FORT MYERS, Fla. - It’s beginning to look a lot like Fenway.
Yesterday, on a sun-drenched morning, the Red Sox gave a sneak peek of JetBlue Park, the new $78 million Fenway South complex.
“I can’t believe this was just a pile of dirt a couple of months ago,’’ said Katie Haas, Red Sox director of Florida business operations.
Less than five minutes from Southwest Florida International Airport, the ballpark gleams in the sun of Lee County.
Although it’s still hardhat instead of hardball, one thing is certain: The new ballpark is a big hit.
From the outside it looks a little like the Sydney Opera House.
“The canopy effect is something to match the surrounding landscape of natural Cyprus trees of all different levels,’’ said Haas.
The first things noticeable are the Green Monster and the manual scoreboard, the exact one they had at Fenway Park. It was replaced before the 2001 season and kept in storage in South Dakota, according to Haas.
“It was shipped here last summer and we hid it in a Lee County warehouse for a year and now it’s being retrofitted,’’ she said.
The playing field dimensions are identical to those in Fenway Park, with a twist.
Halfway up the 37-foot Green Monster, there are three rows of seats carved in. These seats will be covered with taut netting that Sox officials hope will replicate the bounce off the Fenway Wall.
On top of the wall is a single line of barstool drink rail seating. The Green Monster deck for standing room is behind the barstool seats.
Seats are comfy and the central aisles are wide enough to accommodate a beer truck.
There’s plenty of shade for those 1:35 p.m. starts, especially in the upper level.
Fans in the Monster seats have a nice view of the six practice fields and the 126-acre site that will be home to the franchise’s major and minor league facilities. The main practice field has a 37-foot chain-link fence in left field. The transformation of the land has been on time and remarkable. The ballpark is 90 percent complete and should be done by the third week of January.
“It was kind of swampy here,’’ said Haas, a former Roslindale resident. “It wasn’t a lake, there was more of a pond that had to be filled in. We were told they had to clear some cattle off of the land and some alligators and God knows what else was out here at nighttime.’’
The Bermuda grass is gorgeous and workers, some of whom are slated to work on Christmas, are dumping topsoil in right field for a grass berm seating area that at $5 will be the cheapest in Major League Baseball, according to team officials. Those tickets will cost $2.50 for the Boston College and Northeastern games March 3. An adjacent right-field picnic area also will be completed.
Spring training tickets priced up to $46 went on sale last weekend. Sox officials said it was their best selling weekend despite lingering memories of last season’s epic collapse. The new ballpark seats more than 10,000, with an additional 1,000 spaces designated for standing room. There were 7,576 fixed seats at City of Palms.
Not yet completed is a Fenwalk, a trail leading to the ballpark that will feature Red Sox nostalgia and interactive games. There also will be a soccer field, but not for Liverpool. It is slated to be used by Lee County youth groups. An adjacent 20 acres of land has been set aside by the Sox for other business opportunities.