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City of Palms Park has new tenant: Edison State College

Florida SouthWesternIn a move that will keep the ballpark open for at least a decade but likely precludes a return of spring training, Edison State College is bringing back baseball and playing at Fort Myers’ City of Palms Park.

Edison State College officials decided a year ago to bring back baseball, and the entire school is going through a rebranding: it will be known officially as Florida SouthWestern State come July 1.

And it sounds like athletics will be a big part of the rebranding. The school is committing to $24,000 annually for the ballpark ($1,000 per month for the lease, and electric utility costs of around $1,000 per month) under the teams of a 10-year lease with a five-year extension. The city has use of the ballpark in the college offseason.

The lease does seem to preclude the use of City of Palms Park as a spring-training facility any time soon, however. The school is paying for all ballpark improvements, which includes the conversion of a practice field beyond left field into a full-time soccer facility. All in all, the university is set to spend $300,000 on the facility improvements. The mantra from city officials: the lease will allow City of Palm Park to be part of the city’s sports-tourism marketing, perfect for youth baseball and softball teams. From the News-Press:

[Edison athletic director Carl] McAloose said the opportunity to play home games in a former Major League Baseball spring training stadium will give Edison’s baseball and softball programs a decided edge on the recruiting trail.

“It’s an opportunity for us to make a mark right off the bat,” he said “We’re playing in the best facility in the country right here. I think for a coach to be able to recruit a student-athlete to come here and to a great campus like Edison, it’s a no-brainer.

“This announcement really adds legitimacy to the whole thing. People see we mean business and we can win championships here.”

The Red Sox trained at City of Palms Park and a nearby practice facility until JetBlue Park opened. The city and Lee County had pitched the Washington Nationals on a spring move to Fort Myers, but those efforts failed when it was apparent both entities were tapped out with spending on JetBlue Park and upgrades to Hammond Stadium and the Lee County Sports Complex, spring home of the Minnesota Twins.

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