Vote has Sarasota looking better
By Marc Lancaster / Post staff reporter
WASHINGTON - The Reds' desire to upgrade their spring training facilities got a boost Tuesday when the Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to help provide funding for such projects.
In a 117-0 vote, the House signed off on a measure that would provide about $15 million in tax rebates over a 30-year span to the spring homes of five teams, including Sarasota and the Reds. The bill still must pass the Florida Senate to become law.
"Obviously, it's tremendous news for us," said Jeff Maultsby, the Reds' director of Florida operations. "We think the vote tally was a very good message going forward. Hopefully, the Senate will take notice of its counterparts."
The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week, and the bill should be on Gov. Jeb Bush's desk by June. As written, the law would go into effect July 1.
The measure is part of an effort to stave off more defections from the Grapefruit League to Arizona's Cactus League, which would like to add at least two more teams. The Reds have been mentioned in various reports by Arizona media as potential candidates to move west, along with the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles, but they have given no indication that they're interested in leaving Sarasota.
CEO Bob Castellini emphasized that from his first day at spring training in February and the team hasn't wavered.
One of the requirements to take advantage of the tax rebate is the team signing a lease extension, and the Reds are prepared to do that. State funds also must be matched by the municipality, which in Sarasota's case would include both the city and Sarasota County. The Reds also will contribute to the funding of a new facility.
Maultsby said discussions about how much each entity will contribute have been on hold pending word from Tallahassee on state funding.
The Reds would like to build a new complex on a site less than a mile from their current base of operations at the City of Sarasota Sports Complex. Initial estimates for a new facility put the cost at $40-50 million.
With the state subsidy, the local governments and the Reds would be left to make up the $25 million-35 million difference.