(Bumped to top.)

…at least, in my opinion. From John Fay’s blog:

Don’t be surprised if the Sarasota and the Reds try to work out something to keep the club’s spring home there.

It’s been 2 1/2 months since the referendum to fund the city of Sarasota’s share of the cost of rebuilding the Ed Smith Stadium complex was voted down.

Not much has happened since. No place in Florida has come forth and promised to build the Reds the kind of facility they want. I think Orlando is the best possibility at this point.

Sarasota, meanwhile, is dealing with the reality of losing the Reds who pay a lot of money to maintain Ed Smith.

Arizona is a possibility for the Reds. But the people running the club realize that would not be a popular move with fans — given the added travel distance.

Anyone who’s ever been to Sarasota would agree that it is the ideal place for the Reds to train. If something can be worked out to rebuild the Ed, it’s no brainer to stay. Remember, most of the funding was in place before the vote. There’s a chance a deal could be put together with tax abatements and the like.

As someone that vacations in Siesta Key/Sarasota almost every year, this would be great news. Our family loves going to see the Sarasota Reds play (I went to 4 games last year while we were there) and we really enjoy Ed Smith.

As someone that’s sneaking up on retirement (approximately 6 years away), we’ve also looked at this area for retirement, but recently thought about elsewhere if the Reds moved their operations. If the Reds sign to stay in Sarasota, that’s another thing in the area’s favor when we’re making our decision.

Update: From the Enquirer (1/15/08):

John Allen will be in Goodyear, Ariz., Wednesday to hear that city’s pitch to become the Reds’ new spring home.

Goodyear is where the Cleveland Indians begin training in 2009.

The city’s plan is for the Reds to share the complex with the Indians.

UPDATE: From the Sarasota Herald Tribune (1/16/08):

A last-ditch effort to to keep the Cincinnati Reds spring training in Sarasota appears to be gaining momentum, but the plan still has one major hurdle to overcome: support from the county.

After city voters rejected a property tax increase in November for a $54 million stadium renovation, city officials led an effort to devise yet another scaled-back stadium plan, at an even cheaper cost.

The result is a new “alternative stadium plan concept,” put together over the past month in discussions between city, county and Reds officials. It calls for a $41 million rebuild of Ed Smith Stadium.

City and county commissioners will vote whether to move it forward at separate meetings next Tuesday. If it passes, the city, the county and the Reds have 45 days to come up with a finalized agreement.

UPDATE: 1/22/08

I emailed all 5 county commissioners this morning and have heard from three of them.

One said she was in favor (Shannon Staub), one said “We will see what this week brings in our discussions” (Paul Mercier), and one said, ” My own position is to ratchet back the support for the stadium to what was requested when the discussion started to a match of the state grant – between 7 and 8 million” (Nora Patterson).

IMO, it doesn’t look good.

From John Fay’s blog:

I just watched the Sarasota County Commission meeting via the Web. First, I’m very thankful I cover baseball and not county government. Second, I think the Reds chances of staying in Sarasota are very, very slim.

The Commission did not have the votes to approve a proposal to move on the new plan to renovate Ed Smith Stadium, largely because a 4-1 vote is needed to approve the plan. The commission voted 3-2 to move on with the plan. But it would take to a 4-1 vote, so essentially it failed 3-2. The new plan called for the county to contribute in $17.8 million in tourist taxes dollars.

But it’s not quite over. To make it a bit confusing, the Commission also voted:

–To move on with the plan if it’s changed to use only $7.9 million in county money (thus matching the State allocation).

–To advertise an ordinance to change the rules that require a super majority to approve a plan. They’ll vote on that in two weeks. If that passes, a 3-2 vote would be needed to move on with the plan and commission would likely do that.

–To put the plan to use the $17.8 million in tourist tax for the renovation of Ed Smith Stadium on the ballot.

“In my estimation, the door is still open,” commissioner Shannon Staub said.

The meeting was civilized, but there is strong disagreement. Staub and Joe Barbetta strongly support keeping the Reds. Nora Patterson is against using $17.8 million for the project. She was one that brought up matching the state’s $7.8 million. Jon Thaxton also opposes the plan. Paul Mercier voted for it, but he wants a project of bigger scope.

While it’s not dead in Sarasota, I would think the Reds are going to continue to look elsewhere. Sarasota mayor Lou Ann Palmer urged the commission to give a final decision on the new plan. “We can’t continue to play games with the Reds,” she said. “We need a decision.”

I don’t think the Reds would accept a $31 million rebuilding job, which is what Patterson’s matching proposal amounts to.

UPDATE (2/14/08): From the Sarasota Harold Tribune:

Sarasota could not afford to lose baseball. That was the rallying cry of hundreds of residents, business owners and hoteliers who quickly mobilized and convinced the County Commission to fund a stadium plan to keep spring training in town.

It was the same message pro-stadium fans touted in November, when city voters narrowly rejected a $16 million property tax increase to fund a stadium project for the Cincinnati Reds.

But this time it came with urgency.

Concern about a slumping economy has grown. And the vision of the Reds taking their economic draw someplace else became reality three weeks ago when the team agreed to exclusively negotiate with Goodyear, Ariz.

The result was the most intense community lobbying effort for the stadium to date. It brought out not just the usual suspects, but also many newcomers who had never sounded off on the issue before or had changed their minds.

It’s an interesting article, especially if you’ve ever spent any time in the area. My prediction is, at this point, that the Reds string Goodyear along ’til the end of the 75 day period (which ends on April 15th, I believe) and then work out a deal to stay in Sarasota. Castellini has been vocal about wanting to stay in Sarasota and now it’s feasible.