Sarasota Officials to decide on putting a referendum on refurbishing Red stadium

07/10/07 Mitch E.Perry
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In Sarasota, a plan to build a new spring training baseball facility for the Cincinati Reds is now dead. Last week, elected officials said that it was no longer feasible to build a $54 million dollar stadium, now that the City and County are looking at much leaner budgets in the wake of property tax reform.

So last week, the City and County opted instead to come up with a financial package to refurbish the facility that the Reds were hoping to jettison, Ed Smith Stadium. That proposal is slated to cost just under $45 million dollars.

But even that is no sure thing. That’s because measures need to be approved by both the City & County Commission within the next month. (roll tape#1 o.q.”last night”)

That’s Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson. If she does vote against a proposal to use the County bed tax to help fund the County’s share of providing money for the Reds ballpark, just 1 other County Commisioner voting no would kill the deal. (roll tape#2 oq..”that there are 4 votes”)

Yesterday the City and County Commissioners got together for the first time since declaring last week that the proposal for a new ballpark was dead. That’s because that deal was hashed out before the state legislature passed their property tax reform, which restricts money out of the General fund for both local governments.

But the plan to refurbish Ed Smith Stadium isn’t significantly cheaper, coming in at $45 million dollars.

Pat Calhoun is the Sports Facilities Manager for the City of Sarasota. He says that the plan to have the ballpark resemble what Clearwater did with Brighthouse Networks Field for the Philadelphia Phillies (roll tape#3 o.q.”8 million dollars”)

Next week, the Sarasota City Commission will vote on whether or not to approve a special referendum, that would ask citizens to approve a property tax increase that would dedicate $12 million dollars for the stadium. If 3 out of 5 City Commissioners do approve that, it will go before the voters in November.

City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner

The director of the Cincinati Reds director of Florida operations, Jeff Maultsby said Monday that the team is committing to staying in Sarasota, and if the measure comes before voters in November, they will campaign hard in support of it.

Sports Facility Manager Pat Calhoun acknowledges that political realities these days could make the referendum’s outcome a tough call. But he says that it’s a much rosier scenario than in the 1980’s, when the Chicago White Sox, were threatnening to leave town unless they got a new facility (roll tape#4 o.q.”.in Sarasota”)

City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner says he will vote for the referendum if he can be convinced if the proposal works for taxpayers. (roll tape#5 o.q.”say so too”)

The Cincinnati Reds are supposedly in for $10 million dollars. – But actually it’s only $5 million dollars, and they will receive naming rights to the stadium. Several legislators have issues about that. A gain, Sarasota City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner (roll tape#6 o.q.”we’re going to have to negotiate”)

The City Commission will vote on whether or not to put the issue before Sarasota voters sometime next week.

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