New businesses not yet setting up shop near new Red Sox JetBlue Park

Greg Kahn/Staff 
 Aerial view of JetBlue Park, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox

Photo by GREG KAHN, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Greg Kahn/Staff Aerial view of JetBlue Park, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox

New stadium ready for baseball

The Red Sox unveiled a finished jetBlue ...

■ The Lee County Commission and Boston Red Sox have scheduled a grand opening celebration for Saturday, Feb. 25, at 11:30 a.m., when they will open the new spring training complex to the public. The ceremony will be followed by an open house, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., open to all fans and visitors.

■ Sunday, Feb. 19: Pitchers and catchers report.

■ Saturday, Feb. 25: First full squad workout, opening celebration, and free open house.

■ Saturday, March 3: First college exhibition games featuring Northeastern University at 2:35 p.m., followed by Boston College at 7:05 p.m.

■ Sunday, March 4: First official Grapefruit League Game at the new park, 1:35 p.m., Red Sox vs. Minnesota Twins

— The new spring training stadium for the Boston Red Sox won't cause a rush of new businesses to open anytime soon, instead meaning an increase in business for existing merchants in south Lee County.

The exception so far is a new sports memorabilia store that opened less than two weeks ago at the Southwest Regional Commerce Trade Center plaza on Rickenbacker Parkway just off Daniels Parkway, around the corner from the new stadium complex south of Fort Myers.

"Everyone is excited about the new ballpark," said Rob Hust, the Sportsworld South Sports Collectibles store manager. "It looks exactly like Fenway Park."

The new Red Sox complex is along Daniels Parkway, about two miles east of Interstate 75 and about six miles from Southwest Florida International Airport. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels and gas stations within a few miles of the stadium.

The new sports store, a satellite for SportsWorld — a New England memorabilia store — has items ranging from $75 to $125. After every game, the store will have an autograph-signing event with a baseball player.

"We are trying to tap into the Red Sox money-making machine," Hust said.

The store struck a deal with Red Sox officials to not sell T-shirts or hats, so that the store isn't competing with the stadium's sales, Hust said.

The memorabilia store plans to open daily during tourist season from Dec. 1 to April 15. The store will open only on Saturdays the rest of the year.

Even though new businesses aren't yet opening in the vicinity of JetBlue Park, the $77.8 million stadium project there will be an economic benefit for Southwest Florida, Lee County officials said.

"What we expect to happen first is for existing businesses along the Daniels corridor to feel the first economic impact," said Joan LaGuardia, spokeswoman for Lee County community development.

The stadium, 11581 Daniels Parkway, is 7 miles from Gulf Coast Town Center and 11 miles from Miromar Outlets, but those centers may see more shoppers from the new stadium.

"We will see the economic benefit on existing businesses before we see the wave of new construction," LaGuardia said.

Most of the land near the new stadium is undeveloped, including one of the biggest parcels, which is zoned industrial. Considering how tight the economy is, it's likely for new businesses to wait a season or two before setting up shop on the vacant land, LaGuardia said.

"However, something as big and as promising as the Red Sox stadium could have the impetus to convince investors and financial institutions that this is the location to come up with that capital," LaGuardia said.

While there are no such projects tied to the stadium now on the horizon, "we hope to see such projects in the future as investment capital becomes available and as the stadium opens and demonstrates its impact," LaGuardia said. "When that happens, look for the impact to affect a bigger area than adjacent sites."

Eventually, Lee officials think the stadium could stimulate interest along the Daniels Parkway corridor from I-75 to State Road 82, at the I-75 interchanges at Alico Road and Colonial Boulevard, and along Ben Hill Griffin Parkway and Treeline Avenue.

Renderings of the complex show space for bars, restaurants and stores near the stadium, but none have been established yet.

"The Red Sox are currently exploring opportunities for the use of the 20 acres of land adjacent to the facility that are owned by the club, however, no plans have been finalized," Zineb Curran, Boston Red Sox senior manager of public affairs, said in an email.

A few miles away, the 110-room Floridian Airport Inn of Fort Myers, 13600 Treeline Ave. S., is nearly booked for spring training.

"We are excited and we are happy people are coming down," said Keith Lidberg, hotel general manager.

Lidberg said the hotel is working with the Lee County Sports Authority in an effort to have business year-round.

Currently, the hotel is offering spring training special rates from $69.90 to $129.90. Regular prices range from $139.90 to $239.90.

Greg Kahn/Staff 
 Aerial view of JetBlue Park, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox

Photo by GREG KAHN, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Greg Kahn/Staff Aerial view of JetBlue Park, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox

Lidberg said the hotel is keeping rates low now to get customers to come back.

Reservations for the independent hotel, which has been open for three years, are up almost 500 percent compared to last year, Lidberg said.

There was a similar sentiment at the 65-unit Quality Suites Airport, 13651 Indian Paint Lane off of Daniels Parkway, which opened in 1991.

Quality Suites General Manager Alexa Hardin is excited about prospects of the stadium complex becoming a multi-use, year-round facility.

"We definitely need something in this market to boost the business," Hardin said.

Nearby at MacDaddy's Restaurant, 8951 Daniels Parkway, owner Brent McDonald said the family-friendly, sports restaurant is ready for the stadium to open. The restaurant even increased its staff.

"We are anxiously awaiting spring training and looking forward to having the Red Sox right in our backyard," McDonald said.

The Red Sox stadium is two miles east of the restaurant, a family-owned restaurant since the mid-90s.

The restaurant also is looking forward to welcoming Twins fans, he said, referring to the spring home of the Minnesota Twins off Six Mile Cypress Parkway, south of Fort Myers.During March — the eatery's busiest month of the year — the restaurant plans to run specials for the fans.

McDonald said he hopes that the new Red Sox complex will benefit all area businesses, including hotels and restaurants, year-round.

"I think it's really going to affect the (community) in a good way," McDonald said.

__ Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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