Early each Spring, the New York Mets pack up and leave the chilly Northeast for warmer climes in Florida, where they have a second home at the Clover Park Spring Training Facility in Port St. Lucie. The weather is warm and the sun shines most of the day with sandy, Atlantic coast beaches just a few miles away. There’s not much to complain about. Except the dated, aging training facility itself.
The Mets approached architecture firm EwingCole about the prospect of transforming the existing stadium and training facility into something more modern – while keeping most of its existing bones. EwingCole’s team, including Architect Scott Nixon, had numerous ideas for bringing the building – originally built in the 1970s – into the 21st century.
FIVE-T-CO, the firm responsible for the 12-story Kennedy Space Center headquarters building, was brought on board, as well as Barton Malow as Construction Manager. Jud Tucker, FIVE-T-CO vice president, said “It was one extensive renovation. The existing stadium was mostly concrete with integral-colored CMU walls. It was very closed off; the concourses were very narrow which discouraged fans from experiencing the concourse and buying concessions.”
In a Pickle
The timeline for renovation was demanding. Construction couldn’t begin until the team completed 2019 spring training, and had to be complete before the team was due to return in February 2020. So, EwingCole got to work on the design. “We began by programming and master-planning the whole 100-acre campus,” said Nixon. “Where does it make sense to put additional practice fields, a new home clubhouse? Where does it make sense to put hitting tunnels, weight, and training rooms, all the different functions that need to happen for the convenience of players and coaches to train?”
All Bases Covered
Using CENTRIA® products was an early and easy decision. “Anyone that's in the business knows CENTRIA is pretty much on top,” said Tucker. “They are the Cadillac of metal wall panels.” The massive $57M project called for 17,000 square feet of Intercept Entyre modular metal panels, 8,000 square feet of CS- 200 concealed fastener panels, and 1,000 square feet of perforated EcoScreen BR5-36 screenwalls. “We've used CENTRIA before,” said EwingCole’s Scott Nixon. “They're actually our go-to metal panel manufacturer and have been for longer than my 16 years at EwingCole.”
Though Florida’s weather provides a warm respite from bitter northeast winters, it also presented its own design challenges. Hurricane threats meant the new exterior cladding had to meet design load criteria for high velocity hurricane zone compliance and large missile impact. Intercept Entyre is one of the only metal panels that meets these requirements. The Sunshine State’s sunny days can also do a number on finishes, but CENTRIA’s coating systems had that covered too. As Nixon remarked, “We trusted CENTRIA the most to give us the best product with the least chance of fading over the years.”
Major League Renovations
EwingCole’s impressive redesign of Clover Park included not only a recladding of the entire façade but many other improvements to the facility and its traffic flow. The small, gated entrances on the 1st and 3rd base sides were replaced with a new central entrance behind home plate with a large shade canopy clad in CENTRIA panels. A new central spine following the line of home plate out into the parking lot allows fans to safely walk along this path to the expanded entry plaza. Overall, the whole facility – previously a closed, stuffy structure – became much more open. A large new portal into the seating bowl was created behind home plate to provide a dramatic arrival experience. Other existing portals were also widened to further connect the stadium concourse with views to the field.
The rest of the facility is just as impressive. In addition to the field in the main stadium, the spring training facility is home to an additional synthetic turf field, four training fields, two infields, half fields, quarter fields, a bunting field, a large weight room and a ten-lane pitching tent. EwingCole wanted to make the ideal space for the Mets to train. “The players walk out of their clubhouse and are right there in the middle of four different fields,” said Nixon.
Though EwingCole had the building’s original drawings in hand, as the project moved ahead, they would sometimes encounter parts of the structure which didn’t match the drawings. “Numerous times we would find surprises or things that weren't done per the drawings as expected,” said Nixon. “From an architect standpoint, and from a builder standpoint, those can be big challenges during a project.” But Tucker said the team was undaunted, and between FIVE-T-CO, EwingCole and Barton Malow, they were able to complete this challenging job on time. “It was a pleasure working with Barton Malow and their team,” said Tucker. “They understood the things we were up against when we came across some of these problems and they were very good to work with.”
As a special design feature, a series of fins or tall piers were created which radiate out from the main stadium at staggered intervals. Clad in CENTRIA’s Intercept Entyre ¾” and CS-200 concealed fastener panels in a custom Mets blue, Gentian Blue, yellow and orange, these stunning fins each feature larger-than-life graphics of former Mets players becoming a signature part of the architecture.
Taking approximately eight months to complete, the reimagined, reclad, and rejuvenated Clover Park reopened in late February 2020 – just in time for the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic. But as restrictions have lifted, fans are pouring in, and love having their team back it Port St. Lucie surrounded with better style than ever before.