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• What: The Lee County commission votes Tuesday whether to spend $4.8 million on 14.3 acres adjacent to Hammond Stadium, the spring training home of the Minnesota Twins.
• When: 9:30 a.m. Tuesday
• Where: Old Lee County Courthouse on Main Street in downtown Fort Myers.

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1:10 A.M. — Lee County could give the Minnesota Twins room to expand their spring training complex Tuesday.

The commission will decide whether to spend $4.8 million worth of hotel tax dollars on 14.3 acres abutting the 20-year-old Hammond Stadium off Ben C. Pratt/Six Mile Cypress Parkway.

“This is a good deal,” said Commissioner John Manning on Friday afternoon.

Though the county has no plans for the parcel, Manning said the Twins are interested in expanding parking, as well as adding 2,000 seats to the 7,500-seat stadium.

Grandiose plans of a sports megacomplex surrounding the facility crumbled soon after the stadium opened in the early 1990s. Medical office buildings, a school and a Publix shopping center occupy most of the surrounding land.

The parcel, owned by the Patel family, doing business as Suriyah LLC, is the last undeveloped land adjacent to the complex.

That, Commissioner Ray Judah acknowledged, gives the owners leverage. The $4.8 million sale price is $1.4 million more than a November appraisal, though it is less than $7.7 million the owners were originally asking.

The price will also means the owners will be taking a loss. They spent $5 million on the parcel in 2005. They told county staff they invested about $3 million more securing plans and permits for development, County Lands Director Karen Maguire said. The recession derailed the development and prompted Reliance Bank in August to take the first steps toward foreclosing on the property.

The county’s land division, which had been negotiating with the Patels for more than a year, halted talks while the foreclosure worked through the courts. In December, the bank dismissed the foreclosure.

The owners say they had another offer from a company looking to buy the parcel, before settling on the $4.8 million price tag with the county’s land negotiators.
It’s now up to the five commissioners to decide if it’s a deal they like.

The county would have to borrow the money from its reserves with an agreement to replenish the money using dollars from a tax on hotel stays. One penny of the county’s 5-cent hotel tax funds the county’s baseball stadiums, including the $78 million Red Sox complex under construction off Daniels Parkway.

The Tourist Development Council in November endorsed the purchase.

A piece of the land could serve as more fields for baseball and softball.

The Lee County Sports Authority estimates amateur softball can bring an extra $6.5 million per year to Lee County’s economy.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Judah said.

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