08-16-2012, 05:59 PM #1
Is future of Twins Spring Training in Ft Myers suddenly in doubt?
A few weeks ago, the Twins and Lee County FL officials announced a long term extension of the Twins' lease for Hammond Stadium and the Lee County Sports Complex, contingent on agreement on something like $45 million in needed updates for the complex. While there have been some articles lately citing some differences over who might have naming rights to the stadium, it seemed like a deal was never really in doubt.
But has that changed this week?
The most senior, and arguably most ST-friendly, member of the Lee County Commission, has lost in his party's primary election and his support of stadium deals for MLB teams (the Red Sox got a new complex and the county is negotiating with the Nationals to move to the county, in addition to the Twins' deal) was apparently a major cause of his primary loss.
Suddenly, the certainty of the improvements to the complex is questionable.
The article points out that the Twins' existing lease runs through 2020 anyway, even without the new extension. However, what the article fails to mention is that the original lease also requires Lee County to maintain the facility to a level that is comparable to the top X number (I forget the exact number) of ST facilities in Florida. By no measure is Hammond Stadium among the better facilities at this point. Just among those I've been to in the past 3 years, I'd say the Phillies (Clearwater), Yankees (Tampa), Red Sox (Ft Myers), Rays (Port Charlotte), Mets (Port St Lucie) and Orioles (Sarasota) have better facilities. The Pirates also have negotiated a remodeling of their stadium in Bradenton. I haven't been to the Tigers ballpark in Lakeland, but it was remodeled in 2003 and I hear it's very nice. That will leave only the Blue Jays (Dunedin) among teams on the Gulf side of FL as having a facility clearly below what the Twins call home in March.
It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in Ft Myers and whether the Twins play hardball with Lee County.
08-16-2012, 06:11 PM #2
At one of the games I attended, some young men were sitting a few seats over, and during their conversation the topic of the Twins requests came up. Basically, they didn't think Lee County should give the Twins anything, and they seemed to mock the Twins even asking, as if they were on the same level as the Red Sox. It was an isolated conversation and may not be representative of the populace as a whole, but it did get my attention.
08-16-2012, 06:23 PM #3
Yeah, I saw that article and all I got to say it that it is all about votes
JC, Both you and I know that the Twins are bringing mucho dineiro to the Lee County area (heck, we both spend more than enough money in hotels, rental cars, restaurants, air tickets and related taxes there throughout the last few years.) So when the businesses start whining to the commission about it after whomever B-level politician gets voted, things will change. If I were to guestimate, the Twins bring a good 10,000 people a day during spring and a good 2-3,000 during summer into the area. And funny enough the Red Sox does not have an FSL team that acts as a employer of 200+ like the Twins do. Too lazy to analyze but I would guesstimate that the Twins are bringing at least $20-30 million a year to the Fort Myers economy (just for the privilege of holding ST there and having a high A team there...) And I am not including added ons like construction jobs.
When the push comes to shove even the most idiotic politicians will see that and they will eat their rhetoric...
08-16-2012, 06:34 PM #4
Thry, I suspect your figures may be a bit inflated, but your point is valid nonetheless. There is NO doubt that the Twins are a huge draw during ST. I wouldn't be surprised if the Red Sox draw better than the Twins during ST, but you're right that they don't have their Class A+ affiliate there (and, unlike the Twins, I think the Red Sox may actually own their A+ affiliate).
All of that said, never underestimate the ability of a politician to do the shortsighted, wrong thing when s/he believes votes are at stake. And when the issue can be boiled down to "spend tax $ to fund something for a big business or don't spend tax $ on a big business?" voters seldom even consider consequences.
I think the Twins will stay in Ft Myers, but I would bet money that politics are going to make this issue get ugly over the winter.
08-16-2012, 07:07 PM #5
The clause about keeping the facilities competitive (however it is worded) sounds like a full-employment bill for lawyers trying to enforce it. Hopefully the clause is pretty specific about how they measure comparability of facilities, etc. or it could take until 2020 just to resolve any issues.
08-16-2012, 08:36 PM #6
It sounds from the story that the Red Sox got in while the getting was good and there ain't much left for the Twins, or at least that's how opponents are framing it. I'm a little surprised the Twins weren't working with the commission at the same time to make sure they were included in the last go-round.
08-16-2012, 09:21 PM #7
My father in law lives just outside of Ft Myers so we've gone down there a few times for spring training and then a trip to Disney World. A different city in Fl, I don't recall, lost a spring training team (I think the Mets or Dodgers) and the city actually made more money. It was a bit of big story at the time. Most of the people that go to ST are locals, so they just end up spending their money elsewhere in town. The number of out of staters doesn't always cover the cities expenses in hosting a baseball team. And Florida towns all get tons of tourists - Ft Myers area has a lot of retirees so you get family members like my family coming down anyway. So I guess that's a long-winded way of me saying I wouldn't be surprised if Ft Myers was willing to let the Twins move out and survive on the Red Sox.
08-16-2012, 09:22 PM #8
I did find the news story from last year where I read about that clause. The quote from the story is, "The lease also calls for the facility to be maintained at the same level as the five newest Florida spring-training facilities."
JB may be right if that's all the lease says, because it's how one judges "same level" is certainly subjective. Still, Hammond is nowhere close. If the Twins decided to play hardball and terminate their lease on that basis, I like their chances. They also have deeper pockets and can afford better lawyers.
08-16-2012, 11:10 PM #9
It may be too far along to back out now, but it doesn't look good right now. They are locked in to 2020 I believe, but you can believe they will be out of there after that if they don't get this. Some media speculate spring training in general will be totally west coast in 10 years.
08-17-2012, 12:20 AM #10
The professional baseball season is a lot different of course because there's 81 days where it has an aura affect on the local area. It gets tricky when you talk minor league teams like Ft. Myers. The Twins played 17 home spring training games and the Miracle will play 68 there for a total of 85 (so more there than Target Field actually). The GCL play in a different stadium in Ft. Myers obviously so they don't factor in. That looks and sounds great to have 85 aura days in a city that has maybe 100,000 people in that traveling distance. The kicker is that Hammond Stadium only holds 7,500 people and there's nothing to see there for 3/4 of the year when it's inactive. 20-30 million is iffy and probably too high a number. I really don't care what it actually is. What's important for the Ft. Myers economy to know when it comes to a deal is if that commercial property would make them more money than a shopcenter, business, etc that's active for the whole year. It clearly keeps the community happy and maybe for the sake of the city they would sacrifice if it indeed turned out be negative. It's awesome to have the Twins and Miracle in Ft. Myers and I like where the all organizations affiliates are located right now except for New Britain (who got extended unfortunately).
Last edited by YourHouseIsMyHouse; 08-17-2012 at 12:26 AM.
08-17-2012, 12:57 AM #11
Oh, and not to mention that the Miracle have always been the local whipping boys in the FSL.
08-17-2012, 07:48 AM #12
08-17-2012, 08:38 AM #13
This is a new guy who defeated the head of the former commission in the primary and he has been campaigning basically against spending $ for baseball. Not only the Twins but the Nats as well. He wants to negate that agreement whatever that means. My take is that it is just politics, like the same clowning that was happening up there with the Vikes' stadium...
Last edited by thrylos98; 08-17-2012 at 09:04 AM.
08-17-2012, 09:04 AM #14
Also, the Twins bring about 200 players and coaches and about 100 staff for ST (I do not included Hammond Field Staff). That is 300 people and with their families let's say 500. These people are there for the whole 45 days and about 200-250 of them call Fort Myers home year around (EST, GCL, Rehab etc. - and I am not talking about the Miracle yet) I suspect that at least a few more folks make their year round home at Fort Myers (including Twins' ballplayers) because this is where the Twins have their spring training. I don't know what the impact on Lee Country would be for losing 300 or so residents, but it would be something.
Add what the town gets from having a professional Minor League franchise (the Miracle is the only one), which is probably around $3-4 Million a year. High level: 68 home games by 1800 (miracle average attendance) by (let's say $30 for ticket, parking, a hot dog and a beer) is ($3.672 M). And I am not factoring in merchandise, advertising revenue by both the ball park and the radio station (which has to be another $1.5M at least), so we are looking at around $5 M impact to the economy for having the Miracle there (and I am disregarding what the players, the coaches and their families get paid by the Twins and play to eat and sleep etc)
Add what the Twins pay for their lease to the county.
Multiply all that by 30 years, the amount of the lease extension, and whatever investment the county makes is a tiny one compared to the economic impact to the county.
And most of it is because of Spring Training alone. Other areas (Orlando anyone?) Would love to have a major league team there to train just because of that.
Last edited by thrylos98; 08-17-2012 at 09:07 AM.
08-17-2012, 10:03 AM #15
I think the Braves are still training at the Disney complex in Orlando, aren't they, Thry?
I think your 10-12,000 per day estimate on visitors for the Twins alone is high, because I know a lot of "locals" attend those ST games, not just visitors. That said, your $100/day estimate is probably low. I go down there for about a week every year and easily spend a grand. I took my wife with me this past spring and although we obviously didn't double our hotel costs, we still managed to spend over $2,000, I'm sure. (I try not to keep track, but I know I'm poorer when I get home.) My family doesn't exactly go crazy with spending when we travel, either, so I'd like to think my experience is pretty close to "average".
Regardless, I do think Ft. Myers would experience a significant economic effect if they lost the Twins at some point. In fact, it would probably lead to a similar situation that you see when large cities lose their major professional sports teams because they won't kick in for a stadium... only to have to cough up even more money a few years later to try to get a new team. If the Twins left Lee County, I'm sure the county would very quickly realize what fools they were and start trying to attract another team.
The Twins may need to give up their desire for an on-site "dorm" for their minor leaguers, though. The local hotel community is not thrilled with losing all of the hotel nights that they currently book for all of the Twins' kids in the area, especially when a good chunk of the money for the planned remodel is coming from hotel/motel taxes. Have to admit, that would rub me the wrong way, too, if I were in their shoes. Maybe that's an issue that gets tabled for a few years or the Twins would have to build that on their own dime. If they decide to do it, I'd sure wait until the ink is dry on the new agreement before announcing it, though.
From what I read, it sounds like there's nothing yet signed on the extension. They just agreed in principle on the basics of the extension and Bill Smith has been negotiating the exact terms since then. So now, the question is whether a lame duck Commission that made the agreement will rush to execute it before any new Commissioners take office next year.
08-17-2012, 01:14 PM #16
Last edited by YourHouseIsMyHouse; 08-17-2012 at 01:20 PM.
08-17-2012, 04:48 PM #17
7500 Hammond stadium tickets. Let's say that about 2,500 are local (over estimate) since Miracle draws around that much. So about 5000 visitors in the stadium. So I doubled that for family members not in the stadium. If every one single, then that $100 a day doubles at least, because you have to add to about $120 for a hotel and car per day to food and tickets and stuff... But still we are talking about $25-50 million a year which will make the county break even (not in tax money but total money in the people's pockets) in the first 2-3 Seasons of the 30 year agreement. I suspect by the 15th, it will break even in taxes as well...
08-17-2012, 06:44 PM #18
I am a resident of Ft Myers and oppose such ridiculous spending on a SPRING TRAINING AND MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL FACILITY. I love baseball, I am going to a Miracle game on Tuesday, but this is just an example of how the concept of professional sports has put our economic prioriies completely out of reality. IT IS A SPRING TRAING AND MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL FACILITY. IF the improvements are so important and necessary, the users of the facility can make the improvement by themselves and then pass these costs back to their customers just like every other business.
I tell you what, the new Boston Red Sox facility is nice, but not that much nicer than Hammonds Field, and the cost to get in is exorbitant. And, in the end, for all that money, you get to watch scrubs play about 4 innings of the game. That is what Spring Training really is and frankly, I can't see how the Twins and Red Sox get away with charging so much for the tickets. But, in the end, Jet Blue stadium is only used for spring training and then sits empty for te rest of the year.
08-17-2012, 07:00 PM #19
Tada... read above. The fact that the Twins decided to have their ST facility at Fort Myers brings about $25-50 million dollars a year in your community, which helps keep people employed. Hate to say that, but Fort Myers is not really a booming tourist destination, otherwise if you know what I mean. If they do not do it, the Twins will move to the next town and that will be that. And the unemployment rate at Fort Myers will triple.
08-17-2012, 08:07 PM #20
Well, I also live in Ft. Myers and completely DISAGREE with the post above. ST baseball did not get put our economy in the crapper; in fact, ST baseball has been part of our community since the Royals played at Terry Park (and I am probably missing a team before them), long before the economy went downhill. For 6 weeks out of the year, ST baseball does nothing but help out local economy. I am guessing you do not work in the service industry that benefits from baseball fans descending upon Ft. Myers. I would hate to see what the local economy would have been like without Spring Training baseball!!
If you want to complain about what was spent at Jet Blue and how expensive it is, go ahead and do it on a Boston website. My opinion is that the Twins are not going anywhere, and the upgrades to the stadium are already in the works (just wait until the outfield boardwalk is complete and fans are sipping beers at either the left field or right field tiki bar!!!!).
Lastly, the Lee commissioner's votes were usually 4-1 when it came to anything S.T. related. So now with Judah gone, we can now expect 3-2 votes. What we will see is that the Nationals will most likely not be moving into the City of Palms anytime soon, but the Twins and Red Sox are here for good.
Last edited by Hammond2ndHome; 08-17-2012 at 08:10 PM.