A $16 million bond referendum to help fund a $45 million plan to rebuild Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota failed Tuesday's vote by a narrow margin. With goes any long term plans for the Cincinnati Reds to continue on in Sarasota.
The Reds hold a lease on the Stadium through the 2008 season, and have signed a year-to-year deal to extend it three more years while they search for a new home.
The Cleveland Indians recently agreed to leave Orlando for Goodyear, Arizona. That is one of the cities in line for the Reds as well, as it tries to lock up the monopoly on Ohio Spring Training fans.
Lee County, Orlando and Vero Beach have also been tossed around as possible new homes for the Reds.
Vero Beach is currently housing the Tampa Devil Rays FSL affiliate, but plans appear to be in place to move the team to Charlotte County once the renovations on the Charlotte County stadium are completed.
The Reds had received a promise of $15 mil from the state if they could receive matching funds from locally, but with defeat of the referendum that deal becomes void. It's possible however that the State will agree to match funds for a diffrent location in the state of Florida.
Locations in Bonita Springs and Cape Coral have both been talked about previously as potential locations for a new spring training facility. However as of Thursday, Jeff Maultsby, director of Florida operations for the Reds, has said nothing has been done in terms of a search for a new home.
"We'll get moving here in the next couple days," Maultsby was quoted as saying in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
"It's like a blank canvas, which is kind of exciting," said John Allen, the Reds' executive vice president and chief operating officer, in the same publication. "We can look at a lot of different options."
The fate of Ed Smith Stadium is also up in the air. While the city will save money on the stadium operations, they will not be able to make up the revenue they receive from the Reds being in town. The void in the budget is estimated to be as high as $1.3 million per year.
The Herald Tribune noted that the city gets about $20 mil from a Reds Spring training game, with multiple dates available, vs. $7,000 from the Sarasota Blues Festival, an annual activity.