FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 24, 2012
Contact: Nick Gandy, Florida Sports Foundation, (850) 488-1422 or email@example.com
James Miller, Department of Economic Opportunity, (850) 617-5600 or James.Miller@deo.myflorida.com
Lee County Approved for Spring Training Baseball Franchise Program Matching Funds
Minnesota Twins Spring Training Facility to Receive Multimillion Dollar Facelift
TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Sports Foundation and Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced today 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, the Lee County Sports Complex and 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.
“This partnership is one example of Florida’s unified statewide economic vision paying dividends for a community like Lee County,” said DEO Executive Director Hunt Deutsch. “I am thrilled to see a potential increased economic impact of $15 million extra dollars infused into the region, which will lead to growth and investment for years to come.”
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 for 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.”
Spring training is a beloved Florida tradition that generates significant economic impact. For more than 100 years, baseball teams have come to Florida for their spring training, During the 2012 Florida Spring Training season, 1.6 million fans watched the 15 teams comprising Florida's Grapefruit League. The total set a record for per game average with 6,965 fans per game, surpassing the previous per game average high of 6,640, set during the 2010 season.