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Complex designed to give Red Sox an edge

Red Sox’ new $75 million facility is designed to help team gain a winning edge

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 27, 2011

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The Cincinnati Reds decided in April 2008 to leave Sarasota, Fla., and conduct spring training in Arizona. Within a few days, a group called “Citizens for Sox’’ formed with the intention of luring the Red Sox away from Fort Myers.

Proposals were batted around for several months, prompting Fort Myers and Lee County officials to respond with their own offer: A $75 million facility located near the Southwest Florida International Airport.

The Red Sox accepted and are scheduled to move into an 11,000-seat stadium next year. The primary incentive for the Red Sox was economic. The team will control some parcels of land around their new spring headquarters and can profit from its development.

But a new facility also created an opportunity for the Red Sox to gain a competitive advantage on the field.

“It was a great opportunity to start from scratch with ideas about how to plan things,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said.

As part of the package, the team will have a state-of-the-art training and rehab center to be used by all the players in the organization.

The medical center will have a hydro-therapy room with a large pool and four plunge tanks. There will be six full practice fields, 10 covered batting tunnels, four outdoor batting cages, and three sets of six bullpen mounds.

The strength and conditioning staff also will have a flat “agility field’’ to use for drills, stretching, sprinting, and other outdoor work.

Head trainer Mike Reinold and team medical director Thomas Gill were involved in the design of the facility and the selection of new equipment.

“It’s a great facility that we’ve been very lucky that we got to design it the way we wanted it, getting enough space and enough of the new gadgets and amenities that the modern-day clubs have,’’ Reinold said. “There will be cutting edge technology, the devices we can use.’’

For players returning from lower-body injuries, the rehab pool will have a floor that can be set at different levels. Players would then be able to “run’’ on a treadmill with less stress to their joints.

All of the team’s medical staff doctors, athletic trainers, strength coaches, therapists, and administrators will have their offices in a central hub. That will enhance communication, record keeping, and improve the services available to minor leaguers.

“That will help the minor league pitchers especially,’’ Gill said. “In the past, they were used to working out one way and the major league pitchers had a different program. When the current medical staff came on board, that changed. Now having everybody under the same roof will make it even more seamless.’’

The long-range plan is for the facility to become a desirable location for players to spend part of their winter preparing for the season instead of enlisting the help of outside trainers and coaches.

“I hope it helps. If we do a good job and make it state-of-the-art and staff it well, maybe we can attract more minor leaguers to [reside in the Fort Myers area] and maybe some of our big league guys buy houses here and spend the winter working out here,’’ Epstein said. “A lot of our players end up going to private specialized training facilities in the offseason. If we can provide that here, we’d have our coaches around. That would be ideal.’’

John Lackey believes the players will embrace the concept.

“I’m either in Texas or California in the winter, I can usually get outside to throw,’’ he said. “But if I lived in Michigan, I’d want to come down early. I think there will definitely be guys who come down here and try to take advantage of what they have.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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