February 19, 2007

ST Stadium Deal Still Contentious

You may remember back on May 8 of last year when the city of Sarasota passed a bill to fund the creation of a new spring training complex for the Reds. Now, as three of the city council members are up for re-election, the unpopular bill is getting rehashed, according to a story on HeraldTribune.com:

Mere months after the Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved signing a new 30-year-lease with the Cincinnati Reds, three commissioners up for re-election are expressing doubts about the deal.

At a recent candidates' forum, Commissioner Mary Anne Servian told the audience that she was losing faith in the city's effort to find a developer to finalize a key piece to the deal for the stadium.

“I don't hold out a lot of hope that we'll be successful,” Servian said.

Trying to finalize the stadium deal while three city commissioners are seeking re-election this spring puts the Reds in a sticky situation.

Neighborhood groups have been cheering candidates who speak against using tax money to help build a new training complex.

At the forum where Servian made her remarks, the crowd applauded District 3 candidate Kelly Kirschner when he said he would not support the stadium deal if he were elected. Kirschner is running in the March 13 election against incumbent Danny Bilyeu.

The increasing political pressure comes as city workers try to line up a developer for a development project near the proposed stadium. The $54 million project is contingent on the city finding a private developer to help pay for $10 million of the project.

The deal has to be done by May in order to get $7 million in state funding for the project.

Of course, if you're the ownership group you're going to try to get the city to use tax dollars to pay for your stadium, but you can see where the people of Sarasota are coming from too. They don't need the tourism like some places do: they've got the most fantastic beaches around already. And that's a big reason that I personally hope they can work something out.

There had been discussion way, way back in the day of a combined spring training facility with the Pittsburgh Pirates who train just a few minutes away in Bradenton. If they can manage not to support the bill, I wonder whether we'll be hearing anything about that.

Thanks to RainDelay for the tip.

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