Sarasota officials say they need a little time to review a proposal from the Baltimore Orioles for a $65-million spring-training complex.
As discussed in last night’s county commission meeting, the proposal calls for revenues generated from the tourist tax to pay for a renovation of Ed Smith Stadium, currently the spring home of the Cincinnati Reds, as well as an expanded and upgraded spring complex. The Orioles would also work with Ripken Baseball to bring a year-round youth baseball academy to the city as well as provide free advertising for Sarasota tourism on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which reaches television viewers in both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
The issue for the county commissioners: how to move forward with a study to determine the financial impact of spring baseball in the area. The commissioners do have a study prepared when negotiations were ongoing with the Boston Red Sox, and the assumption is that the numbers will come in lower because there’s less passion among Orioles fans than there is in Red Sox Nation. (A reasonable assumption.)
Work on these issues will begin immediately, with a report due before the county looks at the allocation of tourism taxes at a December meeting. But the Orioles have clearly laid out what they want to see in a spring-training facility, and they’re willing to move for a more modest facility than the Red Sox were demanding — which is an important budget consideration. And by laying out expectations, the Orioles are clearly indicating their first choice for a spring-training home is Sarasota, something we’ve been reporting for months. As was the case with the Reds and the Red Sox, this deal is Sarasota’s to lose — but as we saw with the Reds and the Red Sox, Sarasota officials are very capable shooting themselves in the foot.