FORT MYERS — Amid all the hoopla surrounding the $75 million JetBlue Park the Red Sox facility, Lee County commissioners shifted their attention Tuesday to the team across town.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to proceed with an analysis of the Lee County Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium, the spring home of the less-celebrated Minnesota Twins. Commissioner Brian Bigelow dissented.
“It gives us an opportunity to coordinate with the Twins on future expansion opportunities as well as expansions of county facilities for public use,” Commissioner Ray Judah said.
Lee County’s contract with the Twins runs through 2020 and includes regular review periods for the stadium to consider things like seating, parking and the condition of the facility.
Public Works Director Doug Meurer said the county met with Twins executives over the summer. Ideas like a second elevator and expanded parking were among the items discussed.
“This starts to trim down these ideas into a manageable list of options,” Meurer said of the upcoming review.
The review process will be an overview of the facility and its current condition as well as options for expanding the stadium, improving parking or adding a new county function to the Sports Complex. The county purchased a parcel of land just south of Hammond Stadium over the summer, which could be added to the Twins facility or used as a county park.
While Commissioners Judah and Frank Mann seemed eager to proceed with the project, Bigelow questioned the whole process of funding baseball facilities as well as the role of the local Tourism Development Council.
“We’re spending a whole lot of money so that wealthy people can throw baseballs around,” Bigelow said. “Our TDC should be working to bring people here to throw beach balls.”
The facility review will be scheduled for a county commission meeting later this year.
In other news, commissioners approved the final funding agreement of nearly $1 million for the new bus service in the Bonita Springs area, which starts operation on Thursday and travels from Estero south to Immokalee Road in Collier County.