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TWINS: Spring-training facility undergoing $48.5 million renovation

by Mike McFeely

Fort Myers, Fla.

Workers are hurriedly finishing a boardwalk that runs around the outside of the outfield fence at Hammond Stadium. The Minnesota Twins' spring training ballpark needs to be ready Saturday, when the team hosts the Boston Red Sox in the spring home opener.

There is some consternation among Twins officials with the pace of construction at this late date, but the organization and fans who are visiting the ballpark to watch the team work out agree the finished product is going to be outstanding.

I concur.

Artist rendering of completed Hammond Stadium.

The Lee County Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium are undergoing a $48.5 million renovation that will be completed in phases by February 2015. It will transform the main stadium from a ballpark that was a larger version of Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo into a park with many more amenities and seating options for fans.

"It's going to be one of the best spring training facilities in all of baseball," said Rob Antony, Twins assistant to the general manager.

It's quite an upgrade. There will be a grassy berm in left field on which fans can sit. There will be tiki bars along the left-field line and beyond the right-field fence. Seating capacity will be increased from 8,000 to 9,300, including new seats in right-center field. 

View from the tiki bar along the left-field line.

But the highlight, in my opinion, is the 360-degree boardwalk and concourse. The boardwalk and concourse will allow fans to walk around the entire stadium and have a continuous view of the action. It is modeled somewhat after Target Field, where fans can move around the stadium and watch the game from different vantage points along the concourse.

"It allows people who don't want to sit the entire game to move out of their seats and stretch their legs a little bit. They won't be anchored to their seat the whole game," Antony said. "It also allows for fans who are sitting in the shade and want to get some sun to do that. Conversely, it can get a little warm in the sun down here so if somebody wants to move to the shade, they can."

Great view from boardwalk along left-field line.

From a fan perspective, upgrades to the practice fields and parking lots will be visible.

From an organization perspective a new player development academy is huge. The Twins say it will be only the third of its kind in professional baseball. It will have dormitory housing, dining, education and training resources for minor-leaguers.

Fans can get a birds-eye view of the Twins bullpen.

Lee County and the state of Florida have put serious money into baseball facilities for both the Twins and Boston Red Sox in recent years in an attempt to keep the teams from moving to Arizona for spring training. Boston's JetBlue Park cost $78.5 million, much of it provided by Lee County. 

The $48.5 million for the Twins' facilities includes $27.5 from Lee County, $15 million from the state of Florida and $6 million from the Twins.

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