FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's a day Red Sox fan have had marked on their calendar since last year and Friday, WINK News got an inside look of Jet Blue Park at Fenway South. It's the new spring training home to the Boston Red Sox and with it will hopefully come a big boost in tourism dollars.
Jet Blue Park at Fenway South is a baseball fan's dream. The new stadium comes with a price tag of nearly $78 million courtesy of tourism tax dollars and it's now ready for players to take the field.
With cameras in hand, a few special Red Sox fans like Evan Hawes, got the chance of a lifetime Friday as they toured the new spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
"There is just a buzz, you get chills when you walk in, its fantastic," said Hawes.
A few fans joined Lee County commissioners, Red Sox management and the media for an intimate tour of the field, the Green Monster, the manual scoreboard that was used in Boston starting in 1976 and even the locker room. All things that make up a park that will bring big bucks to southwest Florida.
"This team, during the spring training season, will bring in $25 million to the community," said Ray Judah, Lee County commissioner.
The park took just over a year to complete. Its almost an exact replica of Fenway Park in Boston, all the way down to the color of the green used throughout the stadium.
"When you look at the authenticity of the Green Monsta, as they say in Boston, its fantastic," said John Manning, Lee County commissioner.
Ally Minker beat out more than 500 people to become the Sports Illustrated Kids writer to cover the park. The young Red Sox fan is from Naples and said seeing the players up close was one of her highlights.
"I either watch them on TV or I see them in the stands and its a totally different perspective from seeing them like 10 feet away," said Minker.
Jet Blue Park at Fenway South will be able to seat nearly 11,000 people. 70 percent of those seats will be shaded. A big difference from the City of Palms Park where the Red Sox used to practice. The players will also see improvements.
"The weight room, the therapy room and sort of the behind the scenes stuff that make a difference in the players lives," said Sam Kennedy, Chief Operating Officer, Red Sox.
The Lee County Board of Commissioners and the Boston Red Sox will host a grand opening celebration on Saturday, February 25 at 11:30 a.m. where they will officially open the ballpark and Spring Training Complex to the public. Executives and crewmembers from JetBlue Airways, the official airline of the Boston Red Sox, will also be on hand to help officially open JetBlue Park. The grand opening ceremony will be followed by an Open House, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., open to all fans and visitors.