Jose Reyes does cement work Wednesday as the JetBlue Park stadium construction continues. It has been almost a year since ground was broken on the project. Work started Aug. 13. / Terry Allen Williams/news-press.com
NOTE TO READERS: This is a monthly update on construction progress at JetBlue Park in south Fort Myers, new spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
The JetBlue Park construction project is now 50 weeks old and the first Boston Red Sox spring training game will be played there in about 30 weeks.
Residents of the nearby Gateway community such as Rob Hurst have watched since ground was broken Aug. 13, 2010.
“You can see it all coming together,”said Hurst, an avid Red Sox fan.
The first of 34 steel trusses that will hold the roof was set in place last week. That was yet another milestone in the project, according to project manager Paul Wharen.
“It’s very important,” said Wharen, who works for Manhattan Kraft Construction.
The trusses weigh between 12,000 and 18,000 tons and will require about eight weeks to be set in place. The canopy, which is what project officials call the roof, will be hung on the underside of the trusses.
“It’s time consuming, but it’s going to look sharp when it’s done,” Wharen said.
The trusses will be visible from nearby Daniels Parkway. Also from a distance, it’s clear that the beams that will hold the structure are tilted. The tilt is between 5 and 10 degrees, according to Tom Easley, an engineering inspector for Lee County. He said the beams are part of what is known as the cypress plan.
The intent is to reflect the slanted cypress trees north of the 106-acre site, Easley said.
Inside the stadium, what was once a jumble of construction paraphernalia on the field is being cleared. A row of pipes for a drainage system sticks out of the ground in a line from roughly where home plate will be placed to deep center field.
The steel framework to cover the batting cages went up in the past two weeks.
Virtually all the concrete for the stadium bowl was set last week, said Wharen and Bob Taylor.
“Another milestone,” Wharen said.
Gateway residents wonder what the park will mean for them when it opens next year.
“Hopefully it will increase the price of the houses,” resident Ed Ryan said. “That’s the No. 1 thing you hear.”
The $77.9 million project is also being watched from afar.
Patti Harrington, a Red Sox fan and administrative assistant at the Boston law firm of Burns & Levinson, has been a spring training season-ticket holder since the 1980s, when the team trained in Winter Haven. When the Red Sox moved into City of Palms Park in Fort Myers in 1993, she started visiting here.
“I’ve loved that small little ballpark,” Harrington said. “I loved the location. I loved being right in the city.”
In November 1992, she checked out City of Palms Park shortly before its opening. She may repeat that trip this year.
“We’re thinking, one of my friends and I, of coming down in November just to scope the place out and see how it’s doing,” Harrington said.
By November, according to the timetable, the project should be almost done.
Plans call for home plate and the pitching rubber to be installed Dec. 1, four months from today.