By Eric Schmidt

At the start of Spring Training this year, Fort Myers, Florida rolled out a new Spring training shrine for the Boston Red Sox. Boston threatened to leave the Southwest Florida area unless they received a new Spring training facility, and so it was, as the county rolled out the Fenway Park replica, Jet Blue Park. The Fort Myers area is also home to the Minnesota Twins.

The Minnesota Twins play at a facility known as Hammond Stadium nd have been entrenched in the local area well before the Boston Red Sox arrived on the scene. Shortly after the conclusion of Spring training, the Twins raised questions regarding when their facility would receive an upgrade. Not an unexpected move.

The Lee County Commission this week voted 4-1 to extend the lease of the Twins at Hammond Stadium for 30 years. There are however, several unanswered questions as to exactly what upgrades the county will be providing to the Minnesota Twins in order for the contract extension.

Spring training is a large boost to the local economies of the State of Florida. Anyone who lives in the Fort Myers area, can attest to the fact that right about the same time that pitchers and catchers report in early February, traffic becomes unbearable. MLB teams realize the economic impact they create for various locales and love to extort communities for ever better facilities.

The Boston Red Sox are a great example. They played Spring training games at the City of Palms Park in downtown Fort Myers in 2011, a facility which was a great venue to watch a game, as well as a venue which benefited the downtown businesses. Jet Blue Park, the new Boston facility, has been moved well outside of town and downtown Fort Myers businesses suffered this year during Spring training.

The only upside for a baseball fan such as myself living in Fort Myers, the city is in talks with the Washington Nationals as a possible replacement for the Red Sox in the City of Palms Park. If the Nationals enter into a contract with the city of Fort Myers, this means that I will have 4 MLB teams engaged in Spring training within 40 minutes from my house. The Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, and the Nationals, Twins and Red Sox minutes from my front door. Yes, the traffic will likely be exponentially worse, but it’s a baseball fan’s dream.

 

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