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Sarasota makes $55 million pitch to Orioles for spring-training base

Sarasota officials have put together a plan to woo the Baltimore Orioles’ spring-training base by spending upwards of $55 million on a complex that could include a new ballpark or a renovated Ed Smith Stadium.

The complex currently housing Cincinnati Reds spring training will be vacated in April 2009, as the Reds move spring operations to Goodyear, Az.. Sarasota says it will renovate the camp to the Orioles’ specifications, which includes a 7,500-seat ballpark.

The future of the Orioles’ spring-training operations has been up in the air since the FAA decided to charge more than a million dollars annually for a proposed new complex at the current Fort Lauderdale Stadium site. Orioles officials have been heavily wooed by Vero Beach and Indian River County officials to make the move to Dodgertown, where $13 million would be spent on upgrades to the complex and Holman Stadium. Fort Myers officials have also made overtures to the Orioles about a potential move to City of Palms Park after the Boston Red Sox alight for a new complex in Lee County.

But Sarasota is the first to step forward with some serious bucks. The funding is actually already in place, thanks to the city and county’s failed attempt to land the Boston Red Sox training camp. It’s widely known the Orioles have held off making a decision regarding spring training to see what shakes out, and it looks like that patience may be rewarded. The Orioles are already familiar with the Sarasota market — their minor leaguers train at Sarasota’s Twin Lakes Park — and a location between Fort Myers and Tampa Bay would make travel more convenient for fans and players. You can’t fly directly to Vero Beach from Baltimore, but you can fly directly to Sarasota.

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