County moves to re-allocate money from tourism to Ed Smith Stadium

County moves to re-allocate money from tourism to Ed Smith Stadium
County allocates funds from tourism to Ed Smith Stadium repairs (Source: WWSB)

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Ed Smith Stadium needs 16.5 million dollars in repairs over the next 10 years, according to an engineer hired by the Sarasota County Commission.

To keep the stadium up to MLB standards, the Board decided to shift money in the tourism budget to pay for those repairs.

A lot of controversy stirred up with the county’s decision to re-allocate the funds, but the Commission Chair said Tuesday that she’s standing by that decision made last week, even through the tears that ensued.

“Since the red tide, there’s nothing. We get four or five requests a month,” cried one business owner during the Board meeting. “I had two rentals in September. I have a group due to come in this week and they called because of this headline in today’s paper.”

The headline on the Herald Tribune’s newspaper, “Return of Red Tide?”

Several business owners said they have suffered because of it, but the Commission still decided that their responsibility to keep Ed Smith Stadium maintained is paramount.

Renovations to the stadium will include two fields upgrades, a new irrigation system, lightning protection and fencing.

County moves to re-allocate money from tourism to Ed Smith Stadium

The County has enough to pay for $3.2 million of those repairs for this year and next, but come 2020, the amount of Tourist Development Tax given to promoting the area will likely need to be reduced.

“Instead of giving 30 percent to marketing, we are going to give a range of in between 25 and 30 percent and we don’t know how many dollars that’s going to add up to because it doesn’t take affect until 2020," said Chair Detert.

Even with the residue of dead fish lining the coast, Detert said she has faith that tourism will persevere.

'I’ve seen the work that Virginia Haley and Visit Sarasota have done," Detert said. “New things, new ads to deal with red tide and to deal with the dip for hotels and restaurants and it’s very creative and innovative and it should be very effective.”

Virginia Haley said though they estimate this means $900,000 less in 2020, she’s hopeful, too.

“The shift is significant, no doubt," said Haley. "But again, we have some very talented people here at Visit Sarasota. We’ve been through challenges, certainly after 9/11, the economic downturn, the deep water horizon oil spill..”

She compared this natural disaster to the tragedies her promotions team has faced before, with a confident smile and a red tide recovery program in her pocket.

“Each time our job is to rally and produce the results that are expected of us," Haley said.

Before any decision was made, the County and community talked this through for over an hour and a half.

Many community members spoke up saying red tide has had devastating affects on their business.

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