Citizens for Sox hold a pep rally listen06/17/08 Virginia Hoffman
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A group calling themselves called the Citizens for Sox has formed in Sarasota. They hosted a public forum and pep rally last week to energize support for bringing the Boston Red Sox to their community.
Citizens for Sox organizers packed the room Thursday night to launch a grassroots effort comparable to a political campaign. The goal of this effort is to convince the Boston Red Sox to locate the team's spring training in Sarasota. The team has trained in Fort Meyers and played home spring games at the city of Palms Park since 1993.
Jason Puckett, sports coordinator for the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a new stadium and training facility is needed.
A referendum was narrowly rejected last year for a $16-million bond to build a facility for the Cincinnati Reds. After the bond failed a $41-million deal was put together just as the Cincinnati team finalized a move to Arizona.
David Pilston member of Citizens for Sox said he was in favor of baseball for Sarasota and this time things will be different.
County Commissioner Joe Barbetta and City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner are leading the charge to lure the Red Sox to Sarasota. Last year Kirschner campaigned against the bond issue to keep the Cincinnati team there. Both said that there are ways to raise the funds privately and not create tax burdens. One person spoke against spending any money; Barbetta said there would be no new taxes.
A figure of $70 million to build a new sports complex to attract the Sox is being discussed. Some consider the existing Ed Smith Stadium inadequate. Citizens for Sox feel the 102-acre County Fairgrounds is the best logistical choice for a new facility.
Ian Black, a realtor, suggested the stadium be built on the bay, currently slated as a cultural district. Commissioner Joe Barbette said community discussion on alternate ideas is important and deferred this city based issue to Kelly Kirschner.
Many Red Sox fans talked about the benefit of having them in Sarasota as a boost for increasing the tourist dollar. Kevin Murphy from the business community sees benefits beyond the obvious restaurant and hotel industry.