Sarasota moves to get land for ballpark

08/26/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

The Sarasota County Commission today approved the purchase of property next to Payne Park that gets them and the city one step closer to possibly building a spring training baseball park that would lure the Boston Red Sox to town.

The Commission unanimously approved the $4.8 million plan, although there was reluctance upon the part of Commissioner Shannon Staub because the Commission did not have the appraisal for the land on paper.

The $4.8 million purchase price has been the subject of scrutiny in recent days, with some real estate brokers saying the purchase of the property, which goes for about $90 a square foot, is too much money for the land.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reported that property in the same neighborhood has recently sold for $60 to $65 a square foot.

Before the vote, a few members of the public spoke before the board. Shelly Letterman says he’s been involved with tourism in Sarasota for the past 25 years, and says bringing the Red Sox to town in March would provide a needed economic stimulus.

Judy Atari is director of sales for three Marriott hotels in Sarasota. She said she was concerned about new competition in the way of hotels coming to the area, and said it was up to the city and county to make sure to do what they can to increase tourism to fill those new beds.

The new plan for a stadium is still not close to being a done deal in acquiring the Red Sox. Sarasota officials previously tried to put together a three-way land swap between the city and the county and a county fair group that would have provided a larger chunk of land for a new all-in-one baseball facility. But that deal fell through.

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