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Event Supports Major League Baseball’s “Play Ball” Initiative

Lakeland, FL – The Lakeland Flying Tigers have teamed up with Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs and the City of Lakeland to host local youth during a free baseball clinic as part of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) support of Major League Baseball’s “Play Ball” initiative, which focuses on the fun nature of baseball and encourages widespread participation in related activities. During the month of August 2015, or “Play Ball Month,” mayors are implementing the initiative throughout cities with the goal of strengthening the connection between communities and the National Pastime. 
The free clinic will take place at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday, August 8 from 
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and is open to kids ages 5-12.  Kids will learn fundamentals from Flying Tigers players and participate in skills challenges on the field.  Lunch will be provided following the clinic compliments of the Detroit Tigers Foundation of Florida. 
        Mayors across the country are hosting similar activities to engage citizens, families, and city departments to organize individual and community events (such as playing catch, running bases in the backyard, family gatherings, park and recreation activities, business-supported activities, etc.). These activities will be focused on strengthening bonds between families and communities with baseball through baseball-related activities. 
“The National Play Ball program has enormous value for our community and represents some of the best things in our country: Our national past-time–baseball, cooperation between many groups to serve citizens, and a focus on healthy family fun,” Mayor Wiggs said.  “I believe that this will be the first of many years for a great community event. My thanks to Ron Myers and The Tigers, and to Bob Donahay and his team.” 
This component of the Play Ball initiative focuses on recruiting a minimum of one city in as many of the 50 states as possible to promote and support “Play Ball Month” through baseball related activities. Primary targets are cities with Major League and Minor League Baseball clubs, although the initiative toolkit and self-reporting strategy will be electronically distributed to hundreds of cities across the country, with the assistance of Major League Baseball. Local leaders and citizens will report their activities to via PlayBall. org serves as the initiative’s online home and is accessible via, and other partner websites. Coaching tips and video demonstrations will be a prominent component of the site. also provides parents, coaches and kids with information on how to get involved with Play Ball activities, links to youth-related news and events, and searchable maps with links on how to join community baseball leagues. Health and safety information, including the Pitch Smart initiative, also will be available. 
        The Flying Tigers are a Class A Affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  For more information please visit the Flying Tigers online or call 863-686-8075. 


LAKELAND, FL (July 18, 2014) -- The City of Lakeland and the Detroit Tigers have reached agreement on the terms and conditions that will be included in a contract that will extend the City’s relationship with the organization another 20 years.  The current contract signed in 2000 expires December 31, 2016.  The new contract will solidify the Detroit Tigers continuing their Spring Training, their Class A Minor League operations with the Flying Tigers and their rehabilitative program at Joker Marchant Stadium and the TigerTown Complex through 2036.

City Manager Doug Thomas said, “The parties approached the negotiations with a win-win attitude and I am very pleased that both the City and the Tigers were able to accomplish our respective desired outcomes.  We have developed a package that is cost effective for the City and continues to support the estimated $45 million in economic benefits associated with Spring Training and additional $18 million in economic impacts from the Flying Tigers to our community.  In return, the Tigers will be provided contemporary facilities designed to enhance player development and improve the fan experience so it will allow them to remain competitive with their counterparts in Major League Baseball. 

In anticipation of a new agreement, the parties have been involved in a process over the last two years that included tours of all the spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona to view best practice designs and to better understand the standards that are expected at current MLB facilities. The tours were followed up with a critical evaluation of the current configuration of Joker Marchant Stadium and the Tigertown Complex to identify the areas that would require improvements to allow the Tigers and the City to have facilities reflective of the market required for another 20 – 30 year contract period.  

“The Detroit Tigers are thrilled this new agreement will ensure the ball club will maintain its winter home in the City of Lakeland for an unprecedented 100 years,” said David Dombrowski, Tigers President, CEO and General Manager. “We are thankful and appreciative of the long-standing relationship with the City of Lakeland, Polk County and the State of Florida that in terms of years is second to none in all of Major League Baseball. 

The proposed design of the complex calls for separate Major and Minor League clubhouses that will be constructed; improved and realigned seating areas including additional shading; a 360 degree walk around layout to allow fans to be in constant view of the game; upgraded concession and new vending areas; expanded press box facilities in response to growing media interest with international players; a new artificial field surface in the minor league complex; new team cafeteria equipment; various improvements throughout the complex to assist in player development and rehabilitation; and overall improved layout and security features consistent with MLB security measures.

Melony Bell, Chair of the Polk County Tourist Development Council said, “Polk County has enjoyed a strong relationship with the Detroit Tigers for 78 years. With today’s announcement, we look forward to welcoming them back for another 20 years. According to the Florida Sports Foundation, the annual economic impact of the average Major League Baseball spring training operation in Florida is $47 million. We feel strongly that the Tigers have far more impact than that. Whether a Tigers fan chooses to come to Polk County for a month, or just drive to Lakeland for a day of baseball, all of our residents benefit from sales generated when these tourists are here.” 

R. Todd Danzler, Chairman of the Polk Board of County Commissioners said, “This announcement is great news for Polk County. We appreciate the Detroit Tigers’ long-term commitment to Lakeland. The Tigers bring more than just spring baseball to the county. Their presence through their minor league affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers and other uses of the ballpark bring crowds to Joker Marchant Stadium year round. Undoubtedly, our hotels, rental homes, restaurants and other recreational facilities benefit during the spring season when the Tigers are in our community.”

Specifics of the agreement include the following terms: 

•       A total of $37 million will be available for capital improvements to the Joker Marchant Stadium and Tigertown Complex, to be completed and ready for occupancy by the Tigers in January 2017.  The City contemplates a bond issue for the capital costs that will be amortized from the following sources:

–      The State of Florida, through the Spring Training Retention Program will fund $1 million per year for 20 years.

–      The Polk County Tourist Development Council will fund an income stream capable of amortizing a total of $14,560,000, payable over 20 years, or 39.4% of project costs, with total project costs not to exceed $37 million.

–      The Tigers will provide funding through the payment of $530,000 per year to the City for 20 years, with such payments taking the form of rent, coupled with a management services fee, the latter of which includes CPI adjustments every five years.

–      The City will fund an estimated $190,000 per year for 20 years. 

Dombrowski said, “We believe the extensive enhancements to TigerTown will offer the loyal and passionate fans in Lakeland and the legions of Tigers fans that travel to Florida with a one-of-a-kind Spring Training experience. Lakeland plays a significant role year-round in the Tigers baseball operations and the planned renovations will provide the players with a state-of-the-art development and rehabilitation facility, certain to be amongst the best in all of baseball.”

Mayor Howard Wiggs said, “We truly appreciate the partnerships with the Detroit Tigers, the State of Florida, the Central Florida Tourist and Development Council, and the City Commission for their financial support for the successor agreement.  I would also like to thank our local legislative delegation, the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, and local baseball supporters John and Becky Rodda, Robert Puterbaugh and others who helped the City in our efforts to amend the State's Spring Training Retention Bill which was a critical component in our negotiations.”

“Congratulations to the Detroit Tigers, the City of Lakeland and Polk County for extending the longest spring training relationship between a community and a Major League Baseball team," said Florida Sports Foundation President John Webb.  "This lease extension is a salute to the professionalism of all parties involved and the heritage and tradition both have enjoyed for almost eight decades.  This agreement will continue their partnership to over 100 years of a mutually beneficial relationship.  This unmatched partnership is a good example of Florida's strong sports industry and ensures Major League Baseball Spring Training will remain in the area for future generations to enjoy."





LAKELAND, FL (March 7, 2014) -- Mayor Wiggs invites Lakeland residents to participate in a new communications program that allows them to spend face-to-face time with the Mayor.  Residents can talk to the Mayor about any issue and depending upon the number of attendees, the one-on-one chats will last either 5 or 10 minutes.  Mayor Wiggs said, “The one-on-one meetings will allow me to better understand the views of our residents and to hear their concerns first hand. I am looking forward to meeting Lakeland residents and share ideas as we continue to move forward."

Scheduling is on a first come, first served basis.  The meetings will take place at City Hall in the Mayor’s Office on the 1st Monday of each month from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.  City Hall is located at 228 S. Massachusetts Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33801. Dates for the Mayor’s evening hours are as follows:

·      April 7, 2014

·      May 5, 2014

·      June 2, 2014

·      July 7, 2014

·      August 4, 2014

·      September 2, 2014

·      October 6, 2014

·      November 3, 2014

·      December 1, 2014

For those interested in participating, please contact the Mayor's Office at 863/834-6005 to schedule time with Mayor Wiggs during his evening office hours. To assist in scheduling and preparation, residents will be asked to provide information about the subjects they wish to discuss with the Mayor.  For more information regarding City of Lakeland services, events and programs, go to






LAKELAND, FL (February 25, 2014) - Mayor Howard Wiggs invites you to become involved with the City of Lakeland by volunteering on one of the seven newly established task forces that have been created to help make Lakeland a better place to live, work and play.  A brief description of each task force is listed below.  Those interested in serving on a Task Force must be a customer of Lakeland Electric.  An easy to use form is on-line at


AGING/QUALITY OF LIFE TASK FORCE - The Task Force will serve as a forum to share information and to promote inter-agency understanding.  The group will work together as advocates, educators and legislative activists to address the issues of older adults.


ARTS AND CULTURE EVALUATION TASK FORCE - This Task Force will review funding needs to help support arts and cultural programs. There is a great interest in this area and in improving the coordination of the arts in Lakeland and clearly has budgetary implications that will need to be addressed both short and long term.  


BUSINESS EVALUATION TASK FORCE - The Task Force will review City regulations and ordinances; they will evaluate processes for permitting and inspections; they will discuss the possible creation of a small business Small Business Liaison and how that position would be used.  The group will discuss what changes might be needed to improve Lakeland’s business friendly environment. 

CODE REVIEW TASK FORCE - This Task Force will undertake a comprehensive review of the City’s Code of Ordinances.  The group will identify and address outdated codes that may no longer be relevant to our community and organization.   

GANG TASK FORCE - This Task Force will explore how our community can respond to the negative impacts of gang-related activities. This group will work with outreach programs and representatives from law enforcement, Community Development and Parks & Recreation Department, the Polk County School Board, faith-based organizations and other community/neighborhood associations.  The group will discuss the current state of affairs and outline a comprehensive strategy in response to the destructive nature of gangs and their related violence to help protect the future of our youth.

NEIGHBORHOOD IMPROVEMENT TASK FORCE - This Task Force will discuss how the needs of the City’s neighborhoods can be better addressed.  The team will evaluate how Code Enforcement may be more effective in the neighborhoods.  The group will make recommendations as to how the Neighborhood Association Coalition might operate more effectively and if the structure should be modified.  There will be a focus on citizen engagement and ways to improve our neighborhoods.  

SOCIAL MEDIA TASK FORCE - The Task Force will evaluate social media effectiveness to determine ways in which the City of Lakeland might improve current social media programs to enhance citizen engagement.  The group will provide recommendations on social media tools and strategies, assist emerging City agencies on social media, evaluate new social media platforms and update social media guidelines and policies.

For more information regarding the City of Lakeland, please visit our website at