Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Fourth inning at the stadium game

It’s the I-75 series. The contestants: The cities of Sarasota and Fort Myers. The prize: Boston Red Sox spring training. The price? Well, some say it’s not worth it at any price, and others say it’s worth it at any price.

The Red Sox have a long-term deal with the city of Fort Myers to hold spring training there for several more years, but of course such deals are made to be broken when it’s convenient to the team’s interests. As we saw with the Dodgers and Vero Beach, you can use such agreements for toilet paper if the team is determined to leave; a team will certainly sign such a long-term deal and even trumpet it in the media, but anyone with a hint of savvy knows that it’s just until a better deal comes along.

There’s a lot of debate in Sarasota about whether spending up to $55 million to build a new facility for the Red Sox is such a bright idea right now. Fort Myers is, not surprisingly, making a big play to keep the Red Sox and showing off plans for new facilities.

The current economic crisis is also raising concerns about whether the money can be borrowed, what with the credit markets tightening up.

No one can really know the desire of the Red Sox, though. Teams often declare that they are totally dedicated to staying in their current area, but then qualify that statement with the declaration that the local governments need to step up to the plate and show their own dedication to keeping the team there.

Allegedly independent interest groups are formed to keep the team, and in Sarasota the Citizens for Sox group is pushing hard through letters to the editor to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (disclosure: I am a former employee of the paper). I think Citizens for Sox’s credibility might have been compromised when the Red Sox invited them to a luxury box at the Trop to see the Rays play the Red Sox recently.

Despite what some say, the future of Sarasota does not rest upon spring training. Since teams started their pre-season in the state, the economy has diversified and changed. Cities have found that losing a team is not the end of the world economically, unless they made extreme financial commitments and lost their team anyway. For a time, it may seem like the end of the world but it isn’t.

The stadium game is nothing new, but it only exists because government officials – with the connivance of team ownership – calls it into existence.


October 2, 2008 - Posted by | The business of sports, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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