Marlins-Cardinals throw stadium renovation schedule a sharp curve
IT WILL BE business as usual next spring at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium — just baseball and no construction activity — for the Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and their fans
The Marlins and Cardinals have revised the timeline on the $108 million renovation of their shared ballpark, a two-year project that was supposed to have started two months ago.
A new schedule calls for work to start in April, at the conclusion of spring training 2024. The teams are sticking with their original end date on the construction timeline – February 2025, when the staff and players begin arriving for that year’s Major League Baseball spring training.
The new timeline, first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, means the Marlins and Cardinals won't have to hold spring training next year around an active construction zone, as originally planned. But it also means the teams will have just 10 months to complete an ambitious project originally intended to be built over two years.
Several factors led to the new schedule, including delays in getting key town approvals and a reconsideration of plans by the teams to use tents and makeshift facilities as temporary clubhouses during spring training 2024.
The original timeline, announced publicly for the first time at a Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce breakfast Feb. 8, called for the teams’ original clubhouses, built in 1997, to be torn down at the end of spring training 2023. That meant the Marlins and Cardinals in 2024 would have to set up temporary clubhouses on some of their practice fields, a move that would have eliminated the availability of those fields for players preparing for the upcoming season.
But as the teams looked deeper into the idea, new concerns prompted them to reconsider.
Fawley Bryant Architects animation of renovated Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, shown to Jupiter Town Council on Aug. 15, 2023.
“The temporary facilities were going to be challenging. You’ve got to meet hurricane wind loads. There's a lot to it in setting them up with utilities,’’ said Mike Bauer, the stadium’s general manager.
“They would have been very professional with AC and power and water and everything we need. It's just operationally, cost and everything, it turned out to be a lot.’’
Under the revised timeline, the Marlins and Cardinals will spend one more spring training in their original clubhouses, which will be 27 years old in 2024. Right after the last team buses depart for the start of the 2024 regular MLB season, those clubhouses will come down, setting off a 10-month sprint to build new ones with modern MLB amenities in time for spring training 2025.
It will be tight, but the Marlins and Cardinals think they can pull it off with minimal headaches.
“By waiting until after spring training (2024), we can do a nice strong 10-month push and have the renovated clubhouses ready enough to move in and not upset any spring training (in 2025) and not have to use those temporary facilities,’’ Bauer said.
“This is just going to be so much better for our players and operationally,’’ he said.
When it’s done, the renovated Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium will have amenities rivaling the newest modern baseball facilities, including:
Modern clubhouses with two-story weight rooms, kitchens staffed by chefs and a dining room where major leaguers will dine with minor leaguers in February and March.
The bullpens, now on the field between bleachers and foul lines, will be moved behind the outfield walls.
For fans, new standup seating with countertops in the left and right field corners, and no more aluminum bleachers in left field.
A 3,000-square-foot team store.
A “Group Fan Experience” with a bar and televisions in the left field corner and a souvenir store underneath.
The teams are planning for the possibility that construction may not be completely finished when the teams arrive for spring training 2025, but they said the bulk of the work, including the clubhouses and fan amenities, will be ready.
“We will have it done enough in a position where we can operate out of,’’ Bauer said.
President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak acknowledged the tight timeline in an interview with the Post-Dispatch, leaving open the possibility the work could take longer.
“Right now, what we’re aiming to do is having spring training in our old complex in 2024,” Mozeliak told the newspaper. “And then the goal would be for those buildings to come down on April 1 (2024). And the goal then would be hopefully to have spring training in the new complex by 2025.”
The Marlins and Cardinals originally expected work to start after the end of spring training 2023; the Cardinals even moved out of some of their offices and equipment rooms.
But while the Marlins and Cardinals have had permits to demolish their clubhouses, the teams didn’t get site plan approvals from the town of Jupiter’s planning and zoning board and Town Council until this past August.
The town did the teams a favor by expediting the site plan review process so the Town Council could consider the site plan just one week after the advisory planning and zoning board’s review. Usually, the town council considers site plans a month or more after they’re reviewed by the planning and zoning board.
“Those are both really two big checkmarks,’’ Bauer said. “Next will be getting our final building permits, which should be very soon (in coming weeks), then we are free and clear.’’
Mozeliak said the teams are not frustrated that the project didn’t get started sooner.
“The realization is you just want to get it right,’’ he told the Post-Dispatch. “There were some things that happened along the way, and it was going to make it more problematic. I do think that having to avoid building that tent city is encouraging as well. We’re in an OK spot.’’
The Cardinals and Marlins both have minor league teams that play Florida State League games at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. The original renovation schedule prompted the teams to move their FSL games this summer to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the spring home of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.
In hindsight, that move might not have been necessary given the new construction timeline. (The Hammerheads won the 2023 Florida State League championship, without playing a game in Jupiter all season.)
Bauer said the temporary FSL move this summer still benefited the overall project because it allowed architects and team representatives free rein at Roger Dean Stadium to finetune their plans without having to work around players.
“Architects are in and out, the construction company is on site, our owners reps are on site. There are constant meetings every day all preplanning and working through permitting,’’ Bauer said.
A decision on whether The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches will host the Marlins and Cardinals for the 2024 FSL season has not been made.
“We are exploring that as we speak,’’ Bauer said. “We don't know if it's going to be onsite or off yet. We are looking at all of our options.’’
The Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium renovations are being financed through a county-issued bond that will be repaid over the next 25 years. The county is paying about 34 percent of the debt through a local hotel tax. The state of Florida is paying 28 percent, and the Marlins and Cardinals paying the remaining 38 percent. With interest included, the total payments will be around $178 million.
The renovations will keep the Marlins and Cardinals in Jupiter through 2049. With the Nationals and Astros locked in at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches through 2047, the county will have four spring training teams within a 10-minute drive of each other for the next 24 years.
That fact wasn’t lost on Jupiter Mayor Jim Kuretski during a Town Council meeting Aug. 15 attended by Tony Brasile, the Marlins’ vice president of facilities, projects and corporate services.
“We have a distinguished member of one of the teams here,’’ Kuretski said before the council unanimously approved the site plan, “and I certainly want to make sure he understands loud and clear that we've always been thrilled and continue to be thrilled that this project is proceeding and that you will continue to be here for years.’’
© 2023 ByJoeCapozzi.com All rights reserved.
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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.