Sarasota and Red Sox to begin formal negotiations Friday; Lee County pitches four new training sites

The Boston Red Sox and Sarasota county and city officials will begin formal negotiations over the funding and design of a new spring-training ballpark and training complex, with the first sitdown meeting slated for 9 a.m. Friday. The two sides have been trading proposals for the last month and spent a rather engaging evening in a suite at Tropicana Field recently when the Red Sox visited the Tampa Bay Rays. There’s already broad agreement on the scope of the project: a 9,999-seat ballpark with berm seating, luxury boxes and parking. The Red Sox began the negotiations asking for all the revenues from the project (including concessions and parking) without putting any money up front; the city and county are expected to counter with some sort of request for upfront money. We doubt the Red Sox will put any money into the project, though some advance of rent may be possible; it’s more likely the team would scale back its demands for all the suite and parking revenue to make the project financially work. Under the plan, the new ballpark would be built in Payne Park — where the Red Sox trained in the Ted Williams era — and the current Ed Smith Stadium site would be converted to a training facility.

Meanwhile, Lee County officials say they’ve identified four sites that could accommodate a new Red Sox training facility, though it’s not clear there’s any appetite from a developer to actually build a training complex. Judging by the lack of enthusiasm from those interviewed for this article, it’s hard to say there’s a lot of passion to keep the team in Lee County.