We have the final results of the 2020 Best of the Ballparks fan vote for spring training: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium for the Grapefruit League and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for the Cactus League.
Though spring training 2020 came to an early and abrupt end, we continued with our Best of the Ballparks fan vote, with voting ending on Friday. We’re glad we did: despite that abrupt ending, we had the most fans ever vote in the spring-training competition, more than double the number of participants in the 2019 voting. In the finals, fans chose Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium over LECOM Park, Pittsburgh Pirates spring home, by a 64.8%-35.2% margin in the Grapefruit League voting, and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Arizona Diamndbacks/Colorado Rockies home, over Camelback Ranch-Glendale, Chicago White Sox/Los Angeles Dodgers spring home, by a 69.7%-30.3% margin in the Cactus League voting.
Both are worthy choices. Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium opened in 1966 as the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers and has been renovated several times since, mostly recently in 2017. Part of the historic TigerTown training complex, Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium is now a state-of-the-art facility with the addition of outfield seating areas, premium group spaces and new administrative and training buildings. The Tigers and Lakeland have the longest active relationship between a club and spring-training host city among all teams in Major League Baseball, dating back to 1934 (taking a break during WWII), with the Tigers playing first at Henley Field and then moving to what is now known as Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in 1967. As the needs of MLB teams evolved and grew over the years, so did the scale and civic commitment to both TigerTown and Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, culminating in a 2016-17 renovation that saw the addition of a 360-degree concourse, upgraded seating and new player facilities.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick opened for spring training 2011 in partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) as the first spring-training complex to be built on Indian land in the nation. The complex includes the 11,000-capacity ballpark, 12 practice fields and separate clubhouses and training facilities for both teams. It was a groundbreaker in another important way: it was the first LEED Gold-certified ballpark in the United States.
This is not the first time either facility has recognized by Ballpark Digest: Besides winning last year’s Best of the Ballparks fan vote, Salt River Fields was chosen as the Best New Ballpark in the annual Ballpark Digest Awards in 2011. In 2017 Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, which is also home to the Florida State League’s Lakeland Flying Tigers, was selected as the fans’ choice for best High-A MiLB ballpark.
In both cases we had repeat winners, as the spring homes of the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks/Colorado Rockies were winners in 2019 as well. For Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the victory extended the complex’s winning streak: it’s won every fan vote since we expanded our annual competition to spring-training complexes in 2017.
With the pause in the 2020 season, we’ll also be pausing the Best of the Ballparks fan vote, traditionally one of the biggest events of our summer. But when the 2020 season does finally start, we’ll be there and launch the MLB voting on the same day the regular season begins.