more in 2019. There is talk of other ballpark renovations in coming years, but so far no firm plans are in the works.
Fifth: fans will see some small changes at Ed Smith Stadium, spring home of the Baltimore Orioles. You can read more here.
Sixth: fans will see some upgrades at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, spring home of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. A new 30×50 Daktronics videoboard replaces the old scoreboard in right-center field. In addition, two new 100-foot shade structures will be installed along the first-base concourse at The Ranch. The structures, designed by facility architect HKS, complement existing design features while providing more shaded seating options for fans. Shade, of course, is one of the most sorely needed commodities at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, and these new structures will address fan requests.
Finally, we have no new spring-training ballparks on tap in 2018 or 2019. In case you missed the news, the new spring home of the Atlanta Braves will not fully open until 2020, giving fans two more springs to see the team in action at Champion Stadium and ESPN Wide World of Sports. Probably a wise move: though the Braves are set to play one game at the new North Port (Sarasota County) ballpark at the end of spring training in 2019, that could change if there are any construction delays (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, given the unpredictability of hurricane season in past years).
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