Monday, November 14, 2011

Orioles Hit Sarasota Up for More Dough

It's a lesson learned in a different stadium saga - warnings ignored in 2009 potentially coming back to haunt Sarasota in its Orioles spring training deal.

The team is now asking the city to kick in an additional $420,000 "to tear up and rebuild fields at its spring training practice grounds, blaming poor drainage on an old city dump buried beneath them."

More than two years ago, I covered a contentious meeting where then-city commissioner Kelly Kirschner warned the city's cost of the ballpark upgrades could balloon:

The fear is construction could cause problems at the site (a former landfill) and while commissioners wanted to cap the city's liability (one idea thrown about was a $1M cap), the Orioles implied they would not sign any deal where they would be responsible for environmental problems.

Commissioner Kelly Kirschner, who voted against the agreement, called it a "blank check" for the Orioles over the course of their time in Sarasota, since they have final say in any and all construction at the site but the city has the
liability.

"I'm not sure that's the wisest thing to do in negotiations," said Kirschner. "I would have liked to see more time and talk to some consultants to come up with a better-negotiated solution between the two parties."

"If this were a true partnership, (the Orioles) would be willing to accept a limitation of the city's liability," say Kathy Antunes of "Citizens for Responsible Government," a group against the deal. "Right now, the way this was just approved, they can make any kind of construction plans they want, regardless of how it impacts the environment and cost to the
city."

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that City Manager Bob Bartolotta accused the Orioles of "'trying to make a convoluted argument' to get the city to pay for field upgrades that should have come from a $24 million stadium renovation funded by taxpayers."

And you thought the Rays had the exclusive rights to stadium soap operas in Greater Tampa Bay...

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