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O’s ask for more from Vero Beach; city balks

Yesterday’s deadline set by Indian River County and Vero Beach officials for the Baltimore Orioles to make a commitment to Dodgertown has come and gone with the Orioles instead making a counteroffer that goes far past the initial offer of $13 million in ballpark improvements and 37.5 acres of land.

In fact, the land is now off the table, as Vero Beach officials say they’re done negotiating. And while what the Orioles are asking for is not out of line with what other teams have received in government incentives, it’s apparently too much for Vero Beach — putting the whole deal in jeopardy.

We’re now down to two, apparently, as the Orioles search for a new spring home. Sarasota is offering $57 million for a new complex on the current Reds training site. Vero Beach had offered $13 million and 37.5 acres of land adjoining Dodgertown (the former golf course). But now Vero Beach officials say the land won’t be available. And Indian River County officials say the Orioles want more in terms of infrastructure surrounding and serving the Dodgertown area.

Judging by the talk at the Baseball Winter Meetings last week, the Orioles are sincere in their interest in Dodgertown; it’s being actively considered as an option, and there are some in the Dodgers camp who love the idea of a laid-back, retro facility — albeit one with new suites. Sarasota may be the better financial option in terms of revenues, but Vero Beach has sentiment working for it.

But to work for the Orioles, Dodgertown needs to generate revenues beyond the ballpark. And that means the old Dodgers golf course must be redeveloped, and the Orioles want additional city investments to make that work. Hence the new demands. How local government officials react in the short term will determine the fate of the Orioles. There’s some demand for the use of Dodgertown as a youth-tournament facility, and at the end of the day that may be the best use for the facility.

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