Judah touts baseball’s benefits to Republican Women
Coming off a town hall meeting Monday night where he was reportedly booed by Estero and South Lee County residents, Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah faced a tamer crowd while discussing baseball when he met with the Republican Women’s Club at the Landings in Fort Myers.
Judah justified Tuesday the commission’s and his own work with keeping the Red Sox in Lee County by giving the Republican ladies a larger view of spring training history in the county.
He said the city of Fort Myers once balked at spending $600,000 in renovations at Terry Park to keep the Kansas City Royals in Lee. The Royals quickly bounced to Haines City, Fla., and the lesson stuck with Judah.
“We have a long, rich baseball history in Lee County,” he said. “We needed to take a proactive approach … they are an economic catalyst.”
Citing the state of Arizona’s aggressive approach to luring teams to the Cactus League, and Sarasota County looming as a possible relocation site for the Red Sox, Judah took it upon himself to make certain the Boston team is here to stay.
“I felt it wasn’t just an idle threat,” he said. “I took business into my own hands and felt we could not lose the Boston Red Sox.”
County commissioners must decide Wednesday between the four remaining potential sites for the new Red Sox stadium. The stadium must be up and running by 2013, but Judah insists everything will be in place by 2012.
Then there is the prospect of the Baltimore Orioles becoming Lee County’s third Major League spring training team, which would fill the vacated City of Palms Park once the Sox move into their new facility.
Judah said Baltimore is a “free agent” team in search of a new home, and the county may very well be able to use $7.5 million in state grants to make renovations to City of Palms to help lure them here.
“The synergy of four teams (including the Tampa Bay Rays in Charlotte County) is a huge economic windfall,” he said. “Baseball is big business.”
Commissioners are due to make their decision on the new stadium site at 1 p.m. Wednesday in commission chambers.