Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Could Tampa Bay learn from Cal Ripken's stadium snub in Sarasota?

SARASOTA, Fla. - While Tampa Bay tries to sort out its stadium stalemate, critics of public subsidies in Sarasota are sending a warning to their friends to the north.

Three years after Sarasota landed Orioles spring training with a $31.2 million upgrades package, some of the promised benefits to the county still have yet to materialize. That includes a Cal Ripken Jr. Youth Baseball Academy, similar to two other year-round facilities in Aberdeen, Md., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"The public was promised one thing and now the Orioles and Cal Ripken aren't coming through," said Cathy Antones, president of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government. "It seems that when you put the name Major League Baseball or someone like Cal Ripken or the Orioles on it, [county commissioners] lose their common sense."

Ripken is now in talks with neighboring Charlotte Co. to possibly build his youth academy in Port Charlotte. The Ripken Baseball Group claims economic impact from the facility could reach $40 million.

But the Orioles, who put out a press release in 2009 touting the Ripken academy, never wrote a guarantee into their contract with Sarasota County. They say nobody was misled and they still plan on developing a youth academy, even if Ripken builds his own just down the road.

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