Their romance began in the 1930s and has appeared to be eternal.

But because Lakeland values the Tigers and the $45 million in added revenue Detroit's big-league baseball team brings to Florida each year, the Tigers' spring training home and minor-league headquarters is about to get a massive makeover that could approach $50 million by the time it is completed in 2016.

Joker Marchant Stadium will undergo a 360-degree expansion of its seating areas, including preservation of the 16-foot grass berm that has become a beach-blanket fixture at Grapefruit League games. Seats will be extended along base lines and will wrap around the outfield perimeter, all connected by way of a free-flowing walkway.

Third-base bleachers will be demolished and replaced with lower-altitude seats facing the infield as a ballpark that now offers 15-percent shaded areas moves toward at least 50-percent shaded seating. Because high-rise bleacher seats will be reduced and will be part of a circular extension, Marchant's capacity (9,200) will not expand.

The concourse area and its concession and restrooms will be expanded and integrated to allow fans a continuous game experience even when they leave their seats. A reconstructed press box with 10 extra work stations and an additional radio booth is planned.

Tigertown's adjacent facilities will be more dramatically changed. A new, segmented clubhouse accommodating big-league and minor-league players will be built. A vastly expanded weight room will serve 280 players. Training and rehabilitation facilities, including "soft-tissue" underwater therapy, will permit the Tigers to maintain a 12-month rehabilitation center in Lakeland servicing the entire organization.

At least one of the five practice fields at Tigertown will be converted from natural grass to synthetic turf. It will allow an outdoor training option during spring's rainy season, as well as from November through January, when the fields are otherwise off-limits to players as grass recovers ahead of spring training.

Indoor batting cages now stationed beyond the right-field wall will be rebuilt at the four-field practice quadrant. That conversion will include a potential "Pepsi Porch"-style party area in right field. The left-field berm's back side will be home to tiered seating and to an expansive bar/restaurant facility, which could be operated by a third party, as is the case at the Phillies base in Clearwater, Fla., where "Frenchy's" is a game-day entertainment fixture.



From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130213/SPORTS0104/302130317#ixzz2Kn4jqQMg