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Lee County: Twins spring-training improvements hinge on state grant

Hammond Stadium

Any improvements to spring-training facilities for the Minnesota Twins will need to be funded largely by state funds and the Twins, as Lee County officials say they won’t raise taxes to cover new funding.

After spending months saying they’d take care of the Twins after spending $80 million on a new spring facility for the Boston Red Sox, Lee County commissioners are suddenly showing hesitation about spending any more money in improvements to Lee County Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium. Procuring $15 million from the state’s grant program to keep MLB teams in Florida will be the prime source of funding for any improvements, and it looks like the Twins might be asked to kick in some money, which would be highly unusual in the heavily subsidized world of spring training.

The Twins have submitted to the county a wish list of complex improvements, included renovated clubhouses, additional seating and elevators; the cost is expected to come in between $20 million and $30 million. We’re not talking stuff that will result in a financial bonanza for the Twins or the ballpark’s other tenant, the Fort Myers Miracle (High Class A; Florida State League); we talking about the routine, boring stuff you find at every modern spring-training camp.

“Absent that $15 million, it’s going to be very difficult to strike a new deal with the Twins,” Commissioner Frank Mann said. “I know we’ve got to adopt something at our final meeting here before we break.”

The county has already raised the ante in diverting tourism taxes to spring-training spending when the funding plan for the Red Sox was approved. Taking out more tourism-tax revenues or raising rates has already been ruled out by some commissioners.

The cold feet about funding the Twins’ needs doesn’t bode well for any possible move of the Washington Nationals to City of Palms Park, unless the Nats are interested in moving into a facility largely untouched after the Red Sox moved out. An exclusive 90-day negotiating period between the Nats and Lee County expires at the end of June, and right now the Lee County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet Tuesday — at which point a new Twins lease should be presented — before a long break, and anything to do with the Nats is not on the agenda.

RELATED STORIES: Twins present spring-training wish list to Lee CountyLee County commissioner: “50-50” chance Nats will move spring ops to Fort MyersLee County, Nats to meet about spring trainingLee County applying for state ballpark-improvement grantLerner: 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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