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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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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thoughts about Sarasota

I'm steer away from being political in these musings. But, in the case of Reds and Sarasota, I think the Sarasota County commissioners who are holding up the new proposal -- Nora Patterson and Jon Thaxton -- are being short-sighted.

I understand not wanting to use tax dollars to help build something for a professional baseball team. And I understand things are tight economically. Basically, Patterson wants to take money set aside for the stadium rebuilding for beach maintenance. But if Sarasota County chose to spend the money stadium renovation, it would be a wise investment.

Consider: The Reds are committed to staying for 30 years. They've going to invest $9 million up front. The state's going to kick in $7.9 million. All that is going to generate jobs and taxes dollars.

The Reds are responsible for 8,000 hotel nights in Sarasota in a year. They operate a Florida State League and Gulf Coast League team out of Sarasota, as well as their year-round rehab program.

Watching the commission meeting, I got the impression that commissioners think the Reds don't have alternatives. Goodyear, Ariz., sounds like a viable one to me. And if the Reds leave, Sarasota's chances of getting another team to come are slim. The city manager even talked about the possibility of wrecking Ed Smith Stadium if the Reds leave.

If another company comes to Sarasota next month and offers the kind of economic impact the Reds have, plus $8 million in state money, the city and county are likely to jump on the opportunity to land the deal.


at 12:06 PM Blogger Al in Ohio said...

Let me see if I have this straight, after reading comments the last few days on the Sarasota issue.

The fans of a baseball team in a city (and county) where lawsuits were filed concerning the "publicly financed" football stadium are concerned that the citizens of a city (and county) in Florida (or their elected representatives) might want to find another use for tax dollars than to rebuild a baseball stadium.

I love Cincinnati fans!

at 12:12 PM Blogger Chris at Redleg Nation said...

If I were in their shoes, I'd take any baseball club's "30 year commitment" with a boulder of salt.

I'm just asking, but how long were the Reds committed to Plant City?

Not saying those commissioners are making the right call, but they're not crazy to be skeptical.

at 12:51 PM Blogger Scott Evans said...


I wrote the entire Sarasota councils telling them to show some leadership and get a deal done. I brought up how Cincinnati City Council and Hamilton County commisioners can't get deals done such as the banks or the jail and thus have the city spiraling towards Detroit rather than being prosperous. Thaxton's response to me was "I didn't know Detroit was trying to get the Reds".

I responded back spelling out my analogies in great detail and told him that the Reds are probably going to Arizona and that the 4% hotel tax will be irrelevant as they can't tax Goodyear hotels.

So yes he is short sighted and like most politicians only makes decisions to get re-elected not what is good for the community.

at 12:52 PM Blogger Al in Ohio said...

John, is there any way to quantify the number of people who make the trip during spring training from the Cincinnati area to Sarasota? Judging by comments on this board, Ed Smith Stadium must have a seating capacity of around 45,000, constantly sold out. I'd really like to know whether the economic stimulus from Cincinnati-area fans going down there to games is something that either the Reds or Sarasota would even be remotely concerned about.

Also, let's be realistic, folks. In John's story, he mentions that two of the commissioners object to spending money on a stadium when they have a $30 million budget deficit, and announced 11 layoffs and four position eliminations. Do you REALLY think that the Smith family trip from Indian Hill to Sarasota is going to influence them?? Would you not want Hamilton County commissioners to intelligently safeguard YOUR taxes as well? I say if they're looking out for the locals, rather than the Reds and Reds fans, bravo for them. Bravo!

at 1:13 PM Blogger Mr. Redlegs said...

These county commissioners of Florida spring training sites are grossly shortsighted.

They see only their own financial outlay, but rarely consider the hotel bed taxes, airport taxes, rental taxes, plus the economic stimulus taxes, that derive from spring training visitors. The money they take in from ticket sales for the games doesn't amount to a whole lot but does pay for stadium maintenance and staffing.

It's a lot of cake that goes poof! when the teams leave.

Truth is, if the Reds leave and no other team is interested, the county's best move is to sell the stadium complex property and move forward.

But this pooh-poohing about the financial pain is a lot of wanting to have your cake and eat it, too.

at 1:14 PM Blogger John Fay said...

Fans are part of it, but a bigger part is all the employees, players, scouts and coaches who spend nights in area. The Reds have the two minor league teams. I sent a check down for six weeks of rent the other day. There are probably 100 to 200 people who spend the entire spring working in Sarasota.

at 1:16 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...


A family member in San Fran has told me that the rumor on the left coast is that the Giants are entertaining offers for Noah Lowry... have you heard anything remotely related to that?

at 1:20 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what government job are you wasting money at right now Al in Ohio?

Since you obviously are smarter than God, doesn't it make sense that you should run for office?
You seem to have an answer for everything on here, how about putting up or shutting up?

Get off your butt and solve everyones REAL problems instead of just these silly old baseball issues.


at 1:27 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I understand this correctly, the holdup is on the county level and their reluctance to fork over $19 million. Would this money be raised by increased property taxes or by taxing hotels and restaurants? If the revenue comes from property taxes, I can understand the locals' concern. If the money is raised by hotels and restaurants, wouldn't the bulk of those taxes come from tourists, therefore alleviating the burden on the locals?

at 1:28 PM Blogger Hugh D. Pohl said...

I am a Floridian, but from Orlando. I don't know anything about the Sarasota County Commission, but am quite familiar with state government.

One point people may not be aware of is that this project would use "tourist" taxes paid for things like rental cars and hotels. These taxes can be used ONLY FOR PROMOTING TOURISM OR FOR TOURISM RELATED FACILITIES LIKE BASEBALL STADIUMS.

So there is no way the money for this project could help them with their budget deficit, much of which is caused by the state legislature, which keeps limiting local government' authority on property taxes. Florida has no income tax (a good thing I guess) and so it is limited to sales and real estate taxes for the bulk of its revenue. Governments are chronicaclly underfunded. Our schools, roads, law enforcement agencies etc. have to scape for funding.

It's all political. The so-called fiscally conservative politicians want to be able to say they cut taxes or held the line on taxes. Leadership is sorely lacking.

at 2:17 PM Anonymous sharpiehead said...

Memo to the Reds. Go to AZ. It's a no brainer. From a business standpoint, it makes no sense at all to stay in FL. To the Castellini family; Thanks for thinking of us fans here regarding staying in Sarasota, but realistically, direct flights between Cincy and Phoenix are better than any into the Sarasota/Tampa area and we have many more options of watching not only Reds' games, but many other teams in the same vicinity. You will probably have more Cincinnati area fans attending spring games in AZ than you do in FL. Cubs and White Sox fans flock to AZ from Chicago in March. Sharing the complex with the Indians is a huge plus. Also, average attendance at spring training games in AZ is much better than those in Florida. Last, Sarasotans are arguing whether they even want the Reds whereas Goodyear is openly inviting them. Like I said, to me the decision is a no brainer.

at 2:52 PM Blogger Al in Ohio said...

To the bravely Anonymous at 1:20 -

As a taxpayer, I appreciate your concern that our government employees be fully engaged in their work responsibilities.

As a poster on this blog, though, I just think you look like an idiot, since I'm not connected with the government in any way, shape, or form.

at 2:59 PM Blogger Al in Ohio said...

And Mr. Redlegs -

I know the belief that professional sports has a positive impact on local economies is very prevalent, but I'm sure you've seen the results of this study (or others like it):


Of course, this study looked at the actual "home" city of the professional sports teams, but I imagine the results would still be valid for locales that only have teams for a short period of time, like spring training sites. Pay particular attention to the last paragraph. It seems to fit with the debate in Sarasota.

at 3:34 PM Blogger River Otter said...

Well said, John. Hugh also makes an excellent follow-up point. It's hard to believe the county could invest in something else that would generate the same economic impact.

Chris - Are the Reds only committing to a short-term lease? I haven't followed this closely enough to know all the ins and outs, but the county and city should be able to protect themselves adequately through the lease provisions.

at 3:55 PM Blogger Mr. Redlegs said...

Those studies have been around for a 1,000 years, Al. You can make them say whichever side is your argument. If a city wants a new stadium, or a team, those studies are only as good as the debate of the argument.

It's also comparing apples and oranges of a training site to a city that hosts a team year-round. The local tourism taxes on hotels, airports, rental cars, restaurants, etc., are designed specifically to recycle those funds from . . . um . . . tourists.

Receipts usually specify the tourism tax charge. And it's a whopper.

at 4:04 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You will probably have more Cincinnati area fans attending spring games in AZ than you do in FL."

Hmm, I doubt that. A lot Cincinnatians have property in Sarasota and vacation in Sarasota. I haven't been to spring training but anticipated going in the next few years. If it moves to AZ, I highly doubt I'll go anytime soon. The same is true of a few friends of my with whom I've spoken.

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