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  • Twins start construction on spring training upgrades

    Player development facilities have come a long way from the days of Branch Rickey and his infamous sliding pits. With numerous organizations moving into new or renovated complexes, the Minnesota Twins are trying to avoid being left behind.

    On Thursday, the Twins began construction on updating their spring campus.

    David Dorsey of the News Press highlights the progress of the Lee County Sports Complex:

    “The Twins and county are co-funding a new minor league player academy. The county will pay for construction of a 200-seat theater and dining area, and the Twins will foot the bill for 54 player rooms and four coach rooms.

    {snip}

    By mid-February, the player academy, minus the dormitory rooms, will be complete. The current minor league headquarters will be renovated with more offices, a new training room, an expanded clubhouse and a new hydrotherapy treatment room.

    To the west of the player academy, the current water retention pond will be filled and become a fourth baseball field facing southwest with a new water retention pond behind it. The Gulf Coast League Twins will use that field for their regular season, which will give Lee County an additional field for summer baseball tournaments.”
    The addition of the minor league player academy is a solid investment for the team’s future. As other organizations either add on to their existing spring training facilities or built new ones altogether, Hammond Stadium and the Lee County Sports Complex were falling behind the times. For example, while Boston’s recently completed Jet Blue Stadium complex had seven complete fields the Lee County Sports Complex had just five. When Jet Blue opened the fields along with their state-of-the-art training facilities, it was deemed as a significant “competitive advantage” for the team’s player development system by Boston’s COO Sam Kennedy.

    Furthermore, with the game’s continued international growth, the new on-site dormitories should give foreign-born players an easier transition into the new culture and game rather than having to live away from the training area. The Pirates, who train up the gulf coast in Bradenton, completed a similar project at their famed training site, Pirate City. Renovated in 2008, Pittsburgh’s on-site dormitories have 75 player rooms and make it mandatory for all players in Minor League camp to live in one of the dorm rooms.

    Meanwhile Hammond Stadium, the home of both the Twins and Fort Myers Miracle, is also getting a much needed face lift.

    The Twins have also requested that the field’s dimensions be changed to match the geometry of Target Field – which means large power alleys and a few more feet added to the left-center field area. This should help the evaluation process and prepare the players better for the conditions experienced at the major league level rather than watching towering flies that would normally be caught drift over the outfield wall.

    Overall, the expansion focuses on the on-field product however there is plenty that will elevate the game day experience for the legions of fans who make the trip to southwest Florida. Beyond the outfield walls, the Twins plan to add a right field party deck (rendering below) as well as a boardwalk that circles the field, similar to the one that the Pirates constructed at their Bradenton, Florida facilities. Likewise, the metal bleachers will be converted to conventional seat-backs. In all, the stadium will increase capacity to 9,300, which is still several thousand less the Red Sox and the new Cubs’ spring training home.


    The current configuration of Hammond has a significant stair climb to the main concourse level. During much of spring training, this area has been highly congested because of the small walkways made even smaller with concession stands and a popular retail shop. The expansion plans, Dorsey writes, will eliminate the gift shop and open up a view of the field for those arriving up the flight of stairs. Additional restrooms will be installed and concession areas will be expanded to accommodate for the increasing spring crowds.

    While a substantial portion of the bill is being paid by Lee County, for the new improvements the Twins will have the Red Sox to thank. Based on a clause in their 2004 lease agreement, the talks of expanding the Lee County Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium began when the Boston Red Sox relocated from City of Palms Park to Jet Blue Stadium. As accordance to the agreement between Lee County and the Minnesota Twins, the club had the right to request and construct improvements that have been “approved or constructed by the County in any other spring training facility to which the County is an owner or lessor” as is the case with Jet Blue Stadium.

    The entire project should be completed by 2015.
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Should keep Bill Smith busy for a while
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Glad the planning has stopped and the construction will start as soon as the Miracle season is over. I have been to several standing room only crowds down there and it can get pretty hectic. I think that the wrap around porch will be fun. I suspect lots of people will buy standing room tickets just for the bar and for catching BP HRs. Been to Port Charlotte and those are some of the best seats.

      Will be fun to see what will change next spring.

      To the west of the player academy, the current water retention pond will be filled and become a fourth baseball field facing southwest with a new water retention pond behind it.
      took me a while to think about where that "water retention pond" was and realized that he was referring to that mosquito breeding ground south of the complex by the county softball fields. Hallelujah that will be gone.

      One thing that needs to be mentioned: The approval of these changes (and the county funding securing) took place a while ago. It "cost" the Twins an renewal of the lease for another 30 years, which means that the Miracle, their GCL team, instructional league and ST facilities are set for another generation. And with the Nationals about to occupy the City of Palms (the facility the Red Sox abandoned to move to their new place) in a couple years, Fort Myers (if it were not) will be the place to be come Spring...
    1. ChiTownTwinsFan's Avatar
      ChiTownTwinsFan -
      I'll enjoy the changes. As a figure at spring training for many years now, I'm looking forward to these improvements. However, as Target Field was to the tax payers in Hennepin County, Lee County Sports Complex and Jet Blue Park is to the tax payers in Lee Country. As the county commissioners here cut and threaten to cut helpful services, millions go into the baseball stadiums. While it would be fun to have a trifecta of teams, I sort of hope they don't commit more millions to lure the Nationals to City of Palms Park. Not sure the residents here should pay the cost of yet another baseball team.

      And, Thrylos, that retention pond isn't going away; it's just being moved. While the mosquitos are annoying, the retention pond serves the purpose of collecting water used for watering the fields. At least that's what the retention pond near my parents is for.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChiTownTwinsFan View Post
      And, Thrylos, that retention pond isn't going away; it's just being moved. While the mosquitos are annoying, the retention pond serves the purpose of collecting water used for watering the fields. At least that's what the retention pond near my parents is for.
      Would it then make sense to get the retention pond closer to the fields, instead of close to a major sporting site and within a city? Move it by RSW
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      I don't understand the eliminating of the gift shop. They do a big business in there both for the Twins and the Miracle. I imagine it will just be moved, maybe out to right field.
    1. LewFordLives's Avatar
      LewFordLives -
      I hope none of the facility improvements worsen the parking situation. For well-attended spring training games the traffic congestion on the grounds is terrible. You need to get there early. If you leave your hotel only a half hour before game time you'll usually miss the opening pitch.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      I didn't get a clear idea of which, if any, parts of the project will be completed this winter in time for spring training 2014, and which won't happen until a year after that.
    1. ChiTownTwinsFan's Avatar
      ChiTownTwinsFan -
      I thought the things affecting Hammond Stadium itself was to be done this winter. At least that's what I interpreted listening to the 'locals' at the game last night.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      There's a chance I'll be there sometime in March, so this project is definitely of interest.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      The approval of these changes (and the county funding securing) took place a while ago.
      Yes, this was approved in November 2012 by the county. The upgrades have been discussed dating back to the approval of the Jet Blue Stadium.

      I don't understand the eliminating of the gift shop. They do a big business in there both for the Twins and the Miracle. I imagine it will just be moved, maybe out to right field.
      I will be relocated on the main concourse, they just are removing the area where the gift shop is to create the open-view to the field. There will also be a second gift shop placed on the ground level of the stadium.

      I didn't get a clear idea of which, if any, parts of the project will be completed this winter in time for spring training 2014, and which won't happen until a year after that.
      A lot of what is happening at the Hammond Stadium structure will not be completed until spring training 2015.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      I received an article, with a map of the improvements today. To clarify some of the things I didn't understand in the article above, here are what I got out of this one.

      There will be a new gift shop.

      The retention pond they talk about is south of the minor league facilities. It's not going away, just part of it. I didn't think they could just fill that in, there's alot of fish in there, and some of my golf balls!

      If you're familiar with the the grounds, there's a gate that leads into the small parking lot next to the minor league offices. It's almost always open, and we can walk thur there to where every one wants to go, (it's the best place to get autographs). So say you walk out of that gate and across the street, right where I park. That's where the new dorms will be built. Really close to the training room and batting cages and offices. How much of that field will be used I can't tell. To the west is the grounds crew garages.

      Right behind the new dorms will be the new field. So some of that little lake will be filled in for that. In the diagram, the lake will still loop around from behind the grounds keepers area, around the new field and back to the softball fields. Really still close for watering those fields.

      Now just down Plantation Road, south, just south of the new field and retention pond it looks like a strip coming in from Plantation, with a new retention pond to be built there on 15 acres the County bought and is clearing. There will be fan parking there, and two new entrances. If you noticed this last year part of it was cleared and that was where the stadium workers would park.

      Oh, also, a new agility field will be build on the current parking lot which looks to be just east of the minor league batting cages and training facility.

      That is part of the area where the minor leaguers park. I would certainly hope there'll be a parking lot for them next to the dorm area, there's a lot of room there.

      Hope this clears up a few things. See you there in the spring!
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