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Lee County to seek state ballpark-improvement grant

Minnesota TwinsAlready aiming to fund improvements at Hammond Stadium, the spring home of the Minnesota Twins, Lee County is seeking state assistance as it also works to free up money for the Washington Nationals.

in discussions of the future of spring training in Fort Myers, Lee County commissioners have steadfastly held that any additional tourism-tax revenues not being used to pay down JetBlue Park debt should be used to help fix up Hammond Stadium, which could use a little TLC in terms of upgrades and fan amenities. Makes sense: the Twins have been a good tenant and have expressed keen interest in keeping spring training in Fort Myers.

But with the Washington Nationals showing interest in City of Palms Park if certain conditions are met — like the addition of a practice field or two adjacent to the ballpark — the county has the opportunity to attract another team to the city, and the two sides are scheduled this week to discuss a deal. For a deal to happen, more money is needed.

Enter a state program awarding $15 million to cities and counties working to keep spring training. The original goal of the program was to keep teams from moving spring operations to Arizona.

So, basically, the county is applying for state money to retain the Twins (thus fulfilling the purpose of the state spring-training program) while at the same time freeing up tourism-tax funds to lure the Nationals from Brevard County. Now, technically, the state money cannot be used to attract a spring tenant from another Florida city, but it’s been done; Sarasota received similar state funds for the renovations of Ed Smith Stadium, but that was after Fort Lauderdale gave up on keeping the Baltimore Orioles at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. We’re guessing the fate of the request may hinge on whether there’s any objection from Viera or Brevard County officials seeking to keep the Nats at Space Coast Stadium, as there’s a little disengenuousness in using the program in this manner. But that sort of fight may not be worth it for Brevard County: Nats ownership has already said the team is basically as good as gone, and the only issue is where it ends up. 

RELATED STORIES: Lerner: Fort Myers is tops on our spring-training wish listGammons: Nats present spring-training wish list to Lee CountyIs Nats, Brevard County marriage over?Nats go public with desire for new spring-training facilityNats, Astros eying new Osceola County spring-training complexCould Cards, Marlins leave Treasure Coast?Kasten: Nats definitely looking for new spring home


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