County commission approves new Red Sox lease agreement
Commissioners approved a new lease agreement with the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, keeping Lee County as the Major League Baseball organization’s spring training home for the next three decades.
Under the new agreement, the Red Sox will pay $500,000 a month in rent, up from $300,000 under the previous lease.
The Red Sox will also share in a capitol maintenance fund for the duration of the lease, though routine maintenance will still be the county’s responsibility.
The other major change in the new lease is the length. The only “out” for the Red Sox will be after the 30-year period expires, a change from the current lease which gives the organization the option of a buy out.
There is is an option for two separate renewals of 10 years each after the initial 30-year period expires.
Though a location, design or total cost for the new stadium has yet be decided, rumors abound that anywhere from $80 million to $100 million will be spent on erecting a “mini-Fenway” and possible aquatic center somewhere in southern Lee.
County staffers likened the new lease to the one currently in place with the Minnesota Twins.
“The situation really mirrors bringing the Twins here in 1991, when the stadium location was unknown,” said John Yarborough, project consultant and former director of Lee County Parks and Recreation. “We need to take this one step at a time.”
Under the current agreement, the Red Sox will use the City of Palms Park for another three years.
Commissioner Brian Bigelow was concerned about City of Palms becoming a “ghost town” once those three years are up, though county staff said “several” teams had been contacted about filling the vacancy.
Commissioner Frank Mann simply had a problem with the lease itself, saying it leans too heavily in favor of the Red Sox.
According to Mann, the Red Sox have the option of “increasing every component of revenue” through the duration of the lease, while the county can only “increase rent once every five years.”
“It’s simply out of balance,” he said. “I would never enter into a contract like this myself.”
Yarborough agreed with Mann, but cited previous deals with the Red Sox and the Twins as barometers for the new deal.
“I think the agreement is not perfect, but it’s the best agreement Lee County has made with a Major League Baseball team,” Yarborough said.
The final vote was split 3-2, with Bigelow and Mann dissenting.