- Chris Green
Joker Marchant Stadium – Lakeland Flying Tigers
Photos by Chirs Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Joker Marchant Stadium 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd Lakeland, FL 33805
Lakeland Flying Tigers website Joker Marchant Stadium website
Year Opened: 1966 Capacity: 8,500
Flying Like A Tiger
The Flying Tigers aren’t exactly in Orlando or Tampa – they’re smack dab right in-between in Lakeland. Easily driven past while en route to one of the two aforementioned major Florida cities while on I-4, this idyllic Central Florida town is the perfect location to feature minor league baseball without the hassles of Florida’s business. The team plays in a stunningly beautiful stadium, features a unique logo and color scheme that pays homage to Florida’s aviation history, and is also close enough to both cities to not be too far of a drive.
Food & Beverage 4
The food options in Lakeland are plentiful, and feature both your standard ballpark classics as well as twists on your everyday sports favorites; hot dogs and burgers ($4-$6 and $7.50 respectively) are on the list, as is pizza from Little Caesar’s ($5 for a slice or $15 for a whole pizza). Drinks range from $4 for a Mike’s Hard Lemonade to $7 for premium drafts, while bottomless popcorn ($10) comes served in a batting helmet at Publix Field, as do Chili Cheese Fries ($7). But perhaps the most unique option on the menu is the “Nothin’ but a Hound” Dog, a grilled hot dog covered in Memphis BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and chips.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Parker, Joker Marchant Stadium is stunning thanks to its latest renovation in 2017. A beautifully manicured outside parking area welcomes visitors, and the interior of the stadium is equally as clean. Once inside, the concourse is easy to navigate with signage all over the facility to direct you to where you want to go. In addition, safety is of top concern here, with protective netting covering the entirety of the left and right field lines all the way to the end of the seating – this means fans can enjoy the game without worrying about leaving the game with a concussion from a fly ball. However, the lack of crowds during day games in the middle of the summer is a drag on that vaunted “stadium feel” one looks for when visiting minor league baseball venues.
Lakeland isn’t a sprawling metropolis. That said, it features everything you need for your visit to be enjoyable. First off, Orlando and Tampa are almost equidistant from Lakeland, about 30 minutes away in either direction along I-4.
For lodging options nearby, your closest options are right off I-4, a few miles from the stadium; here you can find Motel 6, La Quinta, and Ramada. For food, that same I-4 exit yields Bob Evans, Subway, Five Guys, and more, as well as Harry’s Seafood or Molly McHugh’s Irish Pub. Lastly, for things to see and do, the Fantasy of Flight air museum is just a 15-minute drive east on I-4, and Dinosaur World is almost the same distance traveling west.
Downtown Lakeland itself has experienced a revitalization in recent years, with historic shops and restaurants finding new life. You can easily find a great drink at some local bars like Revival Lakeland.
As with any Florida League team, the weather is a big deterrent for the average fan attending a game – it’s either going to be really hot or really rainy on any given day. That said, the fans in Lakeland do turn out on weekends and for evening games, and a loyal contingent of locals have embraced the team. In addition, the design of Joker Marchant Stadium helps amplify the cheering sounds, making it seem a lot more packed than it might actually be.
To get to Tigertown, I-4 is the best bet; exit 33 on I-4 will drop you off just a few miles north of the stadium. From here, drive south on Lakeland Hills Blvd and Joker Marchant Stadium will be right outside your car window. On-site parking is plentiful, and signage on the highway helps direct you to the right exit when driving by.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices for Flying Tigers games begin at $9 and go up to $12, which is pretty standard for ticket pricing in the Florida State League. For the price of admission, however, you get to see MiLB in a beautiful facility in a beautiful location. With concessions prices relatively inexpensive as well, the Flying Tigers provide the perfect opportunity for a family to visit a minor league ballpark that isn’t a nightmare to get to, and is relatively close to two of Florida’s biggest cities.
The stadium features a statue outside the main entrance of Publix founder George Jenkins and Joker Marchant, the city of Lakeland’s longtime parks and recreation director, for whom the stadium is named. You can also find both the starting lineups and a painted map of all of Florida’s Spring Training and MiLB teams on the walls of the main concourse.
Photo by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
The facility also features player autograph sessions before some games, meaning fans get to meet some of tomorrow’s stars today.
Publix Field at Joker Merchant Stadium is a beautiful facility thanks to its latest renovation, and the Flying Tigers are a team that tends to get lost in the shuffle of Florida’s bustling sports world, but is no less deserving of a visit. Located perfectly between Orlando and Tampa, this facility is close enough to both metropolises to be a short drive, while also a nice break from city life. Easily one of the best facilities in the Florida State League, things are looking up for the Flying Tigers.