Lee co. leaders confirmed Monday they would like to expand Hammond Stadium, the spring training home of the Minnesota Twins. Right now it is 8-thousand seats, and that will be rouhgly 3-thousand fewer than the new Boston Red Sox park that is set to open next winter.
"We value the Twins and would never drive them away. It is only fair that we talk with them about more seats. That's why we bought 15 acres next to the stadium, so we can expand and add maybe 2000 or 2500 seats," said Lee Commissioner Ray Judah.
"I don't have a time-line nor a budget. But we would use tourist tax dollars -- money from hotel room rentals -- to pay the cost," said Judah.
The Twins are being very diplomatic about possible expansion. "We will wait for the county to bring it up. We love Hammond but it is a 20-yr. old facility and it needs freshening up in some areas. We trust the county will do as they always have, and make sure this stadium is state of the art in spring training. We have never been second fiddle to anyone here, the county has treated us as world champs every year. We have a great relationship," said Twins Vice-President Bill Smith.
Judah notes: the stadium originally was supposed to seat 10-t housand, but planners scaled it back to see how the Twins drew. That has proved to be no problem, so there is room along the right field line and behind the right field wall for more seats. "We are fortunate to have the room to expand. It's just a matter of doing it at the right time, so the team will be here for many more years to come," said Judah.