Major League Baseball
Orioles Decline Sarasota's Spring Training Offer
The future of the Ed Smith complex, and Spring Training in Sarasota as a whole, is in a state of uncertainty after the Baltimore Orioles sent an official letter to the Sarasota County Commission declining the city's offer to lure the franchise away from their current Fort Lauderdale facilities when their lease ends after the 2009 season. The Orioles, who had previously trained at the Ed Smith facility from 1989-1991, declined the city's formal offer of a $30 million renovation of the current facilities with $22 million of that funding coming from the county's tourism tax. The team had already declined a similar effort in November and instead were asking for a $57 million deal that would include a brand new stadium and facilities that would house a proposed baseball academy. The latest development is the most recent setback for a city that is facing the possibility of being without Spring Training for the first time in 80 years. The current tenants, the Cincinnati Reds, are headed to Goodyear, Arizona after the upcoming season.Having already been rebuked in their efforts to bring the Boston Red Sox to town and with most franchises already involved in long-term contracts with their current homes, the city may be out of Major League options, especially with competition from other Florida cities like Vero Beach, Winter Haven and Fort Myers and the always present threat from the Cactus League looming. Even for teams that would be in a position to relocate within the next five years, the possibility of a Major League franchise accepting a package involving a renovated Ed Smith Stadium, similar to the deal that brought the Tampa Bay Rays to a renovated Charlotte County Stadium, appear to shrinking as franchises look toward modern, revenue-generating stadiums such as Brighthouse Networks Field in Clearwater and Champions Ballpark in Lake Buena Vista.