A blog on Florida State League Baseball, for the fans, by the fans.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Red Sox contemplate move to Sarasota

A couple of articles - one in the Fort Myers News Press, the other in the Cape Coral Breeze - indicate that the Boston Red Sox may be contemplating a move to Sarasota, Florida.

Team Chief Operating Officer Mike Dee has told Lee County officials the team is exploring moving its spring training home from City of Palms Park in Fort Myers to Sarasota.

Sarasota is pitching a new 50-acre facility on the current site of Ed Smith Stadium, the previous home of the Cincinnati Reds. Currently, the Red Sox facility is split between two parcels in Fort Myers with the stadium miles (like 2 or 3) away from the training facility.

Dee said the separated situation is not conducive for spring training and is complicated by Red Sox Nation, which flocks to Southwest Florida every spring.

"It's not ideal for any team," said Dee. "It's extremely challenging for us when we have 4,000 fans show up on any given day at the practice facility."

Dee said the team was approached by officials from the city of Sarasota after the Cincinnati team announced they’d be moving to Arizona before 2010. The contact came while Red Sox officials were negotiating a lease extension with Lee County officials.

(One has to wonder why the City of Sarasota did not have the money to upgrade the existing facilities for the Reds, but will do it for the Red Sox.)

Meanwhile, Lee County is scrambling to see what they can do to keep the team in Fort Myers. The Red sox pay the city $320,000 each year on the stadium. However, it's true that their training facility, while greatly improved, is far down Edison from City of Palms Park. Both sites have inadequate parking.

Now here's an interesting piece from Charlie Whitehead's story in the Breeze:

"Florida locations could continue to fight over the state’s teams. Lee Commission Chairman Ray Judah sent off an urgent memo to legislators Wednesday, asking them to oppose an amendment to a House bill that would allow Sarasota to use state grant money to woo the Red Sox.

"That money, Judah said, was meant to allow Florida locations to fight to keep the teams they have, not lure away other Florida teams."

One thing that the move to Sarasota could do for the Red Sox which remaining in Fort Myers can't, is allow the Red Sox to move their High-A team back into the Florida State League. They have long wished to play in Fort Myers, the Fort Myers Miracle, who serve as the High-A team for the Minnesota Twins, have the FSL territorial rights and will not waive them.

The Red Sox played their High-A team in the FSL and Ed Smith Stadium through 2004. The Sara-Reds have played in the facility since.

I should note that this entire scenario could be a ploy for the Red Sox to gain lease concessions from the city of Fort Myers.

Meanwhile the Reds have considering their move, and seem likely to join the Cleveland Indians in the city of Goodyear, Arizona.

After searching, I did find an article in the Naples Daily News. The Sarasota Herald Tribune has a whole section on story, with a photo gallery and video talking about Sara's history with the Red Sox organization.

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