The Red Sox have a big need for ‘Little Fenway’


FT. MYERS, Fla. — City of Palms Park, which sits in a neighborhood on the north end of town, is a solid baseball park. Built in 1992, it has plenty of seats in the shade and, if you brought your Coppertone, some seats in the sun. It still feels newish and the sightlines are what you would expect. The home team's clubhouse isn't cramped and, for most baseball teams, it'd be a nice place to spend the six weeks before heading north for the regular season.

Of course, the Boston Red Sox aren't most baseball teams, which is why they're playing they're playing their final games at the corner of Edison and Broadway this month  before moving into new digs a few miles south next spring. {YSP:MORE}

After my first (and last) visit to City on Palms on Thursday, it wasn't hard to see why the team was able to recently extract a new spring training kingdom from Ft. Myers. While teams with smaller followings could comfortably host a full spring training schedule at the ballpark, Red Sox Nation has simply outgrown it. The team sells 8,000 tickets to every game each March and could probably sell twice that amount if given the chance. There simply isn't enough room to put everyone, a fact the Chicago Cubs know full well out in Arizona. (As a notorious claustrophobe, I will say there are few things as terrifying as being caught in the middle of a jostling mess of a  concourse full of wintering baseball fans from the Midwest and Northeast.)

Complicating matters is the fact that Boston's minor league complex is located three miles down the road, making coaching and training logistics a problem when so many other teams have brought everything together through uber-complexes built in Phoenix-area bedroom communities and other areas of Florida where land is more plentiful. (The Red Sox don't have to look far to find something better, as the Minnesota Twins' facilities at Hammond Stadium on the south side of Ft. Myers are superior in every way.)

Next year, though, the Red Sox will move on equal footing to other teams with the opening of a project currently called "Little Fenway" or "Fenway South".

Among its amenities:

- The field on the main stadium will be built to Fenway Park's dimensions, including a Green Monster in left field. (And, yes, fans will be able to buy seats atop the Monster, just like in Boston.)

- The park will seat around 11,000 people.

- Six practice fields will be built adjacent to the main park.

- Located just off I-75, it'll sit in a more convenient place for both fans and opposing teams looking to make a quick exit after the game.

- Perhaps most importantly (to the team), it will feature more shops and suites to separate heat-seeking New Englanders from their money.

I drove over to the site on Thursday afternoon to take pictures of the progress, but there wasn't much to be seen apart from a lot of dirt being pushed around to create a grand entrance way off Daniels Road. The official groundbreaking was held on Friday morning, which does seem awfully late, but everyone seems confident the new crown jewel of Gulf Coast spring training will be completed on time for its 2012 opening.

You move fast when your current place just isn't cutting it, I suppose.

'Duk is in the Grapefruit League this week as part of Big League Stew's Spring Swing. Follow his journey up and down Florida's Gulf Coast here and through Facebook and Twitter.