Reds eyeing spring training move to Goodyear, Ariz.
CINCINNATI -- One week after authorities in Sarasota, Fla., balked at upgrading their spring training facility, the Cincinnati Reds agreed Monday night to an exclusive, 75-day negotiation window with the city of Goodyear, Ariz.
The agreement means the Reds are likely to move their spring training base to Arizona as soon as 2010, when they would share a complex with the Cleveland Indians.
With the exception of a few years during World War II, the Reds have trained in Florida since 1923. They moved from Plant City to Sarasota in 1998, and last year offered to stay long-term if the county would upgrade the facilities.
Voters turned down a tax issue to fund the project last November, and Sarasota County commissioners last week balked at approving $18 million as their share of an upgrade for Ed Smith Stadium. With their preferred option ruled out, the Reds began serious negotiations with Goodyear, located west of Phoenix.
"We were getting nowhere fast in Sarasota, and we finally hit a wall," said John Allen, the team's former chief operating officer. "Economically, the situation there wasn't favorable. We were very open and honest with Sarasota throughout the entire process. It was very disappointing."
During the 75-day negotiation period with Goodyear, the Reds aren't allowed to talk with any other city.
Allen retired as the team's chief operating officer last November, but agreed to represent the team in discussions on a spring training base. He said the exclusive negotiation window is a first step.
"We have a long way to go," Allen said. "There is still financing to be done and the terms of the lease to be worked out. But the people and the city of Goodyear gave us the feeling they wanted us out there. They sold us on the baseball facilities and the village area around it."
The Reds' lease in Sarasota expires later this year, but the club can stay for three more years by exercising one-year options. Work has already begun in Goodyear on a stadium and practice facility for the Indians, who will move there next year from Winter Haven, Fla.
Authorities in Goodyear have been looking for another team to share the 8,500-seat stadium. Nine major league teams already train in the Phoenix area, with three more in Tucson, Ariz.
The Reds trained in Orlando from 1923-30, then in Tampa from 1931-42. They worked out for three years in Bloomington, Ind., during the war, then returned to Tampa until 1987. They trained in Plant City from 1988-97, then moved to Sarasota.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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