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County tosses in $10-million for 2 stadiums

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

The commission approves $7-million for Clearwater and $3-million for Dunedin to upgrade or replace the stadiums for their baseball teams.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $10-million to help keep the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays from moving their spring-training programs elsewhere.

The county will give $7-million to Clearwater to build the Phillies a new stadium, and $3-million to Dunedin to renovate the Jays' facility.

Now the cities must ask for additional money from the state to pull off the deals. Specifically, Clearwater wants $7-million and Dunedin wants $6-million.

"Our entire organization considered Clearwater to be the ideal spring-training home," said David Montgomery, president and CEO of the Phillies. "We are proud of the length of time we have been here and look forward to building upon our relationship with the city."

Dunedin is seeking a total of $12-million to renovate Grant Field and Englebert Complex. In addition to the state and county money, the remaining $3-million will be split between the team and the city during the course of the 15-year contract.

Clearwater is seeking $22-million for a training complex that will replace crumbling Jack Russell Stadium. Besides the county and state money, the city will pay $5.5-million in construction costs, plus annual costs that could total as much as $6.7-million during the 20-year term.

Before the vote, residents of the College Hill Estates neighborhood, just north of the proposed Phillies stadium, opposed the plan. They said sinkhole damage and drainage problems will worsen if the stadium is built on the site off U.S. 19 and Drew Street, and traffic and noise will increase.

"They don't live in this neighborhood, and don't have their life savings tied up here," Clearwater resident Nick Champlin said. "And when the noise and traffic from park events comes pouring into our neighborhood, our property values are going to disintegrate."