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John Fay
John Fay has been the Reds beat writer for the Enquirer since 2001. Prior to that, he served in a variety of roles for the Enquirer: backup Reds writer, UC beat writer, backup Bengals writer and as a general assignment reporter. He is a Cincinnati native and a graduate of Elder High School and the University of Dayton.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sarasota update update

I watched the Sarasota County Commission meeting via the Web. First, I'm very thankful I cover baseball and not county government. Second, I think the Reds chances of staying in Sarasota are very, very slim.

The Commission did not have the votes to approve a proposal to move on the new plan to renovate Ed Smith Stadium, largely because a 4-1 vote is needed to approve the plan. The commission voted 3-2 to move on with the plan. But it would take to a 4-1 vote, so essentially it failed 3-2. The new plan called for the county to contribute in $17.8 million in tourist taxes dollars.

Update: Later in the afternoon, the Sarasota City Commission voted to approve the new plan and continue negotiations with the Reds and the county.

"Unanimously, county commissioners!" Mayor Lou Ann Palmer said after the vote.

So there is strong sentiment to keep the Reds in Sarasota from the city. But they can't do it with the county money. The county wasn't willing to pledge those funds Tuesday. But it's not quite over. To make it a bit confusing, the County Commission also voted:

--To move on with the plan if it's changed to use only $7.9 million in county money (thus matching the State allocation).

--To advertise an ordinance to change the rules that require a super majority to approve a plan. They'll vote on that in two weeks. If that passes, a 3-2 vote would be needed to move on with the plan and commission would likely do that.

--To put the plan to use the $17.8 million in tourist tax for the renovation of Ed Smith Stadium on the ballot.

"In my estimation, the door is still open," commissioner Shannon Staub said.

The meeting was civilized, but there is strong disagreement. Staub and Joe Barbetta strongly support keeping the Reds. Nora Patterson is against using $17.8 million for the project. She was one that brought up matching the state's $7.8 million. Jon Thaxton also opposes the plan. Paul Mercier voted for it, but he wants a project of bigger scope.

While it's not dead in Sarasota, I would think the Reds are going to continue to look elsewhere. Palmer, who made a presentation at county meeting, urged the commission to give a final decision on the new plan. "We can't continue to play games with the Reds," she said. "We need a decision."

I don't think the Reds would accept a $31 million rebuilding job, which is what Patterson's matching proposal amounts to.


at 1:34 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, they voted to advertise for a move to amend the ordinance, which would allow a 3-2 vote; but the amendment still requires a 4-1 vote, so it is just semantics. Sounds like the deal is dead to me.

Here's to Arizona.

Disclaimer: I'm from Arizona, and really, really, really want the Reds to move here.

at 1:44 PM Anonymous GCL Redsfan said...

Personally, I hope the Reds take the $31 million. I have been down to Sarasota on numerous occasions to watch them play and I know that there is no way in h*ll I would fly to Arizona to watch spring training. I would venture to say that I am not the only Reds fan that would drive to Florida but NOT put up the money to go to Arizona. Build the stadium with less money and keep your strong fan base that travels to Fla. to see you play.

at 1:57 PM OpenID newporttom said...

I also listened and my take on it, was far more optimistic than John's. The vote to change the super-majority was 4-1. So unless something changes in 2 weeks, the requirement needed to pass the stadium agreement will only be 3-2, and the will probably have the 3-2 vote.

I think the April/May referendum stuff and the reduced price option won't apply if they get that vote.

The only fly in ointment is one commisioner who's part of the 3-2 majority actually wants to spend more money and expand the scope of the project. I

at 2:08 PM Blogger John Fay said...

The reason I think the chances of staying are slim is this gives Goodyear time come up with a deal. And, after watching the meeting, I would be too confident in commission getting a deal done. Only two of the five strongly support the new proposal.

at 2:09 PM Blogger Dan H said...

I agree with GCL reds fan, just did some quick math on cost of driving to Sarasota or flying to Phoenix for me. It would cost me about $1200 more to fly to Phoenix than to drive to Sarasota including the costs of one extra day each way to drive to Sarasota. While I probably would go to Phoenix to see spring training , I may only be going once every few years.

at 2:11 PM Anonymous DT-Sampler said...

Sarasota needs to get their affairs in order. They laid off employees, their deep in debit, blue hair ladies aren't going to get their meals-on-wheels.

They can't afford to spend money on the Reds.

Arizona here we come! I'll take pictures for the rest of you. ;-)

-A Cincinnatian who travels to AZ regularly, oh the horror.

at 2:26 PM Blogger Chris at Redleg Nation said...

I know this isn't the relevant question, but does it really take significantly more than $31M to renovate a spring training stadium? What are they going to do, add a retractable roof?

at 2:26 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 2:11 not everybody has the time or $$$ to fly to Ari to see the REDS play. Moving to Arizona is not the answer. The REDS are to greedy! Someone needs to get outta here before you destroy the REDS even more!!!!!!!!!

at 2:51 PM Anonymous Reds fan stuck in Seattle said...

I've been to Arizona before and I LOVE Phoenix. Great area of the country, really cool landscape and atmosphere. Awesome weather in the winter/early spring. Goodyear is just outside Phoenix, so getting there is real easy. I've seen the Mariner's/Padre's shared facility in Peoria and it is excellent! Each team has their own facilities and they share the stadium. The field looked like it was in great shape back in November. Lots of teams share facilities in Arizona and it works out quite well! I'm excited about a move out west!

at 2:53 PM Blogger John Fay said...

Chris makes a legit point. But if the Reds get an offer to move into a new $75 million facility at virtually no cost to them, does it make sense to stay in Sarasota for watered-down project that they pay $9 million of?

If the firm offer comes from Goodyear, that may be what they have to decide

at 2:57 PM Anonymous Emilio said...

Easy there DT Sampler! As a long-time Reds fan, I certainly appreciate your enthusiasm and welcome your support of the team out there, should they decide to move out west for Spring Training. However, don't alienate your fellow Reds fans who enjoy watching games in Florida.

Arizona is a beautiful state and I hold no grudge towards any of the officials in Goodyear who are trying to lure the Reds out there. But there is no question that there is far more for families to do in Florida and a significantly larger base of Cincinnati fans that already live in Florida or will readily make the trip down there for an extended time to watch Reds games and have the family visit Disney World or one of the other terrific family attractions located within a two-hour drive of Sarasota. The Reds will not get anywhere near the number of fans in Arizona for any of the games out there and clearly, midwest families will be much more amenable to forking out a certain amount of money for a trip to Florida than roughly $1200-1500 more to ship everyone out to Arizona.

I agree with John Fay in that, while there is still room for optimism that the team will remain in Sarasota, the two week respite that the commission has established before the vote to eliminate the need for a super majority will certainly give the group from Goodyear ample time to adjust whatever plan they are devising to lure the team accordingly for the purpose of making it more enticing to the Reds.

Yes, Florida has its mosquitoes but the palm trees provide shade from the sun, while the prick of the cacti and sting of the Arizona scorpions could combine quite painfully with a potential move of a beloved team from a state that has embraced it each spring for decades.

I have some tremendous, wonderful memories of watching Reds baseball in Florida with my Father before he passed away and the thought of the Reds moving away from there, even to a lovely place like Arizona, is unsettling and disappointing.

No direspect to Arizona, but the Reds Spring Training home belongs in Florida.

at 3:24 PM Blogger docproc said...

It's really hard to understand how a 3-2 vote ends up with the majority LOSING. Requiring a 4-1 margin just doesn't seem very democratic....

at 3:33 PM Anonymous Sarasota Sandy said...

They say everything happens for a reason which I believe is true in this case. While I don't want the Reds to leave SRQ I would understand yet hate it if they do. Our commission mtg. today was an embarassment in no uncertain terms. Sarasota County couldn't figure out how to fix a sandwich let alone the Reds situation. And to think the county is my employer. I can honestly say that I will not be mad at the Reds for leaving for Arizona. How could they argue or try to reason with stupidity.

at 3:37 PM Blogger Dan H said...

John, what upgrades are being proposed for Ed Smith Stadium besides what I have read earlier,drainage,parking, handicap accessible, picnic berm. Seems this could be done for less than $31M?

at 3:38 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan H. @ 2:09
Here's what I just came up with:
Flight for 1 from CVG to PHX: $476
Flight for 1 from SDF to PHX: $276
Miles to Sarasota from Cincy: 976
A car that averages 25 mpg will take appx. 40 gallons each way; @ $3 per gallon, that's $240 total. How about flying out of Louisville? Flights are cheaper to Phx. Just drive the 1 1/2 hrs. to Louisville, park your car in long-term parking ($15 per day), fly to Phx. and rent a car from Hotwire.com (usually $15-20 per day) and drive to Goodyear, spend the night ($75-100 per night or cheaper if you use Hotwire-and no I don't work for them, I just use their site a LOT and have always had a GREAT experience), buy tickets and enjoy the game. I know the hotel costs and rental car plus tickets will be about the same as Sarasota. The extra cost incurred will be from additional plane tickets, based on how many people are traveling. Plus, once you're in Phoenix/Goodyear, you can drive to as many stadiums as you like and see some other teams play-they're all about 20-30 minutes apart! You can catch 2 games a day if you plan it out. C'mon Reds fans...I would think a 3.5 hr. flight would be a LOT more pleasant than a 15 hr. drive, anytime! Give Arizona a chance-don't be so resistant to change!
Jim in AZ

at 4:11 PM Blogger Joe said...

Admittedly, I have never been down to spring training, but I just don't see why this is such a big deal to everyone. I don't know if others agree with me and are not posting because they don't care either way or if I am just in the extreme minority, but it is the Cincinnati Reds, not the Sarasota or the Goodyear Reds. Whatever is better for the club financially is what they should do in my opinion. More money presumably leads to a better product on the field, or at least a better chance at a better product.
I don't really care where they "train" as long as they are back here at the beginning of April.

at 4:14 PM Anonymous Emilio said...

Interesting perspective, Sandy. I, and mayber other Reds fans, might be interested in contacting some of the relative county commissioners and voicing my opinion concerning Sarasota's potential loss of the Reds. As a county employee,perhaps you could lend us some advice as to what the best course of action would be from a civilian's standpoint. I hope I am not being too bold in asking for your help in this capacity.

Why wait two whole weeks to decide to do away with the super majority? If the sense is that the decision to do away with it is currently speculated to be 4-1 in favor of discarding it, then why wait when there is so much at stake. As idiotic and disorganized as Sandy indicated they are over there, they can't be so stupid that they don't realize that by waiting two weeks it gives Goodyear the chance to finish putting together a proposal that Sarasota has no chance of matching. Even if the commissioners themselves don't realize this, they must have someone advising them that's aware of the potential risk that putting off such a vote for that period of time creates.

I don't like scorpions!

at 4:15 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

could not agree with emilio more as traditions are a dying breed in today's game. stories of my grandma cruising down with the rosie reds really brings my reds closer to home for me. arizona is a super nice place in fact i a have brother who lives about 15 minutes from goodyear. weather is great and they provide 1st rate facilities but the reds belong on florida. being a florida resident, it seems the state is doing everything to make it easy for teams to move out west. i understand the recent burden due to the economic downturn, but we can't chase everyone off. hopefully if sarasota does not step up, another sunshine state city will. also, i guess griffey will need to be traded if they move, as i am sure arizona's proximity to orlando will be less favorable...sorry, had to include that :-)

Eric, Atlantic Beach, FL.

at 4:27 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I know is this -- I'm definitely going to spring training this year in Florida. I moved from Idaho to South Carolina in August of last year and I'm not going to miss my opportunity to see the Reds in spring training. Since I teach, I can't just go to Arizona any time, so this may be my last chance for a while.

Formerly Idaho reds fan

at 4:40 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

2-hour flight to Florida, or a 3-hour flight to Arizona. I really don't see much difference.

Arizona is MUCH nicer in my opinion. Many fewer trailer parks and Buicks with the blinker endlesslessly flashing.

at 5:06 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emilio. I hope you're joking about the scorpions! I've lived here since 1993, and done a LOT of hiking and exploring the desert and surrounding mountains, and I have seen exactly 1 scorpion in the wild! They are very timid, and don't like being around people. They hide under rocks during the day, and hunt at night. You really have to be looking for them to find them. Plus, if you do get stung, it's no worse than a honey-bee sting, unless you're allergic. I see a lot of lizards and spiders, but no scorpions. Reds fans, give us a chance-you'd really like AZ and if you're a true baseball fan, you'll love the fantastic facilities that we have for spring training. And as far as things for families to do, minus Disney/Epcot/Universal Studios, we have several water parks, mini-golf stadiums, an incredible zoo, fine arts centers, some of the finest golf courses in America, and the list goes on and on. Plus, the Grand Canyon is only a few hours drive from Phoenix, and the incredible Red Rocks in Sedona is 1.5 hours away. Believe me when I say there's plenty to do here, just no Disney!
Jim in AZ

at 6:01 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact is, if the Reds move only a smaller % of the fans that travel to Florida to see the Reds will travel to Arizona. The Reds, if they truly move, would have to hope more Reds fans live in the SW then in the SE.

I see this is as a loss for the Reds as their fan base lives in the eastern half of the country and therefore you would expect a higher turnout in a Florida location.

As it is, if I spent all that money to fly out to Arizona the main thing I would do is see National and State parks and maybe go see one game. That is just me though.

Of course, there is that Cubs fan thing to deal with. :)

at 6:36 PM Blogger Pat said...

Lived in AZ since 1995, the only scorpions I've seen are encased in a paperweight at the airport.

March in AZ is heaven. The weather is perfect. Very little rain. If you're into spring training there will always be a game with an hour of your hotel. Golf courses on every block. I guess I'm just restating what others have said. AZ is awesome.

But, the real thing we have to consider is what's best for the ball club. The Reds will have an unbelievable facility, sold out games and they won't have to spend money on concrete, when they should be spending it on players.

Welcome to Arizona!

at 7:34 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I don't give a
rat's rearend where the Reds train. The season is where everything counts, the fans who are voicing their opinion. They are only thinking about themselves and vacations. I could go every year however I choose not to go to Florida. So John, how about some news on the Affeldt signing or something about the team.

at 8:08 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

One would have to believe that $31,000,000 would do wonders for the Sarasota location. That's a LOT of bucks and the place is pretty darn good as is. I've had season tickets for 10 years and love it there. (And Mike Brown won't be able to get his hands on the money like he did in Cincinnati!).

at 10:03 PM Blogger Chad said...

I can truly understand the decision in Sarasota. Why invest almost $18 million dollars to update a stadium that is really only used by the Reds for 2 months a year. They aren't going to make that kind of revenue up due to the Reds that quickly.

at 10:08 PM Blogger Scott Evans said...

Ya know the Reds belong in Sarasota, not only is it beautiful, they have the same city vs county battles they have in Cincinnati. I emailed the Sarasota council and county commissioners and told them they should learn from the Banks in Cincinnati, a dream that will never be realized because they are politicians wanting to be re-elected and not leaders.

My biggest fear is the Reds will pull the same give us money or we will leave when GABP's lease is up, even if it is years away.

at 10:15 PM Blogger Scott Evans said...

John & Chris,

The reason why the costs are so expensive is that it is a government owned property and will be using government money, which of course is really our money (well those of us who have vacationed in Florida or goto Spring training, or who have family members that are snowbirds there). Basically if you can build a house for $100,000 it will cost the government $800,000 and twice the time to build the same project.

The best solution would be for the city to sell the property to the Reds at well below market value, the Reds would take ownership and would probably be able to cut the construction costs in half as they would no longer be required to pay prevailing wage, deal with other red tape regarding government contracts, etc. Though of course in exchange the city/county would lose any right for other uses with the property and if the Reds ever decided to move the business in the future would not have the property any longer for public use or to try to lure another team.

at 10:36 PM Anonymous Sarasota Sandy said...

Emilio, I would love to help in any way possible. I am a lifelong Floridian/ Sarasotan and have a small amount of insight as to this county. Being a career employee/ union member for SRQ county I am semi versed in our local politics and have watched the idiotic backward moves of recent. Please feel free to contact me. termite352@comcast.net

By the way, all the back and forth during the discussion today was nothing more than a shell game. One particular commissoner wants to change the vote requirements so that he can stay true to his word to the public yet allowing for the passing of amuch needed deal with the Reds.

Ahhh, the stories I could tell just by watching today's meeting. Again, I wouldn't blame the Reds for leaving.

at 10:46 PM Blogger Dan H said...

Jim in Az at 3:38, My costs are based from flights from Buffalo which is the area I reside. I have posted my thoughts on Sarasota on this blog in the past. They are purely selfish reasons on our family's part. Nothing against Arizona. For me helping my daughter thru college and now the same with my son, financially speaking, Sarasota is "doable" at this time for me. The additional cost to Arizona by air is not.
Believe it or not I actually enjoy the drive to Sarasota. And yes it is also a vacation for us. The Reds will and should do what is best for them. I wouldn't mind going to AZ to see them in the spring, it just wouldn't be every year. My last thought on this matter is the Reds being more east coast oriented belong on the east coast... again more selfish reasoning. Now back to baseball, any word on Affeldt's physical?

at 11:13 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think everyone needs to take a step back and think this through. Do we really think the Reds make a ton of money on their ticket sales for spring training games? How many fans that go to games are locals and how many from the home area of the major league team?

Do fans travel to Sarasota to watch the Reds in spring training instead of attending home games in Cincinnati during the regular season? Do they do both? If the Reds move to Arizona will people stop coming to home games in Cincinnati during the regular season because they couldn't see them in spring training?

The Reds aren't being greedy. Why should the Reds be the only team to be in a complex in need of upgrade. And we aren't just talking about the stadium. It is the whole traiing facility, fields and offices. The Reds didn't put the pricetag on the refurb.

If the Reds move to Arizona they will draw plenty of fans. In fact, they may make new fans. Maybe they will visit Cincinnati during the regular season and bring their tourist dollars to the area.

That's it. The Reds are actually doing this at the request of the tourist board to bring more dollars into the Tri-State area.

Dave in Dallas

at 5:06 AM Anonymous Pat B said...

The bottom line is for the Reds to field a winner. If the stadium in Sarasota has drainage problems that could potentially harm a player, that's not good. Realistically, the Reds will do what is best for the Reds. They will take into account funds, team fan base, loyalty, potential for new fans, losses, etc. Goodyear will be good for them. Sarasota with rennovations will be good. The AZ city of Surprise, could possibly steal away the Reds from Goodyear. They would move in with the Rangers and Royals. Glendale, AZ could snatch them up if the White Sox, can't find a replacement in Tucson, AZ. Reds and Dodgers in Glendale? Maybe Tucson would be another home. Regardless of ST sites(I prefer AZ, I live in Buckeye, AZ, named after the state of OH) I WILL be a Reds fan.

at 10:17 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand the excitement from the west coast Reds fans – I would be positively giddy too if I could see my hometown team (or adopted team) up close and personal as well. I also can understand the financial reason for the Reds leaving FL for AZ – quite frankly, it would be stupid of them not to – an almost free stadium lease, close away games, stable weather conditions, etc. All that being said…it still saddens me to see the Reds leaving Florida. I have many memories in my short 30 years on this earth of watching spring training games with my grandfather and father. People who ask what the big deal is haven’t been to a spring training game. The chance to have seats behind the plate that would cost $200 each at GABP for $40 cant’ be beat. And like many previous posters have stated – the drive from Cincy to Plant City/Sarasota isn’t that bad at all. There is a draw to Florida that I just don’t feel for Arizona…nothing against Phoenix, it is a great place to visit, I just wouldn’t want to spend a week there. For me, the Grand Canyon isn’t the beach. Tempe isn’t Orlando. Flagstaff isn’t Daytona. The Reds will do what is best for the Reds and I’m fine with that – just a bit sad that a great chapter of Reds history is ending.

at 10:55 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point a lot of you are missing is the fact the Reds have a team that plays in Ed Smith Stadium ALL YEAR. The GCL Reds is a Rookie league team that plays all of its home games throughout the year in Sarasota. This improvement does more than just buff spring training facilities, it helps the Rookie team. Do you envision the Rookie team staying in Sarasota if the Reds leave for AZ?

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