The National Sports Center, the massive state-owned sports complex in Blaine, is expanding its empire.

The Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, which manages the complex, is leasing another 49 acres from the neighboring Anoka County-Blaine Airport. The deal brings the complex’s footprint to 691 acres.

Neighbors, athletes and fans won’t notice much of a difference because the 49 acres are already playing fields and ball diamonds that used to be leased by the city of Blaine.

This is the latest in a series of expansions. The commission is also asking the Legislature for $5.5 million to complete the second phase of an expansion that will increase the number of playing fields from 54 to 66. The National Sports Center already owns the land for that expansion.

The Sports Center is paying $75,000 for an eight-month lease that expires at the end of the year.

Sports Center spokesman Barclay Kruse said a long-term lease for the property is being sought.

The National Sports Center draws 4 million visitors a year — more than Target Field — and lays claim to the title of world’s largest amateur sports and meeting facility.

Shannon Prather