FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Fans coming down to Florida to watch the Twins this spring might not recognize Hammond Stadium.
The Spring Training home of the Twins is currently undergoing a $48.5 million renovation with Phase 1 set for completion in time for the club's Grapefruit League home opener on March 1. Phase 2 is set to begin this summer and is scheduled for completion by Spring Training next year.
"We're very excited about our long-term future here in Lee County," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "We have a lot of work to do. This is a phased project, and we're coming to the end here on Phase 1. Phase 2 will equally be exciting. But it speaks to a commitment from the Twins, Lee County and our project partners Manhattan and Populous."
The most noticeable change this year is the addition of a concrete boardwalk in the outfield that features berm seating in left field, concessions in center field and bars in both left and right field. It allows fans to walk completely around around the interior of the stadium -- which opened in 1991 -- for the first time.
"It is going to give the building a lot more room to breathe, a lot more crowd room, a lot more space for people to spread out and really experience the game from different points of view and different vantage points," said Peter Hayden, project director for Manhattan Construction.
With new seats added in right field, as well as a drink rail in right, and berm seating in left field, the current seating capacity will expand from 8,000 to 9,300 this spring. But that total is expected to drop to roughly 8,500 next year, as the Twins are replacing the current bench seating in the upper levels at Hammond Stadium with traditional bucket seats.
As part of Phase 2, the Twins will also more than double the size of the current concourses while adding new concessions, upgraded restroom facilities and a new retail store for fans. The suites, offices and press box at Hammond Stadium will also be updated.
To allow for the construction to begin this summer, the Class A Advanced Fort Myers Miracle, who play at Hammond Stadium for Florida State League action, will play their final nine home games at nearby JetBlue Park.
But it's not just the stadium that is being renovated at the Lee County Sports Complex, as the Twins are making major upgrades to their Major and Minor League clubhouses as well as adding a player development academy includes 55 sleeping rooms for players and staff.
The upgrades to the Minor League side, which also includes a new Minor League playing field and a new agility field complete with an eight-foot hill, are expected to be completed this spring.
The player development academy is expected to be completed by May 1, and will also include a 200-seat auditorium, a hydrotherapy room and the dormitories for players. The Twins are footing the bill on the $6 million project.
"It will provide immediate dividends to some of our younger players in our system who are rehabbing in Fort Myers or playing the Gulf Coast League," St. Peter said. "It'll have a complete nutrition focus there, classrooms and an assembly hall. It's really going to be a world-class facility and one we think will really be a game-changer for our Minor League system."
The Twins are trying to be ahead of the curve with the player development academy, as it's only the third of its kind in professional baseball.
"In general, our focus from a player-development perspective was to make this the premier player-development facility in baseball," St. Peter said. "We've taken a significant step toward that on the Minor League side with Phase 1, and that will carry over into Phase 2 with a completely renovated Major League clubhouse and a fully dedicated Major League weight room and hydrotherapy.''
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.