The renovation of Ed Smith Stadium, slated to be done by Spring Training 2011, is back on after construction contracts were awarded by Sarasota County, but the whole project could be derailed by yet another lawsuit.
The renovation of Ed Smith Stadium, slated to be done by Spring Training 2011, is back on after construction contracts were awarded by Sarasota County.
Ed Smith Stadium is the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles. When the Orioles negotiated a move to Sarasota before Spring Training 2010, they negotiated an upgrade to Ed Smith Stadium, largely unchanged since it opened in 1989 as the spring home of the Chicago White Sox.
The renovations are funded by the county and will include a new berm and picnic area in left field, an expanded press box, covered seating, an expansion of the outer concourse, a right-field party deck and new bullpens. Also included: a renovation of the team's minor-league complex at Twin Lakes Park. The cost of the project is pegged at $31.2 million, but only $18.7 million of the project was released for bid, won by the local firm W.G. Mills and its national partner, Hunt Construction Group of Scottsdale.
The process by which the county is selling bonds is the subject of a lawsuit brought by Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine. The two say Sarasota County violated Florida open-meetings laws in coming to an agreement about issuing bonds for the project and want a judge to throw out the entire bond offering. In response Sarasota County did the equivalent of going through the sofa cushions to find enough loose change to fund the first $18.7 million of renovations. In theory, this money will be paid back to the county coffers once the bonds are issued.
Which, predictably, irked the folks with Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine, who were seriously outmaneuvered. They went back to court and asked a judge to put the $18.7 million in renovations on hold, saying it was an attempt to circumvent their lawsuit. Well, duh, it was. Whether a judge will agree that it was an unlawful circumvention remains to be seen in court this week.
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