While there are no signs of grass, pitching mounds or bases to see just yet, construction is well underway on the state-of-the-art Spring Training facility the Red Sox will play in beginning next season, and for at least the next three decades.
Team president/CEO Larry Lucchino was joined by chairman Tom Werner, general manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona and second baseman Dustin Pedroia for the ground-breaking ceremony.
"It's going to be fun," said Pedroia. "I think everyone is excited. We can't wait. We've all seen all the plans and what it's going to look like, and stuff like that. I think everyone is excited to get over here and call it home."
It will look a lot like home. The main field will be a replica of Fenway Park. There will be six practice fields, one of which will also have the same dimensions as Fenway.
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"It's a nice preparation tool," said Epstein. "For instance, if we had that this year, it would have given Carl Crawford a chance to play a bunch of games with the Monster behind him and work on a few things. I think it will be nice. Our Minor Leaguers will all have a chance to get used to the dimensions from a defensive standpoint. I wouldn't say it's going to transform the franchise, but I would say it's a nice added bonus for us."
What the Red Sox are most excited about is that their entire Spring Training facility will at last be at one venue.
Since moving to Fort Myers in 1993, the Red Sox spend the first couple of weeks of camp at the Player Development Complex, and then move a few miles down Edison Avenue to City of Palms Park once the exhibition season begins. Under the new arrangement, the Major League and Minor League complexes will be together.
"The synergy that develops between having the big leaguers and the Minor Leaguers in the same spot is very valuable to us," Epstein said. "You can talk all you want about being one organization and being vertically integrated, but if you have to drive three miles down the street to get from one place to the other, it doesn't really add up. To have it all in the same place brings us all together. Streaming everyone into the same facility is probably the single most important upgrade."
The new park will also be far more convenient, as it is two miles from I-75 and six miles from Southwest Florida International Airport. It will also be in close proximity to several shops and restaurants.
The grass parking lots used during game-days will also be soccer fields.
"We feel like we've taken a step forward by consolidating our sites into one [venue]," said Lucchino. "Virtually every team in baseball enjoys the efficiency and the benefits of a single-site complex. We are one of the few that did not and I know that Terry Francona and the coaches are particularly excited about having everybody together."
The new park comes with a 30-year lease.
"It's going to be great and I think our fans are going to love it," Lucchino said. "It will be one place, and there won't be the parking and transportation issues our fans currently have. They'll be able to experience the entirety of Spring Training in one site and we'll have a state-of-the-art ballpark as well."