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Reds move one step closer to relocating spring training

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds moved a step closer Wednesday to relocating their spring training home.

Goodyear, Ariz., officials said the city is able to fund the estimated $33 million needed to move the Reds from Sarasota, Fla., to a new ballpark west of Phoenix. Goodyear officials declined to disclose sources of the funding.

In January, one week after authorities in Sarasota balked at upgrading their spring training facility, the Reds agreed to an exclusive, 75-day negotiation window with the city of Goodyear.

Except for 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 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.

John Allen, the team's former chief operating officer, said the Reds hope to complete an agreement with Goodyear in early April. The team is likely to move its spring training base to Arizona as soon as 2010, when it would share a complex with the Cleveland Indians.

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.

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