- By Bill DiPaolo Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Spring training fans will find more shade, new sod, digital menus above the concession stands and spiffed-up luxury skyboxes on Feb. 23, opening day for spring training at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
The $560,000 in improvements are part of the ongoing refinements made to the 7,000-capacity stadium in Abacoa. The park is the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins.
“We try to do something new every year,” said General Manager Mike Bauer.
Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium is owned by Palm Beach County. The Cardinals — known for their vociferous fans with the bright red shirts — and the Marlins signed a lease that expires in 2027.
Meanwhile in West Palm Beach, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is also preparing for spring training. The $150 million spring training facility, which opened last February, hosts the World Series champion Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals during spring training.
The Marlins and Cardinals pay the first $250,000 for the improvements at Roger Dean. The rest of the bill is paid from by Palm Beach County Tourist Development bed taxes.
The goal is to keep spring-training baseball — and the fans who buy tickets, stay in hotels and spend money at local attractions — in north county and Florida. In Palm Beach County, the impact is estimated at more than $50 million a year, according to the county’s Tourist Development Council.
Last year’s spring training games drew about 160,000 fans to Roger Dean. The stadium also is the regular season home of the Florida State League Jupiter Hammerheads (Class A Advanced Affiliate of the Marlins) and Palm Beach Cardinals (Class A Advance Affiliate of the Cardinals).
Recent improvements at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium include:
* SHADE: Shade canopies for fans were installed two years ago for about $2 million. Those canopies created shade for about 1,400 of the about 7,000 seats. The cost for the additional shade canopies is about $60,000.
* NEW SOD: New Celebration Bermuda grass was installed. The grass had not been replaced for nine years. The infield dirt has also been replaced for a total cost of about $100,000.
* SKYBOXES: The six skyboxes, which each hold about 20 people, are being redesigned with new flooring, high-top tables, sinks, refrigerators, furniture and lighting. The work is being done by Jupiter-based V Starr Interiors, a company owned by tennis star Venus Williams. The cost is about $300,000.
* CONCESSION STANDS: Cash-only concession stands will be eliminated. Fans will be able to use credit cards at all stands. Easier-to-read digital menu boards have been installed above the concession stands for a total cost of about $80,000.
* FOUL POLES: Both 40-foot poles were replaced on the left field and right field lines for a cost of about $20,000.