The Minnesota Twins have signed a 30 year lease extension to continue to use the Lee County Sports complex as their spring training home on the assumption that Lee County will get $15 million from a state grant to help finance the expected $25 to $30 million in improvements. Lee County Commissioners voted 4 -1 yesterday to sign the 30-year conditional lease with the Twins. Lee County and the Twins needed to sign this conditional lease prior to the exact details of the improvements being agreed upon because the $15 million state grant can only be used to retain a current baseball team and the county has to apply for the state grant before July 6.
When Twins president Dave St. Peter was asked what improvements the team was looking for, he said “We are focused on general improvements surrounding fan amenities, player development and amateur sports.” When pressed for more details, St. Peter said he could not be more specific at this time. Rumor has it that the Twins are looking to add about a 1,000 seats, add some ballpark elevators, add a team dormitory and a player-development academy. When I asked the Twins president what the chances were that the county would get the state funds and when these improvements were expected to be completed, he replied that “he is optimistic that the county would get the state funds and that some improvements would be completed for 2014 and the balance in 2015.” Dave St. Peter went on to say that “we have eight (8) years remaining our current lease with two five-year team options. When asked about his thoughts about the rumored move of the Washington Nationals to Ft. Myers where they would use the old Boston Red Sox spring training complex, he had “no comment”.
The Twins have called Ft. Myers as their spring training home since 1991. The only other city that the Twins have used as a spring training facility was Orlando, Florida where they trained from 1961 through 1990. The Twins supposedly generate at least $25 million to $30 million per year from tourists traveling to Lee County, using the hotels, eating at the restaurants and going to games.