The Philadelphia Phillies and the city of Clearwater are pitching $79.9 million in upgrades to Spectrum Field and the adjoining Carpenter Complex in order to spruce up the team’s spring-training facilities while tying the team to the Grapefruit League through 2043.
Several Florida communities have worked with MLB teams to upgrade spring-training facilities while tying the teams to long-term contract. In recent years we’ve seen upgrades of LECOM Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), CenturyLink Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium (Minnesota Twins), George M. Steinbrenner Field (New York Yankees) and Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium (Detroit Tigers). In addition, there are upgrades proposed for Dunedin Stadium (Toronto Blue Jays) and Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins), and upgrades planned for First Data Field (New York Mets) in 2020.
Spectrum Field opened in 2004 as the Phillies’ spring-training home, replacing Jack Russell Stadium and also serving as the home of the Clearwater Threshers (High A; Florida State League). At the time, Spectrum Field was state of the art in terms of spring-training ballparks, and when combined with the Carpenter Complex, it was the envy of many MLB front offices. But over time the state of the art changed in terms of spring-training facilities, and while Spectrum Field is still a pleasant place to take in a game, there are some issues when there’s a larger crowd on hand, and the crowded concourse could use an overhaul. There’s also a matter of keeping up with the Joneses: the Dunedin Stadium renovations are being funded largely by Pinellas County, and the county is being asked to fund the Spectrum Field/Carpenter Complex overhaul. And with the Carpenter Complex predating the ballpark, the player facilities could certainly use an upgrade.
The $79.9-million funding plan calls for $10 million from the Phillies (as well as a pledge to cover cost overruns), $40 million from the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council funds, $16 million in a local sales tax (dedicated by Clearwater) and $13.7 million from a state fund designated for keeping Grapefruit League teams in Florida. As part of the deal, the Phillies would extend their lease for 20 additional years, to 2043.
Despite the price tag, the improvements are not extravagant. At Spectrum Field, the improvements both address existing deficiencies and upgrading the fan experience, with a renovated club level, new seating, expanded offices and upgraded air conditioning. At the Carpenter Complex, players would see an expanded clubhouse, more office space, new dining facilities (complete with expanded nutritional tracking both for spring training and the regular season, when minor leaguers and rookies are training and playing), and 160-bed dorm. These expanded year-round training facilities are becoming the norm in Major League Baseball.
The proposal from Clearwater is in the beginning phases, and undoubtedly there will be plenty of discussion at the city and county levels between now and the end of the year.