Loyalty is something hard to come by these days. However, for the Detroit Tigers and their longtime Spring Training home in Lakeland, Florida, loyalty seems to be the name of the game.
According to a report by the Tampa Tribune, the Tigers and the city of Lakeland have renewed a contract to keep the team’s Spring Training games there for 20 years, pushing the relationship between the two sides to the century mark come 2036.
The announcement bucks the trend of major league teams changing locations as they look for better deals, bigger and better renovated stadiums and ways to cut expenses. In recent years, many teams have explored sharing a spring-training facility with another club, something the Toronto Blue Jays, who train in Dunedin, and Houston Astros looked at last year.
The new contract between the two sides, which begins at the conclusion of the current deal in 2016, will keep the big league club, a minor league affiliate and an organizational rehabilitation program in the city through 2036.
After two-plus years of negotiations, the Tigers and Lakeland were able to reach the deal, which was contingent on an array of improvements being made to Joker Marchant Stadium, including designs for separate clubhouses for the major and minor league clubs, new seating areas, a 360-degree walkway surrounding the stadium and new concessions, to name a few.
Under the agreement, a total of $37 million, through a bond issue, will be set aside for capital improvements to the stadium and the TigerTown complex, to be completed by January 2017. The bonds will be paid off over a 20-year period through funding from the state, the county, the team and the city.
At a time when teams oftentimes seek out new deals and locations for not only Spring Training facilities, but even locations for big league-related items, the Tigers took a respectable route with this decision, proving that loyalty still runs deep in the organization – even when dealing with entities outside the organization.