Florida – Vero Beach: Holman Stadium
The Dodgertown complex was one of the traditional institutions of the Grapefruit League. In addition to serving as the spring training site of the Brooklyn, and later the Los Angeles Dodgers for 60 years, it has also hosted a single-A Florida State League team since 1980 (Vero Beach Dodgers, 1980-2006; Vero Beach Rays, 2007-present).

In 1948, local entrepreneur Bud Holman convinced Branch Rickey and Walter O’Malley to establish his teams operations in the quiet, beachside town of Vero Beach. Spring training had been a mostly itinerant thing, with teams moving around looking for intrasquad games. Rickey imagined a baseball academy where players from all 26-farm clubs could be trained in the Dodger way. He also needed an insular environment that would provide normalcy for Jackie Robinson, who he had signed to cross baseball’s color line, in the deeply segregated South.

In the first season, the Dodgers split time between Vero Beach and Puerto Rico. 1949 was the first season that saw the full team spend the entirety of spring in Dodgertown. Prior to 1952, the Dodgers signed a 21-year lease with the city and build the current 220-acre Dodgertown complex on a former naval base. The players were put up in former Naval barracks. O’Malley envisioned a state of the art complex that would not only be fan friendly, but would also cater to a player’s every need (and desire to leave the facility).

A few months after signing their lease, the Dodgers invested $100,000 to build Holman Stadium, and 1,500 steel chairs were brought from Ebbets Field. Holman Stadium, designed by Norman Bel Geddes, who designed the Futurama building at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and engineered by Captain Emil Praeger, who also engineered Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, is unique for its open-air dugouts. There was no outfield wall until 1971, when a chain-link fence was added after Philadelphia’s Richie Allen ran into a plam tree. In 1984, the stadium seating was removed and replaced with 6,474 chair-back seats. Relatively unchanged, Holman Stadium still retains most of its original charm.

In 1973, the barracks were replaced with a new administration building and "villa" style sleeping quarters. In 1991, Dodgertown expanded with an Executive Building, a professional fitness center, and indoor batting cages. In 2003 a new Dodgers Administration Building/Major League Clubhouse and adjoining training facilities were constructed adjacent to Holman Stadium.

In 2001, the Dodgers considered moving their operations to Arizona, but the city of Vero Beach persuaded them to stay by purchasing the Dodgertown complex from the team and leasing it back for $1 per year. In 2008, The Dodgers played a last string of games, concluding with a March 17 finale, at Dodgertown before moving to $80 million complex in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.

In addition to baseball, the Holman Stadium complex and conference center have hosted training sessions by the New Orleans Saints, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Miami Hurricanes, the Chunichi Dragons of Japan, the Osaka Buffaloes (Japan) and the LG Twins from Korea.

By wallyg on 2008-03-02 12:03:21
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ZOMO writerSportsFlorida - Vero Beach: Holman StadiumThe Dodgertown complex was one of the traditional institutions of the Grapefruit League. In addition to serving as the spring training site of the Brooklyn, and later the Los Angeles Dodgers for 60 years, it has also hosted a single-A Florida State League team...News&Hot Stuff