Let’s Play Ball
Professional baseball: The longest Spring Training relationship in Major League Baseball is between the Detroit Tigers and Lakeland, begun in 1934. It is played at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium during February and March. The Tigers offer useful information about attending Spring Training games.
Lakeland is also passionate about its minor league team, the Lakeland Flying Tigers. which has served as the farm team for the Detroit Tigers since 1963. The organization is woven into the community well, with local promotions, contests and guest first pitchers and National Anthem singers. The team offers a fun A-Z Guide on the Lakeland Flying Tigers, everything from batting practice details to foul ball policies.
Professional soccer: The Florida Tropics Soccer Club began playing in 2015 and has had quite a run, making it to the playoffs in 2021. The Tropics are part of the 16-team Major Arena Soccer League, playing home games at the RP Funding Center. The season runs December to March, and ticket prices are reasonable. The Tropics franchise also includes an outdoor soccer team, which plays in the 300-team United Premier Soccer League, playing at Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in nearby Auburndale.
Professional basketball: The Orlando Magic launched its G League development team, the Lakeland Magic, in 2017. The regular season runs November through April, with home games played at the RP Funding Center. The NBA’s G League has 30 teams. Ticket prices range from $10 to $22 for regular season tickets and $40 to $85 for courtside season tickets. The Lakeland Magic offer a helpful Frequently Asked Questions guide.
Amateur & Youth Sports
Water skiing: With an abundance of lakes in both Winter Haven and Lakeland, water skiing is not only a favorite pastime but also a haven for professional skiers. The Lakeland Water Ski Club, established in 1949 and the oldest continuously run ski club in the world, shares its members’ great skill and artistry on Lake Hollingsworth with a season of Sunday-afternoon shows open to the public; it also offers water skiing enthusiasts an outlet for training and activity. Florida Southern College also has a competitive water ski team.
High school football: “As it is throughout the South, football is important in Lakeland, especially in the older, more tradition-laden high schools,” said Jil Bevis, Lakeland High School Booster Club president. “Most players in Polk County and Lakeland began playing youth league football. When hometown high school teams match up on Friday nights, the players all know each other, which makes for great rivalry games.”
Dreadnaught wave: This fairly new tradition between the pediatrics unit at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and Lakeland High’s football players and fans is something you should see at least once: Video – Dreadnaught Wave.
Youth sports: Get information on city of Lakeland youth baseball leagues or sign up for a variety of youth sports. Polk County provides lists of youth leagues for baseball, soccer, football and a few adult leagues. Lakeland Mom offers a thorough round-up of youth sports.
Golf: While Lakeland abounds with private golf courses and golf communities, The Cleveland Heights Golf Course is managed by the city and open to the public; the YMCA Par 3 offers The First Tee program for young golfers.
Pickleball and frisbee golf: Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis. Lakeland boasts two pickleball courts at Kelly Recreation Center and six at Woodlake Park. The YMCA offers pickleball as well. Loyce E. Harpe Park and Holloway Park both have frisbee golf, which involves throwing a frisbee into a basket.
Where to Root for Your Team
Florida-based Beef ‘O’ Brady’s does a good job of honoring requests for TVs to show certain games when you are seated. There are many sports bars in Lakeland, from big chains to local dives. Rumor has it that a lot of Eagles fans can be found at Lucky’s inside Orange Bowl Lanes in North Lakeland. Brewlands Bar & Billiards tends to be a hot spot for Tampa Bay Lightning hockey fans.
Alumni clubs: Speaking of favorite teams, if you have an affinity for the University of Florida Gators or the Florida State University, you’ll find a home with the Polk County Gator Club or the Seminole Club of Polk County.