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Orioles and Sarasota Talking Seriously Again

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Monday could bring spring clarity

By Doug Fernandes

Herald-Tribune Columnist

Published: Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.

Last Modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 9:23 p.m.

SARASOTA

Not that it matters, but ...

Monday could bring clarity to our still-foggy spring training baseball picture.

Or it could remain as clouded as before.

That's the deadline set by the County for Baltimore to respond to the $33.1 million deal to renovate both Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park.

What does respond mean, you ask?

The Orioles could agree to our offer. They could sign off on whatever deal they have brewing with Fort Myers.

They could also delay a decision, thus adding yet another chapter to a story as long and convoluted as the history of man.

Know this: Both sides are close. For all their posturing with Fort Myers, the Orioles want to call Sarasota home.

It's all a matter of moolah, which is why the City ultimately may end up deciding the future of spring training.

According to sources, if the City agrees to contribute around $160,000 a year over the life of a 30-year lease, the O's then will kick in $5 million and a deal could get done.

Presently, the City's only input to the project is a fixed one -- the land on which Ed Smith sits. And even at $160,000 a year, that would be less than the annual operating and maintenance cost, assuming The Ed is not sold.

What can't be argued is that this is Sarasota's last chance to perpetuate a part of its heritage. And if certain people are to be believed, we're too close to allow it not to happen.

Staying on the topic of spring training, allow me to surmise that few fans would patronize The Ed for Japanese league baseball.

It would be nice to have the guys there next spring. I wonder if renovations can be completed that quickly?

Let's hope. I think a renovated Ed Smith would be better than Ft. Myers. For the niceness of City of Palms, it only has one practice field, which is one less than Lauderdale. The Ed Smith complex has several.

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Sarasota County did receive an encouraging letter from the Orioles today in time.

The ball was in the Orioles court --- now it is in the County's court.

There should be discussion of the Orioles letter this week, maybe as earlry as Tue. or Wed.

More details later.

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Sarasota County did receive an encouraging letter from the Orioles today in time.

The ball was in the Orioles court --- now it is in the County's court.

There should be discussion of the Orioles letter this week, maybe as earlry as Tue. or Wed.

More details later.

Staying alive...

Good to hear. :)

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The Orioles have confirmed a sincere interest in locating their ST complex and Cal Ripken Complex in Sarasota County and have pointed out that the costs have come down due to financial developments in the bond market and with construction.

The Orioles call upon the Commissioners to get together with the Orioles and work together.

Here is an excerpt from the four-page Oriole's letter.

"Because the Orioles have developed a great affinity for the Greater Sarasota area, we were implored by County Commissioners, business leaders and others to "keep the dialogue open," which we were pleased to do. Since December, we have responded to many inquiries and kept lines of communications open with the County. Fortuitously, over that time period, the bond markets have begun to ease, labor costs have declined, and the project costs have thus been markedly reduced. As a result, a new state-of-the-art baseball stadium, facilities and fields, within the same general project plan as had been discussed in December, with the cost-saving exception of utilizing the Ed Smith quadrant and Twin Lakes rather than the Northeast quadrant, has driven project costs down even further. Significantly, although the project costs have been reduced substantially over time, the Orioles' contributions to the project remained constant. That is, while the City's and County's costs had been markedly reduced over time by the various revisions and cost-saving factors, the Orioles did not seek to have the Club's contributions proportionately benefited.

The Orioles' efforts in these regards have been and continue to be genuine and sincere expressions of interest. As has been evident, the Orioles have been willing to reassess the project costs as new information becomes available in the ever-changing financial and construction markets always, however, keeping baseball operations and the long-term viability of the facilities foremost in our assessments. Over the past several weeks the Club has been asked to do so again. In turn, we have asked that the City and County come together and, in a similar expression of interest, provide the Club with a unified, comprehensive and achievable funding program that fairly reflects each party's contribution to the project. As you know, that is what has been missing here, but we are hopeful that it

April 20, 2009 Page 4

can be provided if all parties have a similar interest in retaining the legacy of spring training operations in Sarasota. Indeed, as you are aware, even for the State to release the OTTED funds, it too will need a comprehensive project funding program presented by the City and County.

Again, on behalfof the Orioles, we appreciate your continuing efforts. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Very truly yours, "

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Reading that letter it seems the Orioles are saying that project costs have come down and yet they haven't tried to reduce their share so they feel that is good enough.

It doesn't seem like the O's are going to give much on this one, and the County is going to have to decide ultimately if they want to keep ST baseball in Sarasota. The Orioles are basically telling them to get their act together and get serious.

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Yes, the Orioles point is that they are putting up a greater percentage of the cost and the County will be putting in a lesser percentage, This sets well with the voters and the Commissioners pride. They can say they have made a better deal with the Orioles and the Orioles can say they have cut costs.

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http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20090421/ARTICLE/904211056/2055/NEWS?Title=Options-for-baseball-at-stadium-are-growing

Stadium options growing

By Roger Drouin

Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.

Last Modified: Monday, April 20, 2009 at 9:22 p.m.

“SARASOTA - The city that 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.

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.

And on Monday, the Baltimore Orioles signaled that they have not given up on Ed Smith after all.

The Orioles, who turned away from a $31 million deal offered by the city and Sarasota County last year, sent a letter to Sarasota saying they want to keep talks going here. The Orioles went to Lee County, where they have been negotiating with officials for several months, but have not struck a deal.

Monday's letter requested that the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County decide how much each would pay for upfront construction costs. So far, the city has been unwilling to contribute.

John Cranor, chairman of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and County Commissioner Shannon Staub have talked to the Orioles and say if the city chips in $2.5 million, the deal could work.

"Twenty minutes ago I talked to the team's lawyer and negotiator, and they want to work something out," Cranor said Monday night. "They want to be here if they get the right deal. And quite frankly this is as close as either side will get to the right deal."

Staub appeared before city commissioners Monday afternoon asking them to pledge $165,000 a year toward the project -- totaling the $2.5 million. Commissioners did not discuss whether to contribute funding.”

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So, we still want the brand new stadium:

As a result, a new state-of-the-art baseball stadium, facilities and fields, within the same general project plan as had been discussed in December, with the cost-saving exception of utilizing the Ed Smith quadrant and Twin Lakes rather than the Northeast quadrant, has driven project costs down even further.

Hopefully we can move into Ed Smith next year and by the following year we have our new facility.

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Reading that letter it seems the Orioles are saying that project costs have come down and yet they haven't tried to reduce their share so they feel that is good enough.

It doesn't seem like the O's are going to give much on this one, and the County is going to have to decide ultimately if they want to keep ST baseball in Sarasota. The Orioles are basically telling them to get their act together and get serious.

If it was allowed, I might say something like "Do you have to work to be such an a$$ or is it a gift?" but since that's likely against board rules, I merely say that you truely have a knack for rubbing people the wrong way. Hope you don't work in the massage business.... :)

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If it was allowed, I might say something like "Do you have to work to be such an a$$ or is it a gift?" but since that's likely against board rules, I merely say that you truely have a knack for rubbing people the wrong way. Hope you don't work in the massage business.... :)

Huh? :confused: I didn't see anything negative in that post. If anything, I'm on the Orioles side on this one...

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The topic is mentioned in today's Sun

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baseball/bal-sp.osnotes22apr22,0,5051148.story

O's contact Sarasota

Attorney Alan Rifkin responded to a deadline set by Sarasota officials with a letter late Monday afternoon expressing the Orioles' interest in making the city its spring training home, but only if the city and county improve their offer.

The Orioles want Sarasota to dedicate three-quarters of a penny of its tourism tax to the baseball project, a proposal that the county commission has rejected. Rifkin's letter said the Orioles would keep the "dialogue open." However, the club also is negotiating with Lee County officials to move to a complex in Fort Myers, Fla., that the Boston Red Sox will vacate in 2012.

The Orioles can remain in Fort Lauderdale for 2010 and 2011, but must contact officials by May 1 to extend the lease. The club has not made a decision, a spokesman said.

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SARASOTA COUNTY: On Monday, the Baltimore Orioles sent an email to the Sarasota County Commissioners, letting them know they would like to continue discussion about moving their Spring Training operations there.

On Tuesday, the County Commission formally asked the City of Sarasota to take a formal stance on whether or not the City will be able to contribute to bringing the Orioles to Sarasota.

In the letter, Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton also asked Sarasota Mayor Richard Clapp to put a dollar amount on what the City of Sarasota would be willing to contribute.

The Baltimore Orioles currently hold their Spring Training in Fort Lauderdale, but have had discussions with Vero Beach, Sarasota and Lee County about a possible move.

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Never exactly sure where they get their sources but this was on an email I got from Spring Training Online dated today...

Future of the Orioles Ballpark Undecided

For spring-training fans, the most important thing to watch in the next 10 months is a decision about the future home of the Baltimore Orioles. After some bad reports on the condition of Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota (where O's minor leaguers train), MLB apparently is leaning on the Orioles to address these shortcomings and either move spring training or fix the problems.

We continue to hear the most likely place for the Orioles is Fort Myers, occupying City of Palms Park once the Boston Red Sox move to a new facility. The reason for the silence on the issue is simple: the new Red Sox training facility isn't a totally done deal, and it's a little premature for the Orioles to announce the move to a facility that isn't technically open

.

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Never exactly sure where they get their sources but this was on an email I got from Spring Training Online dated today...

.

This could be why the Red Sox are having problems:

Red Sox stadium e-mails sought by FBI

I wonder if everything was on the up and up with their deal?

If Lee County is under investigation, it could push the Orioles to make a deal with Sarasota...

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If anybody wants to watch the proposal that Commissioner Staub put before the Sarasota City Commissioners you can watch it here:

http://sarasota.granicus.com/ViewSearchResults.php?keywords=orioles&view_id=7

Just click "Citizens' Input Concerning City Topics"

She starts her talk at 4:30

It looks like the package would be a total of $40-44 million with at least $5 million coming from the Orioles.

In the same meeting, the City Manager mentions the Orioles potential deal with Ft. Myers would be a $10 million dollar renovation of City of Palms and the Orioles would only pay $300,000 per year on a lease and Lee County would pick up the O+M. That sounds like the cheap way out.

Sarasota's deal sounds so much better...

Edited by JTrea81

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