First off, just an update on our Rotary Club's Haiti Earthquake Relief projects: With the generous support of individual Rotarians, some of the proceeds from this year's successful Arts & Crafts Fair - and support from members of the community - the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club has supplied funding to Rotary International's Shelter Box program (now focusing on Haiti and, more recently, Chile).
Our club has also been able to collaborate with Missionary Enterprises, Inc., led by Rotary Club member Harold Hanson, to send a pallet of food and building materials to repair earthquake damage (earmarked to be used for rebuilding schools). Missionary Enterprises is sending a 20-foot container to Haiti that holds 36,000 lbs - or 18 tons - of much-needed supplies.
When the container arrives in Haiti and passes through security checks, John Grey - our newest Rotary Club member - is flying to Haiti to oversee distribution of our Rotary pallet. From reports we have received from our Haiti connections, there are many obstacles that our shipment may incur along the way and will have to wait for word of the arrival of the container and evaluate safety conditions in Haiti before John may leave.
Just a few words about John Grey, the name may be slightly familiar to some of you. After all, his name appears on his company trucks, John Grey Painting Ltd. Co. John only became an official Sanibel-Captiva Rotary member a few weeks ago... but even while he was under consideration for membership, John showed the true spirit of a Rotarian and Rotary International's motto, "Service Above Self." He jumped right into the fray of working alongside of us at the Arts & Crafts Fair and volunteered to go to Haiti and represent our Rotary Club. Well that really does tell you something about the character of this man.
Now counter to the first couple of paragraphs in this article, Rotary isn't really about all work and no play. Sport fans abound among our ranks and what season are some Rotarians thinking about now? Well, baseball's spring training season, of course.
Fellow Rotarian, Lee County Commissioner Bob Janes arranged to have Deputy County Manager William H. "Bill" Hammond speak to us last Friday. Bill wanted to get right in there and talk a little ball. Oh, by the way, recognize the name Bill Hammond? How about this? Lee County Sports Complex Bill Hammond Stadium. The main stadium was renamed Bill Hammond Stadium late in the 1994 spring season in honor of the Deputy County Commissioner, who was instrumental in getting the complex built for the Twins. The complex is home of the Minnesota Twins Spring Training Camp and to two of Minnesota's minor league affiliates. The Twins are spending their 20th Spring Training season at the Lee County Sports Complex.
Hammond's topic for the day revolved around the economic impact our current professional baseball team's spring training facilities brings to Lee County. The Boston Red Sox organization brings the larger dollar share of revenue to Lee County with its sold-out games and large fan base spending. The City of Palms Park, which was built in 1992 in Fort Myers with a seating capacity of around 8,000 per game, will be replaced in 2012 with a new sports complex facility in Fort Myers. The facility will be paid for by Lee County, and the Red Sox will sign a 50-year lease that guarantees that the team occupies it for the duration.
Although Bill did not speak about the cost, timing or financial return of this endeavor, there seems to be a confidence in the economic benefit to our area. Time will tell. Lee County is currently looking to lure another team to the Sox' current home, City of Palms. He didn't mention the cost of this.
In addition, Bill spoke fondly of the Minnesota Twins organization and the "family feeling" around the team. He said although it has a smaller economic market as compared to the Red Sox, Minnesota had a very loyal base and a facility that benefits the community year round. The Sports Complex is the home to two of Minnesota's minor league affiliates, housing both the Miracle of the Class A Florida State League and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins. The complex also features two soccer fields, a softball complex and other athletic facilities for use by Lee County organizations, plus an eight-acre water-management lake for public fishing.
Deputy Hammond mentioned a few other economics sport related happenings in Lee County:
The Roy Hobbs Adult Baseball World Series will bring 181 teams to Fort Myers in November 2011 and thereafter, with a contract to run to 2019.
Art of the Olympians Museum in Fort Myers recently opened with visits from dignitaries across the globe. This is our county's newest sport-tourist attraction.
Lee County was also mentioned as a candidate for a pretty impressive aquatic complex in the future.
The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Clubs meets on Fridays at 7 a.m. at The Beachview Restaurant on Sanibel.