A renovation of Hammond Stadium and the Lee County Sports Complex, spring home of the Minnesota Twins, may or may not feature player dorms and naming rights, as the two sides negotiate a new lease covering some $30 million in improvements.
It’s an unusual situation. In order to qualify for $15 million in state funds from a pot of money designated for keeping spring-training teams in Florida, Lee County had to agree on a lease extension with the team. But the terms of the extension weren’t finalized, and it doesn’t need to be signed until February 2014.
Lee County says it has only $30 million to spend on improvements. The Twins have requested more than that, somewhat to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox — whose JetBlue Park was funded by Lee County as well — and also to keep pace with other spring-training and extended training facilities in MLB. That means the Twins are asking for ballpark improvements like more seating and a wraparound concourse, as well as complex improvements like better training facilities and a player dorm. And the team is asking for one other thing the Red Sox received: the ability to sell naming rights.
The request for player dorms is meeting with resistance from one Lee County commissioner, who wants to see the team continue paying to put up players in local hotels. Summer, of course, is the slow season for most hotels in the area, and having the Twins pay to put up players does make a financial impact.
“I adamantly oppose dorms on the site,” Commissioner Ray Judah told the Naples News, “for the simple reason that the tourist industry funds the upgrades to the complex and we in no way want to undercut the tourism industry to accommodate players. In my opinion, this is a sticking point in the negotiation with the Twins.
“It’s a deal killer.”
Rhetoric aside, this is more a matter of hashing out the details than a standstill in talks: the Twins aren’t moving, and the two sides are actually fairly close on exactly what will be part of the project. Reaching the $30 million mark shouldn’t be hard for either side.
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