Lee County and the Boston Red Sox are close to a deal that would give the BoSox a new training camp in Lee County in an unspecified location. The plan calls for a new 9,999-seat ballpark, six training field and clubhouse space to be built in Lee County outside Fort Myers.Lee County and the Boston Red Sox are close to a deal that would give the BoSox a new training camp in Lee County in an unspecified location. The plancalls for a new 9,999-seat ballpark, six training field and clubhouse space to be built in Lee County outside Fort Myers.
The Red Sox will pay more in rent for the new facility — $500,000 annually, as opposed to $200,000 now — but will control every penny of revenue generated by the project, which will include berm seating and 10 suites. The ballpark’s design will be pattered after Fenway Park, with a Green Monster and manual scoreboard in left field. The lease will be for 30 years, and there will be no early buyouts. The Red Sox are also expected to bring a Class A Florida State League team to the mix.
Lee County is paying dearly for the privilege of keeping the Sox: $80 million, all generated by 20 percent of the county’s hotel tax. It is not a done deal: it relies now almost entirely on a developer donating 80 acres of land at no charge, most likely in Estero or Bonita Springs.
It is an amazing turn of events for both Lee County and Sarasota. At one point Sarasota had a deal virtually wrapped up in October that would have given the Red Sox a new ballpark in downtown Sarasota’s Payne Park as well as a new training camp at the current Cincinnati Reds facility. However, the deal collapsed when Sarasota officials insisted the Red Sox contribute $10 million toward the project’s $70 million budget — something the Red Sox ownership was not prepared to do. In the end, the Red Sox called Sarasota’s bluff and decided to talk again with Lee County, who presented a funding plan much more to the Red Sox’s liking.
The move ties up the finances of Lee County (which is also paying off bonds on Hammond Stadium, the spring home of the Twins). It does free up City of Palms Park, however, which could become the new spring home of the Orioles. In addition, Sarasota officials are expected to pitch a little woo at the Orioles to play in a refurbished Ed Smith Stadium, while Vero Beach and Indian River County officials keep insisting they’re close to a deal bringing the Orioles to Dodgertown.