A new spring fling ...
As Rays officials gathered in Port Charlotte on Monday morning for groundbreaking ceremonies for the renovated spring training facility, principal owner Stuart Sternberg said what was obvious: "What you're looking at today will be completely different in a year and a half.''
The Rays have big plans for the facility that was used previously by the Texas Rangers, essentially a complete overhaul, and will move there for the 2009 preseason.
At the new location, the Rays will also be able to have their full major-league spring training at one site (rather than splitting it between the Naimoli Complex and Al Lang Stadium) and will also have their minor-leaguers on site, which manager Joe Maddon said will be a huge benefit in teaching and evaluating. In addition to the stadium field, there are 1 1/2 major-league practice field and four minor-league fields.
Among the highlights of improvements are a new 40,000 square-foot clubhouse and administrative office building and new clubhouses; berm areas along the left- and rightfield lines along with a Kids Zone; new seats, concession and merchandise areas; and an outfield boardwalk that will allow for 360-degree circulation around the ballpark.
The renovation is being designed by HOK Sport, which did Clearwater's Bright House Networks Field, and built by Hunt Construction, which worked on the Trop as well as Bright House, the St. Pete Times Forum, Raymond James Stadium and the new Bucs training facility.