Roger Dean Stadium ended its 18th Grapefruit League season Thursday with a scene that has been a fixture since the facility opened in 1998 — seats packed with fans dressed in St. Louis Cardinals red.
As the undisputed main attraction at the stadium they’ve shared since 2003 with the Miami Marlins and from 1998 to 2002 with the Montreal Expos, the Cardinals will be in a position to demand significant renovations at the facility when negotiations start on a lease extension.
The Cardinals are happy with their experience so far in Jupiter and are open to the idea of extending their lease to 2045, as Palm Beach County has requested, said Bill DeWitt III, the Cardinals’ team president.
But any formal renovation requests probably would be made after the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros open their new spring training stadium in West Palm Beach in 2017.
“We have done some work in terms of thinking about our facility here, but it’s very preliminary,’’ DeWitt said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post.
“And, to be honest, I think we will probably get some ideas from the Astros and Nationals when we see what they come up with. Not that we need to copy what they do, but just in terms of what’s the state-of-the-art for spring training.’’
For now, the Cardinals and Marlins are committed to leases that expire in 2027. By then, Roger Dean Stadium will be 30 years old.
“I can imagine by then there will be some things we need to do,’’ DeWitt said.
Marlins President David Samson said the team also is happy at Roger Dean but he added that it’s too early to discuss what kind of upgrades the Marlins might want to stay beyond 2027.
“It’s very hard to even think about what might be needed,” he said. “At the very least, renovations will be required but for now it’s not exactly on our radar.”
The Nationals and Astros will be tied to leases that expire in 2045. The county wants the Cardinals and Marlins to extend to the same year, to ensure spring training stability in the region over the next 30 years.
But the Jupiter teams want to wait until around 2023 before they start negotiating an extension. One issue will be the price tag for stadium improvements — costs that the county wants the town of Jupiter to help cover.
“First, get the ballpark deal done with the other two teams and (then the Cardinals and Marlins can) kind of take stock of what that means for us,’’ DeWitt said.
“As we look well out into the future, we want to stay in southeast Florida and this is obviously a big step in that direction for us in terms of how we look at it long term.’’
An important factor the Cardinals will consider as part of their lease extension is the experience of their loyal St. Louis fan base in Jupiter.
The Cardinals averaged 6,573 fans for their 15-game season at Roger Dean Stadium this season, down slightly from 6,914 in 2014. The revamped Marlins averaged 5,071, up from 4,304 last year.
“Cardinals fans, you see them when they come down here, staying in the hotels and going to the beaches and coming to the ballgames. It’s an amazing tradition. It is portable to some extent, but we’d just assume keep it here and keep it going in Jupiter,’’ DeWitt said.
The Cardinals also are keeping a close eye on development around the stadium, including the Abacoa Town Center.
“There are things we’d like to improve on and we are watching the development adjacent everywhere around the ballpark carefully as it relates to the fan experience. Parking is one issue,’’ DeWitt said.
Townhomes and other additions have filled the formerly huge expanse of surface parking near the stadium, with more to come.
‘‘Obviously, the retail has gone through some cycles and seems to be picking up yet again with the new proposal for some additional retail.’’
While the county begins talks with Jupiter about whether the town will pitch in to pay for upgrades to keep the stadium running through 2045, DeWitt is optimistic but cautious.
“We’d love to stay and we’d love to extend but I think we need to wait and see a little bit more before we even start talking about that stuff,” he said.
“All those things that hopefully will come into play will set the stage for something that we can work on with the county.’’
Roger Dean Stadium attendance
St. Louis Cardinals
2015 — 98,599 (15 games, average 6,573)
2014 – 96,791 (14 games, average 6,914)
2013 – 98,715 (16 games, average 6,170)
2012 – 85,857 (13 games, average 6,604)
2011 – 92,652 (15 games, average 6,177)
2010 – 96,910 (14 games, average 6,922)
2009 – 101,740 (18 games, average 5,652)
2008 – 87,596 (14 games, average 6,257)
2007 – 102,619 (15 games, average 6,841)
2006 – 99,054 (15 games, average 6,604)
2005 – 95,352 (14 games, average 6,810)
* Does not include Thursday’s game
2015 – 70,990 (14 games ave 5,071)
2014 – 60,260 (14 games, average 4,304)
2013 – 65,496 (15 games, average 4,366)
2012 – 126,921 (16 games, average 7,935)
2011 – 70,450 (16 games, average 4,403)
2010 – 72,574 (15 games, average 4,838)
2009 – 69,726 (17 games, average 4,102)
2008 – 127,093 (18 games, average 7,061)
2007 – 78,093 (16 games, average 4,894)
2006 – 67,015 (14 games, average 4,787)
2005 – 86,429 (15 games, average 5,762)
Source: Florida Sports Foundation