Across Florida, they want baseball stadiums
Wake up and good morning. Stadiums. Lots of baseball stadiums. Florida's already got lots but wants more, or better ones. And it's stressing even baseball-obsessed communities struggling in this recession. Here's a quick list:
* SARASOTA: The city failed three times to land a Major League Baseball team's spring training now finds itself surrounded by suitors who want to lease or buy 20-year-old Ed Smith Stadium (shown in photo), reports today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Since the Cincinnati Reds played their last spring ballgame at Ed Smith on April 2, three private investors have indicated they are interested in leasing or buying the stadium. On Monday, the Baltimore Orioles signaled that they have not given up on Ed Smith after all. And one developer, Baseline-iScouts Group, wants to buy the 53-acre stadium from the city and build a year-round baseball development center. The group wants to make Ed Smith the home field for a Japanese league team that would play spring training against American teams.
* VERO BEACH: Dodgertown, clearly one of the finest places this side of Mars to watch spring training, has been vacant since the LA Dodgers left. But county officials are planning to hold a news conference on Wednesday, where they are expected to unveil the new tenant to take over the Dodgertown complex. It just won't be a major league team coming for spring training. The Vero Beach 32963 newspaper reports that Minor League Baseball, with headquarters in St. Petersburg, is expected to be the new Dodgertown tenant and that it will conduct activities here year-round.
* FORT MYERS: In a town eager to keep the Boston Red Sox happy, about 900 people on Monday crammed into the Estero High School auditorium, south of Fort Myers, for a town hall meeting to discuss the four potential sites for the new, $70- to $80-million Boston Red Sox spring-training stadium, reports today's Fort Myers News Press. Many have voiced their disagreement with the Edison Farms site. When Lee County commission chairman Ray Judah began reviewing the sites, many in the crowd booed at the first mention of Edison Farms, located east of Interstate 75 and south of Corkscrew Road.
* MIAMI: Miami commissioners are being asked to dip into the lifeline of local government -- the general fund -- to help build the parking complex around the planned Florida Marlins' baseball stadium (shown in rendering -- note the retractable roof!), according to the Miami Herald. A month ago, when city commissioners voted 3-2 in support of the stadium plan, administrators offered everything but a flat-out guarantee that the city's general fund -- which pays for fire, police and other services -- would not be touched. Miami's contribution to the $634 million overall ballpark plan -- $94 million for parking facilities -- was to be bankrolled through the issuance of bonds, with the debt to be paid off with hotel bed taxes, commissioners were promised.
Hey, consider this a modest sampling of what's ahead for Tampa Bay as we move ever so slowly closer to a new stadium proposal for the Tampa Bay Rays.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist