FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins held their grand reopening of the newly renovated CenturyLink Sports Complex on Sunday, with more than 4,000 fans attending an open house to see much of the upgrades to the spring facility the organization has called home since 1991.
Twins fans were greeted by players Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins, Torii Hunter and Brian Dozier as they walked up to the new open-air entrance to the ballpark behind home plate. It came on the same day Twins pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training, and marked the completion of the $48.5 million renovations to the complex that included two phases.
"I think they were hoping to get maybe a couple thousand and I think they surpassed that," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "But the good thing is the accessibility. They get an opportunity to see every crevice and had a chance to see Torii, Dozier, Perk and Mauer at the entrance way."
Hammond Stadium saw renovations last year as part of Phase 1, as the Twins created a boardwalk in the outfield, berm seating in left field as well as upgraded concessions and restrooms. But the club took the upgrades to the stadium even further in the second phase, as the Twins widened the concourses, added even more concessions and built a two-story team store and a new box office. The club also replaced the remaining bench seating with traditional seats.
"I think what's gratifying to us is that the footprint of Hammond Stadium was pretty solid," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "We didn't want to change that dramatically. We just wanted to make a better fan experience so ultimately it was about creating more space, more shade and upgraded concessions and restrooms."
Apart from the upgrades to the fan experience, the Twins also renovated both clubhouses while adding a new weight room, trainer's room and dining room attached to the locker room. In the past, players had to be shuttled via golf carts to get to the weight room and ate their meals at their lockers.
"We hadn't put a lot of focus on the Major League facility since 1991 and frankly it was time," St. Peter said. "We feel good about what can we deliver around some fundamental things like training, hydrotherapy and nutrition. So it was probably overdue."
Mauer, who has been with the organization since being the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, said he was impressed by the improvements on the Major League side.
"From everything I've seen, it looks great," Mauer said. "It looks first class. It's great. It makes it easier on the players because we have everything we need here. I'm thankful for that, especially because I've how long I've been here, so seeing the changes is great."
The Minor League facilities also saw a facelift, with the biggest addition coming in the form of a player development academy on the site. The academy, which is among the first of its kind and is the brainchild of former Twins general manager Bill Smith, features 52 double rooms and four suites for Twins Minor Leaguers and staff.
The Twins are hoping it'll lead to long-term success, as the organization provide several amenities to those who live there, including four meals a day, tutors, a game room and a theater room that can hold more than 200 people. The nutrition aspect is among the most important additions, as the club can control what the players eat, while the tutors are there to help Spanish-speaking players learn English and help players finish their college degrees. The Twins contributed $6 million toward the creation of the academy.
"I feel like at the end of the day, it could be a difference maker for us in terms of helping players immerse themselves into the world of professional baseball," St. Peter said. "It's about culture, it's about education and it's about nutrition."
As part of the renovations, the Twins extended their lease with Lee County for 30 years through 2045. And judging by the amount of fans at the open house, the club's players and fans are happy about the partnership.
"It was a great turnout," Dozier said. "I didn't know how many would come out for it, but it was a beautiful day for it and everybody wanted to see the renovations. So I think everyone is pretty pleased."