Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Florida State Legislature gravitates toward subsidizing receding Grapefruit League

The fact that Florida is broke is not stopping them from entertaining dreams of subsidizing Spring Training:
"The Legislature is starting to realize that we must protect our remaining spring training industry and become more aggressive in recruiting some of the teams back from Arizona that we have lost over the years," said Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill ....

Legislation being drafted would create a pool of money the state can use to award matching grants to communities and teams that want to build stadiums or renovate existing facilities ....

In 2001 and 2006, lawmakers set aside $75 million to help keep teams in Florida, but the money didn't last. In the next five years, about eight teams will begin to renegotiate leases ....

Lawmakers are feeling more confident after a recent economic impact study showed spring training baseball generated $752.3 million for the state in 2009.

"What it tells me is that even in a down economy … we have a very good story to tell about tourism and Major League Baseball spring training in Florida," Mark Bonn, the study's author, told a legislative committee in November ....

Bonn's analysis came under fire earlier this year when the Baltimore Orioles moved from Fort Lauderdale to Sarasota after the Cincinnati Reds left for Arizona.

"Our government was telling us things that can't be supported by evidence," said Cathy Antunes, leader of a Sarasota citizens group opposed to spending tax dollars on a baseball stadium.
Meanwhile a blog billing itself as the "web's definitive guide" to Spring Training is making the Chicago Cubs out as mavericky and bold in a world where city governments are expected to pay for ballparks. What makes for cutting edge in the Majors is offering $100 million up front to leverage state money Florida doesn't have to pay for a ballpark complex that could channel future restaurant and hotel revenues toward the Cubbies' brass.

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