Cardinals, Marlins ready for construction 'headaches' with $108 million spring training makeover
Updated: Feb 12
BATTING HELMETS WON’T be the only hard hats worn around Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium over the next few years.
The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals are gearing up to launch a $108 million “modernization” of their shared spring training home, which opened in 1998 off Donald Ross Road in Jupiter.
Work on the upgrades will start in late March, so it will be business as usual for players and fans when spring training starts next week. Player workouts begin next weekend. Grapefruit League games start Feb. 25 and end March 26.
But when the Marlins and Cardinals leave Jupiter on March 27 to start the regular season, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium will turn into a construction zone until the renovations are completed in time for the 2025 spring training season.
Demolition on the Marlins, Cardinals and visitors clubhouses will start around May 1. For spring training 2024, the Cardinals and Marlins plan to set up temporary clubhouses to be built on a practice field just outside the main stadium.
“Obviously there will be some growing pains in the next couple of years with construction, but we know the importance of that and we look forward to being here for another 25 years,’’ John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations for the Cardinals, said Feb. 8 before a “Spring Training Kickoff” breakfast hosted by Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce.
As featured speakers at the breakfast, Mozeliak and Marlins General Manager Kim Ng offered gratitude to Palm Beach County commissioners for approving the construction project last year as part of an agreement that will keep the Marlins and Cardinals in Jupiter through 2049.
A county-issued bond to finance the construction will be repaid over the next 25 years, with the county paying about 34 percent of the debt through a local hotel tax. The state of Florida is paying 28 percent, with the Marlins and Cardinals paying the remaining 38 percent. With interest included, the total payments will be around $178 million.
The improvements will give the Marlins and Cardinals modern amenities comparable to or better than the newest spring training facilities, including The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. The spring home of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, The Ballpark opened in 2017 and cost about $155 million.
The Jupiter facility cost $28 million to build before it opened in 1998 as Roger Dean Stadium.
“We love Jupiter, but knowing we're going to be here for so much longer is so important,’’ Mozeliak said at the breakfast, attended by 200 people asked to pay $45 to $55 to attend at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott.
“When you look at what's being built in Arizona and other places, there was a competitive advantage for some of those teams,'' he said. "So for us to upgrade our headquarters in Jupiter is exciting.’’
The construction will not interrupt the Florida State League this summer or next summer or the 2024 major league Grapefruit League season, although players and fans will have to make more than a few logistical adjustments, said Mike Bauer, the stadium’s general manager.
“It will be temporary locker room facilities for spring training 2024 while we construct around it,’’ Bauer said in an interview after the breakfast.
Those temporary facilities — the teams are still deciding where they will be built — will include as many basic clubhouse amenities as possible, from locker rooms and showers to training rooms and laundry.
The teams might also rent weight and training facilities outside the ballpark.
“We plan to play baseball next spring, of course. It’s more of a logistical challenge on how we think about where players shower and change,’’ Mozeliak told the chamber attendees.
“The bottom line is in 2024 there's going to be baseball in Jupiter. It will be sort of our headaches to navigate the next two years, but in the end it’s going to be worth it.’’
Fans will be able to see the first changes this year: Two new high-resolution scoreboards in the main stadium.
But most of the work will be done in two phases starting at the end of spring training 2023.
The first phase will start at the end of March with the construction of a 3,000-square-foot team store and replacing the metal bleachers in the left field corner with permanent and more comfortable seating. The corner will have a new “Group Fan Experience” with a bar and televisions.
The right field corner will have a new elevated picnic area; below it will be a changing room for umpires, who now use the visiting team locker room.
“I think the fans will love the changes,’’ said Mozeliak.
Beyond the outfield walls will be bullpens, which are now located on the field between the bleachers and the foul lines.
The second phase will start in May when the existing team clubhouses will be demolished. New clubhouses will be built with modern amenities such as weight rooms, kitchens staffed by chefs and a dining room where major leaguers will dine with minor leaguers in February and March.
The new clubhouses, expected to cost a combined $68 million, will be ready when the Marlins and Cardinals return to Jupiter for spring training 2025.
“I think behind the curtains is where we needed to really put some dollars,’’ said Mozeliak, who called the project a "modernization" of the aging Roger Dean ballpark.
The new Marlins clubhouse will have an oval shape while the renovated Cardinals clubhouse will be rectangular.
The Marlins clubhouse will be so nice, “I’m not sure our guys are going to want to break camp to go back down to the Miami stadium,’’ Marlins GM Ng said with a laugh.
Players will also get new seven-lane covered batting cages with audio visual screen allowing them to study their swings.
The renovations won't add seats to Roger Dean, which can hold about 6,800 people.
Not only will the finished renovations offer a better experience for fans, they just might make visiting players envious, too.
“This whole facility is just going to be quite the display for all of those around Florida who are coming,’’ Ng said. “Free agents, potential free agents from other clubs. When they see this, this is going to be a huge attraction.’’
By 2025, a new sound system and Wi-Fi will be available throughout the ballpark.
Both team officials were quick to lavish praise on county and city officials for making the renovations happen.
Although the team is based in Miami, the Marlins are “pillars of the community” in Palm Beach County, Ng said.
Likewise, Mozeliak said, the Cardinals consider Jupiter more than just as a second home.
“When I think about the importance of Jupiter and what it means to the St. Louis Cardinals, it's really become our second headquarters,’’ he said. “To see us invest in it and to see you guys invest in it is really important not only to the Marlins but also the Cardinals and we are really grateful for that.’’
IN OTHER HIGHLIGHTS from the breakfast, Ng was asked about the significance of being named by the Marlins in November 2020 as the first female general manager in a professional North American sports league. Here is her edited reply:
“I’m just Kim doing my job every day. That’s all I’ve ever done. The moments when people ask that question, when little girls come up and ask for my autograph, is when it really hits me in terms of what I've done. Or when my mom watches me in an interview and says, ‘You should be wearing pearls.’…
“On an everyday basis you're just going through the grind. ... But when you think about it, it is very cool. I think if I ever had an outer body experience I would think it was amazingly cool. I can see a lot of women in here, they look at me, and I think to myself, I'm just Kim. But I do realize I do have this platform. And it is important and I take that with a lot of responsibility in always trying to grow my reputation for the sake of all the women out here.’’
Asked what advice she would give to a woman considering a job in sports management, she said: “It’s not for the faint of heart. It has gotten a lot better because of people like Mo (Mozeliak) and some of the folks I've been around who are very open-minded. We are seeing women break into many disciplines within baseball operations, from scouting, player development, the medical side, in front office, analytics. You have to be persistent and you have to have thick skin but I can tell you that it’s worth the wait.’’
Mozeliak explained why he never wears his World Series ring from the Cardinals’ 2011 championship.
“They're, like, super sweet to get one. I think about 2011 when we won the World Series. I was sitting upstairs with our owner enjoying a nice glass of wine. Actually, a fabulous glass of wine. It was a ‘92 Lafite. And as we were sipping it, the only thing I was thinking about was the next day Tony LaRussa was going to resign and in the next couple of weeks I knew we were going to have the (Albert) Pujols negotiations.
"So my point is: Every day we wake up and our goal is to win a World Series. That’s what drives us. But that moment is, like, fleeting. You get to that top and it’s like, ‘OK, what’s next?’ And that’s what drives you. Part of the reason I don't wear one is I don’t ever want to get comfortable with it because I always want to get another one.’’
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years writing for newspapers, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.