Having grasped defeat from the jaws of certain victory in their pursuit of the Boston Red Sox, elected officials in Sarasota are now discussing the future of Ed Smith Stadium and MLB spring training. The current plan is to pursue discussions with the Baltimore Orioles about a potential Ed Smith Stadium lease that calls for $30 million or so in improvements to the current spring home of the Cincinnati Reds.Having grasped defeat from the jaws of certain victory in their pursuit of the Boston Red Sox, elected officials in Sarasota are now discussing the future of Ed Smith Stadium and MLB spring training. The current plan is to pursue discussions with the Baltimore Orioles about a potential Ed Smith Stadium lease that calls for $30 million or so in improvements to the current spring home of the Cincinnati Reds. The guts of Ed Smith Stadium are sound; what’s needed is freshening of the concessions, some sorely needed shading, and a more inviting entrance. A move to Sarasota would give the Orioles a chance to field a Florida State League team, something they’ve discussed on and off in recent months.
Landing the Orioles, really, should be a no-brainer: Sarasota is a decent market (though you couldn’t tell by the Reds, who generally have done a poor job of running operations there the last several years), it’s centrally located, and the Orioles would be the only game in town. The main competition for the Orioles seems to be Vero Beach, where officials continue to push for a move to Dodgertown. (We don’t think the Orioles will seriously consider a move to Fort Myers’ City of Palms Park: having four spring-training complexes in Fort Myers seems more than what the market can bear, and we’re pretty sure the Fort Myers Miracle ownership would oppose another FSL team in the market.) On Friday Vero Beach officials said they’ve made their final offer to the Baltimore braintrust, and John Angelos is slated to discuss spring-training options with Peter Angelos and other team officials at the end of the week. The Orioles have been in no hurry to make a decision — it really doesn’t matter whether this is due to careful deliberations or dithering — and we’re guessing no decision will be made by the weekend. (A side note: if the Orioles pass on Sarasota, it looks like the outcome for Ed Smith Stadium and the Reds complex will be a renovation to youth baseball and soccer fields.)
Speaking of decisions: the Red Sox will need to decide whether to pursue a Florida State League team at a new Fort Myers complex. We’ve heard a team is in the mix, but there are a few complicating factors. First, we’re pretty sure the aforementioned Miracle ownership would oppose such a move: the market already contains a new Charlotte County team as well, and three FSL teams in the market seems to be a success for failure. However, we have heard the BoSox have quietly raised the possibility of selling the Salem Avalanche (High Class A; Carolina League) in order to make an FSL shift. The Red Sox bought Salem for two reasons: baseball considerations (the team really wanted to be back in the Carolina League) and development considerations (Fenway Ventures met with area communities like Charlottesville about the Avalanche anchoring new development), but with development off the table for the Red Sox and Fenway Ventures given the current state of credit markets, the allure of keeping Salem is a tad tarnished.