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.