After months of negotiations, Lee County agreed to a $42.5-million renovation of the Minnesota Twins' spring-training complex that calls for new fan amenities at Hammond Stadium and upgraded training facilities for players.
The complex hasn't seen major changes since 1991, when the Twins moved in after spending most of the team's history training in Orlando.
The Lee County Board of Commissioners approved $42.5 million in spending today on a 3-1 vote. The county will float $38 million in bonds, backed by tourism taxes, $15 million in payments from the state and an increased rent payment from the Twins, who will commit to 30 more years at the ballpark -- a term that can be extended by 20 more years with two 10-year options. (The Twins have also agreed to spend $3.8 million on player dorms at the complex.) The team plans to use the dorms for year-round player development.
The ballpark will see expanded seating -- from 8,000 to 9,300 -- as well as upgraded concessions and a larger berm area. The work should be done by 2015.
The decision to spend tourism money on the Twins (matching what the county spent on a new spring facility for the Boston Red Sox) was controversial: it basically ties up all tourism-tax proceeds on spring training and leaves nothing to spend on potential upgrades to City of Palms Park for the Washington Nationals. That may be for the best: the Nats are reportedly one of two teams negotiating for a new complex in Kissimmee.
Image courtesy of Lee County.
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