You can’t turn on the TV without getting daily updates from Fort Myers on the state of the Major League baseball teams. TV networks love to use the new JetBlue Park, affectionately nicknamed Fenway South as the backdrop. It’s named Fenway South because the field is designed to look like Fenway Park in Boston. There is the green monster in left field baseball fans from all over will remember. The designers took note to match the exact dimensions of Fenway Park when building this new stadium. Fenway South a Big Hit With Baseball Fans.
Some Lee County residents weren’t happy the county invested $80 million for a stadium that is in use one month of the year when we have such other pressing needs, and there is an argument for that. The stadium was paid for by the bed tax, which is a tourist and development tax. I think it’s fair to say this new stadium has caught the eye of baseball enthusiasts everywhere, and hopefully this translates into tourism dollars coming back to the area.
It’s hard to put a price tag on the free publicity our area is getting. On a recent trip to a night game, I noticed the satellite trucks beaming the game up to folks in the New England area. Combine that with ESPN broadcasting games and the daily baseball newscasts from Fort Myers, and you begin to realize this free publicity is worth something.
How many people from New England came this year or will in future years? That’s hard to tell. We can say that the real estate market got hot back in October, a full 3-4 months earlier this year. We noticed many northerners buying, and that trend continues to this day. I think people are also intrigued that we have two major league teams here, so maybe there’s something special and worth looking into in SW Florida.
Now there’s talk a 3rd team, the Washington Nationals may be interested in relocating here and taking over the old Red Sox stadium. This would come with a price tag as the Nationals would want some of the very same things the Red Sox asked for, like practice fields closer to the stadium. I’m not sure how much more money Lee County has to spend on baseball, especially in light of the fact the Twins are now asking for renovations to their stadium to the tune of about $60 million. They won’t get anywhere near that, but they’ve asked. Their contract says the stadium must be looked at every 5 years, and must be kept up with a certain percentage of the top spring training stadiums.
So the Red Sox stadium not only cost Lee County $80 million, but potentially lots more with upgrades to Hammond Stadium. Politics aside, this is a time to revel in the fact that this new stadium has put SW Florida on the map, in a positive light, and after 6 years of making news for a housing crash, it’s nice to make the news for something good. Our housing market is getting much better by the way. All this leads to economic recovery and dollars being spent here locally.
While locals hate the traffic, keep in mind season only last a few more weeks, and we certainly enjoy the money spent all year long. I’d say the 1st year of the new stadium was a success, and let’s hope it inspires more people to come here next year. All the visitors bring money to the area, which spurs local jobs, and local jobs lead to economic recovery. It’s all related, and each feeds off the other. We’ve spent the money for the stadium. That argument is over. Let’s reap the benefits, enjoy some popcorn, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks, and cherish the sound of “Play Ball”.
Buyers and sellers have decided to Play Ball too. Houses are flying off the market. Let’s root, root, root for the home team and for our good fortune to continue.
Happy St Patricks Day to all, and may the luck of the Irish be with you.