Sarasota County Commissioners ReDo Orioles Deal

02/22/10 Virginia Hoffman
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In July 2009, Sarasota City and County Commissions approved a $31 million dollar deal to build the Baltimore Orioles a new spring training baseball stadium. But last Friday, the Commissioners met to redo that vote.

Cathy Antunes, a spokesperson for Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government called the redo meeting a charade. Antunes read a list of reasons why and her group brought along an 18-foot tall inflatable rat to prove their point.

Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government sued in late December, when the County and the City of Sarasota tried to issue a total of $26 million dollars in construction bonds to build a new stadium. The lawsuit has stopped the bonds from being issued until a judge resolves accusations that county officials violated Florida's Sunshine Law by negotiating with the team in secret. Claims have appeared in the local newspapers that Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government is working to ruin baseball in Sarasota. But Board member Jim Lampl, who claims to be a fan says this is really about big business.

Roy Sorenson, a business agent for the Stage Hands Union in Sarasota, was holding tie-downs for the giant blow up rat. He said there are better things the county can do with this money other than build a new stadium when one already exists.

The county has asked Sarasota Citizen for Responsible Government what it would take to settle their lawsuit, but refused to comply when the answer was a referendum. Antunes claims the county is choosing to go ahead with something without asking the voters first. She said the real cost is what the county won't be able to do while paying off the thirty year debt and other viable options on how to provide baseball exist.

Inside the county building Orioles lawyer Alan Rifkin quoted from the Kevin Costner movie "Field of Dreams," saying the baseball team and Sarasota are creating the finest spring training facility in the Major Leagues. Outside Antunes continued to recite her list.

Cathy Antunes finished with, "Today's hearing is an insult to county voters we smell a rat."

Sarasota County Commissioners did not respond to our request for further comment.

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