The Florida Sports Foundation and Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) reported Friday that Lee County has been approved for certification under the Spring Training Baseball Franchise Program, which provides state matching funds to assist local governments that own or operate stadiums with renovation or construction of their spring training facility.
With this approval, Lee County is eligible to receive a maximum of $15 million over 30 years for renovation of the Minnesota Twins Spring Training home at Hammond Stadium.
"Lee County's application met all of the goals and objectives defined by the Spring Training Franchise Program," said Florida Sports Foundation President John Webb. "The state of Florida strives to work hand-in-hand with the communities hosting Spring Training Baseball to retain the teams which provide an economic boost to the state. With the long-term lease signed by the Twins with Lee County, we look forward to seeing Twins in an improved facility in Lee County for years to come."
Lee County's application was received and evaluated by the Florida Sports Foundation before approval by DEO. The criteria for receiving the certification included the length of time that the existing franchise (Minnesota Twins) has been located in the state, the length of time the facility has been used by one or more spring training franchises, the duration of the future-use agreement with the retained spring training franchise and the amount of the local match.
As part of this process, the Twins signed a 30-year agreement with Lee County which extends their lease through 2042. Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers has been the Spring Training home of the Twins since 1991. The team has held its Spring Training in Florida since 1936, as the Washington Senators, based in Orlando from 1936-42 and 1946-90 before moving to Lee County.
"In these tough economic times we appreciate this financial assistance from the state," said Karen B. Hawes, County Manager of Lee County. "This funding will provide jobs in our community and provide the renovations needed to improve the current facility for the Minnesota Twins."