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Lee County Eyeing Spring Training Venue Resembling Fenway

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Lee County (FL) "hopes to have a new spring training home for the [Red Sox] by 2012, one that resembles the team's fabled regular-season residence," according to Glenn Miller of the Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS.

Lee County Parks & Recreation Dir John Yarbrough described the potential new home for the Red Sox as "a replica of Fenway Park."

The Red Sox lease with Lee County runs through 2019, but the team has "an escape clause that could allow it to wiggle free as soon as next year" by paying a $1M fee.

And the team is now being "courted by Sarasota." Ft. Myers Architect Jeff Mudgett said that "no drawings, sketches or schematics of any sort for a new facility or redesigned City of Palms Park have been created." But Yarbrough and Mudgett said that any new project would also include "non-baseball elements such as retail and restaurants."

Meanwhile, Sarasota officials have "floated sums between [$62-70M] for a new spring-training facility." Yarbrough said that Lee County, which is "dealing with budget woes," will "not try topping Sarasota" (Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS, 7/9). Yarbrough said that he "envisions a request for proposals that would entice landowners and developers to come to the county with their ideas" (NAPLES NEWS, 7/9).

SARASOTA: In Sarasota, Roger Drouin writes a "detailed plan to bring the Red Sox spring training to Sarasota is finally taking shape." The "separate but somewhat overlapping proposals put forth by city and county officials call for a complicated three-way land deal that would move the county fair to Twin Lakes Park, build a stadium and practice fields for the Red Sox at the current site of the fair and turn the land that Ed Smith Stadium sits on into a regional park."

Sarasota City Manager Robert Bartolotta said that the city's proposal "would cost about $80[M] -- including $62[M] for a new stadium -- and be paid for largely with so-called 'bed taxes' collected on visiting tourists and private development on county-owned land adjacent to the new stadium" (Sarasota HERALD-TRIBUNE, 7/9).

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