Red Sox leave their spring training stadium – and its debt – behind

An increasing number of teams, now including the Boston Red Sox, will leave a town even before their taxpayer-funded stadiums are paid off, leaving debt and unhappy fans behind.

Brita Meng Outzen / AP / File
Boston Red Sox pitchers, from left, David Pauley, Kyle Snyder, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima and Devern Hansack take part in a conditioning run at spring training baseball in Fort Myers, Fla. in this file photo from February, 2007. The Boston Red Sox have decided to move from this spring training stadium to one in Lee County, leaving the taxpayers of Fort Myers with $17.5 million outstanding debt and an empty stadium.

The Red Sox want spiffier spring training digs in Fort Myers, Florida, and the locals of Lee County will oblige. After “kicking the tires” of one or two alternative venues, the Red Sox will apparently stick around to play in a new stadium “financed with $81.2 million” of tax-supported bonds. The title of the Bloomberg story (in which TSE blogger Dennis Coates has a cameo) is “Red Sox Threat to Flee Florida Winter Home Gets County to Finance Stadium.” A standard-issue ploy in what we call “The Stadium Game.”

But what caught my eye in the piece was the fact that the city of Fort Myers remains on the hook for $17.5 million of debt for the old stadium. This appears to be a standard-issue outcome as well: previous TSE posts discuss outstanding debt on the Meadowlands and RCA Dome, the Houston Astrodome, and Olympic Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium, among others.

In addition to the Red Sox’ legacy in Fort Myers, the current piece adds two new entries. The LA Dodgers left Vero Beach for Glendale Arizona in 2009. The county “still owes $12.3 million” on the old Dodgertown facility. The Pima County “Stadium District” lost the Chicago White Sox in 2009 and the Arizona Diamondbacks will leave next year. The stadium debt tab in Pima County is $21.3 million according to the Bloomberg article.

Teams leave before the debt does.

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