Yesterday, Rob excorciated some aspects of the exalted new Yankee Stadium, and frankly it was one of my favorite pieces he's written for this dadgum site. His comments about about unwavering devotion to a team clouding common sense or even one's appreciation for the actual game of baseball is something he and I have discussed. As you may have noticed, I'm a Red Sox fan. My peers aren't exactly a dispassionate bunch. They refer to themselves as a Nation, have a President and to that end I'm sure the rest of baseball wouldn't really object if they seceded.
Like any insanely one-sided relationship, Red Sox fans can see no wrong in the actions of their club. They love them unconditionally even when they're fleecing the very people that have helped to support them. As RSN has become a huge cottage industry, a financially struggling press even has to be called into question when reporting on the team. After all, this abomination is actually affilliated with The Boston Globe.
All this is to shed some light on a story about the Red Sox that continued last night, but is so under the radar here in Boston as to practically not exist. It's relationship to the city is small, but what it says about the organization's priorities should be important to its fans.
In a nutshell, the Red Sox have been grumbling for years about their Spring Training facility in Ft. Myers, City of Palms Park. The stadium, while not new, is still one of the best looking and well appropriated of any in Florida. It's amenities were good from every angle I saw, and that wasn't the Red Sox gripe. The major "problem" for the team was that it was a so called single site facility, without the back fields for minor league squads that most of the other parks in Florida have. The Red Sox minor league facilities are a couple of miles down the road. To remedy this inconvienience the Red Sox held the city of Ft. Myers ransom for a brand new stadium, and got their way.
Beginning last summer, the team found leverage in the city of Sarasota. Once the Reds announced plans to leave, Sarasota was staring at a 2010 Spring without a team and heavily courted the Sox. Ft. Myers, a city with the highest per capita foreclosure rate in the country and an unemployment rate 3 pts higher than the already high state average couldn't afford to lose the tourism revenue that comes with Spring. A couple of business owners I talked to in Winter Haven, former home of the Indians, estimated they could lose as much as 15-20% of their annual business by not having Spring Training this year. Surely Ft. Myers could have also used the $100 million in initial investment for this project, but were stuck between the Sox and a hard place.
Opposition is now moot. Public hearings on site selection started last night. After successfully quashing debate about what former Ft. Myers mayor Wilbur Smith called the most one-sided deal I've ever seen, dissent can now only be excercised about where to put this thing.
All around the state, abandoned Spring Training sites are scrambling to make up lost revenue, though minor league deals can't come close to replicating the cash generated by big clubs and their snowbird fans. And Sox brass will talk about the new stadium construction creating jobs in an underemployed area but well, we've already been over that. It's all nonsense. What the Red Sox did in Ft. Myers was nothing short of a stickup job, and they got away scot free.