Lakeland’s 89-year love story with the Tigers

Keep reading for our favorite local love story.

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Henley Field in Lakeland (1965)

Photo via the Lakeland Public Library

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Detroit has called Lakeland its second home for nearly 90 years, making it the longest-standing relationship between a team and its host spring city in the Major Leagues and one of the richest in MLB history.

Although there’s no crying in baseball, here’s how Lakeland and Detroit pitched a tissue-worthy love story.

The history of the Lakeland Flying Tigers

1923 | Lakeland’s first love: The Cleveland Indians arrived to train at Henley Field and brought an economic boom to the city in 1923. In 1927, the Indians and Lakeland parted ways.

A black and white photo of the Cleveland Indians in Lakeland, circa 1924.

Cleveland Indians (Spring 1924)

Photo via Florida Memory

1934 | The meet-cute: Lakeland invited the Detroit Tigers to come train for a year, trying to fill a baseball-sized economic hole in its heart. Before meeting, Detroit had trained at 10 sites. The team ended up signing a 37-year contract to stay in LAL.

A black and white photo of the Lakeland Flying Tigers circa 1937.

Detroit Tigers (Spring 1937)

1960 | Nuclear family: The Lakeland Flying Tigers were first a love child between Lakeland and Cleveland. In 1963, Detroit added Lakeland to its farming system, changing its name to The Lakeland Tigers.

1966 | Moving in: The Tigers moved into Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium which sat 4,900 people upon opening. Before it was the spring training field for the Detroit Tigers, the land under the stadium was where thousands of pilots across the globe were trained. To pay homage to the original use for the land, the team was renamed the Lakeland Flying Tigers.

A black and white photo of airplanes circa 1942.

Airplanes at the Lodwick School of Aeronautics in Lakeland (1942)

2014 | Renewing vows: The Tigers signed on to train in Lakeland for 20 more years, marking what will be a 100-year spring training relationship by 2036. The deal called for a $47 million upgrade for the stadium by the spring of 2017.

2023 | The future: The Tigers extended their lease through December 2044, and the City of Lakeland approved a $33 million project for the team. The project will include new team dormitories, recreation areas, and a cafeteria; Joker Marchant Stadium would be unaffected.

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