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New fan experience coming to Tigers spring home

Posted: 6:44 PM, Dec 29, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-30 05:10:35Z

Construction crews are working six days a week in Lakeland to meet their deadlines on the new and improved Joker Marchant Stadium.

The renovations are part of a $41 million project to make the spring home of the Detroit Tigers one of the best in the minor leagues.

The first phase of the project is set to be complete before spring training begins this February for the Tigers. Once the regular season begins, that's when the major facelift begins inside the walls, tearing out sections of seats, and replacing it with new ones that include shaded areas.

"We've made a conscious effort to look at our shading opportunities, our air conditioned spaces, every area that we can so if people need to take a break and get out of the sun, we give them that luxury," said Bob Donahay, one of the city workers leading the project.

For the fans, the best new features include a tiki or cabana bar on the berm in left field. There will also be a 360-degree walkway with access to a party deck on the three-story clubhouse that construction crews are focused on right now.

"They won't miss much of the game if they leave their seats. That's the whole idea behind it all," Donahay said.

The renovations are all part of the deal to extend the relationship with the Detroit Tigers for another 20 years.

If you have ever questioned the Tigers impact on the region than you haven't met Ron Wiegland.

"This contract encouraged me to buy a house in Lakeland because now I know the Tigers are going to be here for 20 more years, plus," he said.

This big undertaking must be done by spring training of 2017. If not, the city faces a $200,000 fine for every game the Tigers miss.

The pressure is on, but the payoff is huge.

"This is $45 million to the Lakeland local economy and Polk County. This is big. This is almost like having the Super Bowl in your city," Donahay said.