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County board OK's ballpark increase

County OK's increase

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In a vote on Tuesday afternoon, the Hennepin County Board approved a $22 million increase in the cost of the new Twins ballpark. That amount will be paid by the Twins ownership.

Two weeks ago, Jerry Bell, President of Twins Sports Inc., proposed the additional upgrades to the county board. And while the Twins weren't seeking any additional money from the county, the board is required, by procedure, to approve any changes made to the final cost of the project.

"It was the last discussion on recognizing the Twins additional contributions and then also approving the infrastructure plan for the area immediately around the ballpark," said Mike Opat, Hennepin County Commissioner. "I think we're all excited that we have plans for everything now and we can go forward.

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"The Twins certainly stepped up when asked and I think they are going to look for ways to continue to improve it too. I think we're all excited."

The extra cost of $22 million is for additional upgrades the Twins plan to make to their future home. The club is set to use more expensive stone in building the ballpark and covering the exposed framework of the canopies that adorn the outside of the facility.

The Twins also want to add a scoreboard with a larger video screen than originally planned. It will be a high-definition screen measuring 103 feet by 57 feet.

Since the 40,000-seat ballpark will also be an open-air facility, the Twins are including comfort areas in the concourse that will allow fans to get warm on cold days or cool off during particularly hot stretches of the summer.

"These are enhancements," Bell said following the initial proposal. "We wanted to upgrade certain aspects such as the stone, the canopy and the scoreboard, as well as add more bathrooms and comfort areas."

The additional financial commitment raises the ownership's stake in the new ballpark to $152 million while also upping the total cost of the project to $412 million. The county's price tag of $260 million has not changed.

The Twins are covering $15 million of the $105 million cost of the ballpark site and infrastructure costs. The new ballpark is scheduled to open in 2010.

"Our feeling is we get one shot at this, let's do it right," said Kevin Smith, Twins executive director of public affairs. "It's enhancements to promote A) better fan amenities, and B) a ballpark that we can still be proud of years from now."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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