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4 days ago, 02/26/2015 at 5:30pm

Hammond StadiumNewly Renovated Hammond Stadium

Before last Sunday’s open house at the newly renovated Minnesota Twins Fort Myers Complex, now known as the CenturyLink Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium, I was able to see the results of a $48.5 million overhaul of the Stadium and entire complex during a media event on Thursday Feb. 19th.

It’s no exaggeration to say they hit this one "out of the park.” The 92-acre complex has been streamlined to give the park a "major league feel.” The Stadium capacity has been expanded from 8,000 to 9,300 seats while maintaining and even improving the seating space. While the field maintained its original dimensions (left field 330’, center field 405’, right field 330’), the concourses have expanded 17’-21’ to 45’-68’ with more trellis structure shade areas. The improvements aren’t limited to the premium seating where you will find six new suites with drink rails, bowl seating and kitchenettes, but there are also 1,236 new boardwalk seats and 6 new party/group areas. Of course, my favorite part is the two additional bars added, one along the left field line and one in right field. You have to have some food with those drinks and there are four expanded concessions at stadium, with two new concessions on boardwalk, totaling 31 points of sale. Let’s not forget after having those "dogs and suds”, you won’t want to wait in those long lines for the facilities. The restrooms were expanded by adding 70 urinals and water closets. In addition to the upgrades to the fan experience, the Twins also renovated both clubhouses while adding a new weight room, trainer's room and dining room attached to the locker room. The great part of all of this is the local impact on Lee County. Spring Training in Lee County contributes more than $47 million to the local economy, with $23 million of that coming from Twins attendees. It also results in 970 jobs, $21 million in household income, $2.3 million in local government revenue and $4.4 million in state government revenue.

Last Sunday was the first of two open houses planned for the fans at Century Link Sports Complex. Over 4,000 fans marveled at the awesome improvements at the Stadium. When walking through the gates and up the stairs, fans enter the new open-air grand entrance and are treated to an excellent view of the field from behind home plate. It really makes you feel like baseball is here when you walk out into the sun through this entrance and see this beautiful ballpark. On Sunday, fans were greeted by Minnesota Twins players Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins and Brian Dozier who signed autographs and posed for photographs and "selfies.” Minor league players also conducted a clinic for kids in the outfield. At noon was the ribbon cutting ceremony emceed by Fort Myers resident and Hall of Fame Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven. All of the Twins "big boys”were in attendance, including new manager Paul Molitor and team president Dave St. Peter, who said that the Twins "now have the best player development facility in all of Major League Baseball."

If you missed last Sunday’s open house, it’s ok. You can still attend the 2ndopen house on Sunday March 1st from 10:30am to 2pm. The great thing about this upcoming open house is that it is a full-team workout open house. Fans will get to see all of the Minnesota players working out on the field this time around, as all the players reported to camp Friday and will have their first full-squad workout Saturday followed by the open house on Sunday. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Twins or the Miracle, any sports fan will appreciate this impressive new stadium. Fans will get their first chance to catch the Twins in action on March 4th, when they play their first home game at 7:05 p.m. against the University of Minnesota. The following day, Thursday March 5th is "Lee County Day” and the Twins will host the Boston Red Sox in their first Grapefruit League game at 7:05 pm.


Mike Yost