You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Goodbye, old trash dump. Hello, Major League Baseball spring training


Good-bye, old trash dump. Hello, Major League Baseball.

Where piles of rotted garbage and old tires once lay buried under decades of sand and overgrown weeds, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is ready for some baseball.

The new spring training home of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros marks the return of spring training to West Palm Beach for the first time since the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos left after the 1997 season.

But the 160-acre site’s use as a landfill from 1955 to 2000 isn’t the only significant feature of the $150 million facility, which broke ground on Nov. 9, 2015, and was financed in part with millions from a county hotel tax.

“You are turning a trash dump into something pretty spectacular,’’ Astros owner Jim Crane promised Palm Beach County officials more than two years ago about a vision he shared with Mark Lerner, the Nationals’ principal owner.

How spectacular? Here’s a starting lineup of noteworthy features:

Grand staircase: The main entrance, on the third base side, features a set of steps to reach the main concourse where fans then walk down into the seating bowl of 6,500 seats. The concourse is also accessible from two pedestrian bridges, one leading north toward to the Astros’ practice fields and the other south to the Nationals’ fields.

“The grand staircase reminds us of many of the design clues in the Palm Beaches. So do the simple lines and clean building overhangs,’’ said architect Mo Stein of HKS Architects.

360-degree concourse: The main concourse is open air, meaning visitors can walk around the entire concourse without missing a single pitch — a common feature in Cactus League facilities in Arizona but not so common in the Grapefruit League.

On the concourse at the left field foul pole will be the Left Field Bar, overlooking the game action and offering more than 30 tap handles for beer and televisions on display. Picnic tables can be found along the third base line. Above most of the outfield is an expansive grass berm where fans can watch the game — but no seats.

Made in the shade: In designing the main stadium, HKS studied the sun angles in West Palm Beach throughout the day in February and March. As a result, the footprint of the field has the right field line, including home plate to first base, running slightly north of due east.

With help from a shade structure extending 14 feet over the seating bowl at least 40 percent of the seats will gain shade at first pitch, with shadows falling over more seats throughout the game.

A touch of Houston, D.C.: One of the Astros’ six practice fields has the exact dimension of the team’s regular-season stadium, Minute Maid Park in Houston. Two of the Nationals’ six fields have the same dimensions as Nationals Park in Washington.

“It’s really for the outfielders. We’ve got to get these guys to adjust and get accustomed to taking balls and caroms off the walls,’’ said Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe.

Seats on the field: They’re called Field Boxes for a reason: These VIP seats along the first base line are literally on the field, the same level of ground that All Stars Bryce Harper and Jose Altuve walk to reach their positions. The west end of the section abuts the easternmost end of the Nationals’ dugout.

Seats range from $37 to $56, depending on the opposing team, and include comfortable chairs, waiter service and, of course, a seat as close to the action as possible.

Even if you can’t splurge for field boxes, there are solid views of the field throughout the complex. “The bowl itself does not have a bad seat,” Stein said. “I think you will feel closer to the game here than most other parks.”

Protective netting: To protect traffic on a road near four practice fields, the teams studied the trajectories of some of baseball’s longest home runs. Chances are that none of the many, many baseballs being hit into the air by talented Major League Baseball players every day at practice will come close to hitting any cars driving along Military Trail.

Although four practice fields back up against the road, protection is offered by walls of black netting, 100 feet high in some places. “It would take some monumental shots to clear the safety netting that we have planned,’’ said architect Mike Drye of HKS.

Outdoor swimming pool: In what is believed to be a spring training first, the Nationals will have an outdoor swimming pool outside their clubhouse. But don’t expect to see ace pitcher Max Scherzer doing cannonball jumps in this pool. It’s for exercise and training only, with four lanes outfitted to shoot water for resistance.

Art at the ballpark: Stainless steel panels, sculpted by artist Blessing Hancock, can be found above the concourse. From a distance, the screens will resemble a cluster of palm fronds. As visitors get closer, they will see a grid pattern of tiny baseball players in motion, focusing on sequences of hitting, throwing and catching. The panels will create artistic shadows reflected onto the concourse.

And on the railings of bridges connecting the stadium to the practice fields panels will be installed depicting baseball imagery.

Public park: In the southwest corner of the complex is a 12-acre public park, built by the teams for West Palm Beach. When completed later this spring, it will feature a playground, splash park, four lighted basketball courts and a 1.8 mile walking trail available to the community on a daily basis.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Fowler holds off Woodland to capture Honda Classic
Fowler holds off Woodland to capture Honda Classic

All the drama had been taken out of the Honda Classic about two holes before Rickie Fowler rolled in a short putt on the 72nd hole and raised his arms in victory despite a second consecutive bogey. Fowler’s lead essentially had swelled to six strokes when he stepped into the tee box at the par-3 17th hole and it mattered not that his ball rolled...
Fowler closes deal on Honda Classic win but it wasn’t easy
Fowler closes deal on Honda Classic win but it wasn’t easy

It got sticky for Rickie on Sunday, and with half of PGA National’s churlish Champion course still to be played. One more bad drive like the ones he already had splashed into the water and among the trees on the front nine and his once mountainous Honda Classic lead would be history. History repeated, that’s the hardest part, because Rickie...
Sock gets Delray Beach win when Raonic pulls out with torn hamstring

It was billed as a much anticipated “dream final” - top seeded and No. 4 in the world Milos Raonic vs. America’s top-ranked Jack Sock, squaring off for the 11th time on Sunday afternoon for the coveted Delray Beach Open tennis championship. Alas, it was not meant to be. Raonic was forced to pull out because of a torn right hamstring...
Two holes-in-one at difficult 15th hole
Two holes-in-one at difficult 15th hole

For the first 10 years the Honda Classic was staged at PGA National, not a single hole-in-one was recorded at the difficult 15th hole. This weekend there were two. Jhonattan Vegas matched the feat Sunday previously accomplished by Scott Stallings on Thursday, landing a 6-iron shot a few feet short of the pin and watching it roll in for an ace that...
Horschel goes for eagle on final hole, settles for bogey
Horschel goes for eagle on final hole, settles for bogey

It’s not like Billy Horschel to back away from a challenge. So when he had the opportunity to go for the 18th green in two or lay up in the final round of the Honda Classic Sunday at PGA National, he didn’t think twice. “I’ll sleep well tonight,” Horschel said after his 3-wood from 252 yards faded right and found the water...
More Stories