Tuesday, November 6, 2007, 1:26 pm
Pat Calhoon, sports facilities manager for the City of Sarasota, took the day off work so he could campaign for the $16 million bond referendum to rebuild Ed Smith Stadium. Calhoon stationed himself next to the polling place at Memorial Auditorium. (staff photo/ Mike Lang)
Going to bat for the stadium
For Pat Calhoon Election Day was a vacation day. The stakes were too high: by 7 p.m. spring training baseball could be no more in Sarasota.
So instead of heading to his $83,000-a-year job as the city’s sports facilities manager, Calhoon burned a vacation day, Herald Tribune writer Carol Lee reports. He put on a “Vote Yes” baseball T-shirt, laced up his Nikken sneakers and grabbed his son’s Louisville Slugger for added effect.
He arrived at the Municipal Auditorium by the time the polls opened at 7 a.m. not as Pat Calhoon the 28-year city employee.
He stood in the parking lot as Pat Calhoon the city resident who has a five-year-old son he would hate to have to drive to Bradenton to see a spring training baseball game.
“Vote yes for baseball! How you doing, sir?” Calhoon yells to an elderly man as he headed into the auditorium.
The voter walked on, no eye contact.
“He looked away real fast, probably a no,” Calhoon said
Calhoon stood outside the polling station for six hours Tuesday urging voters to approve the $16 million bond referendum that would fund the city’s portion of a plan to rebuild Ed Smith Stadium for the Cincinnati Reds.
He parked his Volvo V70 station wagon in the middle of the parking lot and propped a “Vote Yes” sign on the windshield. He stuffed a stack of pamphlets in his jeans pocket (leaving a box of extras in the trunk) and went to work.
“It’s going to be a close vote because of the tax environment right now,” he said.
Ed Smith is the largest chunk of Calhoon’s job, and he worked closely with Reds on the city deal that would keep the team spring training in Sarasota for the next 30 years.
The deal now hinges on the $16 million referendum.
Calhoon got permission from the city manager to take one of his 20 vacation days to promote it. He cleared the idea with the city attorney.
He says he is a baseball guy and would vote for the referendum even if it were not so entwined in his livelihood.
“I’m taking tomorrow off, too,” he said. “I just need to shut it down for a little bit. It’s been a challenging grind.”