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Orioles, Sarasota close to spring-training deal

The Baltimore Orioles and Sarasota County are close to an agreement to bring the team to Ed Smith Stadium for spring training in 2010, but some procedural issues need to be addressed before a $31-million makeover of the ballpark can be launched.

The agreement hinges on the county and city coming to terms on a transfer of the ballpark from the city of Sarasota to Sarasota County. The two sides have come to a basic understanding on the terms, but one issue remains: who would be responsible for any future cleanup of the ballpark. (Ed Smith Stadium sits on a former landfill site, and occasionally reminders of that history will pop up; famously, the lid of a storage drum once appeared in a dugout.) The county wants the city to be on the hook with no supervision of the cleanup; the city wants a say on the extent of any future cleanup. The two sides are expected to come to an agreement perhaps as soon as tomorrow, clearing the way for a transfer.

And if that happens, Sarasota County is ready to spend $31 million on a makeover of Ed Smith Stadium, which opened in 1989 as the spring home of the Chicago White Sox and later served as the spring home of the Cincinnati Reds through 2009. The Orioles had worked for a expanded facility in Fort Lauderdale before the Federal Aviation Authority put the nix on a renovated Fort Lauderdale Stadium by asking for $1 million annually in rent for the land. The Orioles had also been in discussions to lease City of Palms Park from Lee County and Fort Myers after the Boston Red Sox depart for a new facility in Lee County.

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