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Sarasota scales back financial offer to O’s

The effort to bring the Baltimore Orioles to Sarasota is on life support after the Sarasota County Commission scaled back their financial offer to the team, offering $22 million toward a renovated Ed Smith Stadium.

There was no immediate reaction from the team; the Orioles had been asking for $57 million, which would build a new ballpark and a new Ripken Baseball youth academy. But with Vero Beach withdrawing its $13 million offer to renovate Holman Stadium Monday, the Orioles are suddenly running out of options as they explore a replacement for Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

In fact, the county commission declined to even meet the original $33 million offer to the team — an offer also made to the Cincinnati Reds last year. With the economy in worse shape, the feeling among commissioners is that taking on more debt wouldn’t be prudent.

No word from the Orioles; John Angelos, who was at the commission meeting, politely thanked the commissioners for the consideration and said the team would consider the offer. Discussions we had with baseball insiders at last week’s Winter Meetings indicate the Orioles may actually accept the offer. Despite its flaws, Ed Smith Stadium is a workable facility, and $22 million would go a long ways toward addressing flaws like poor concessions and suite amenities. And given the demographics of Sarasota, there’s the better chance to generate some decent revenue in Sarasota than, say Vero Beach.

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