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Orioles move spring home to Sarasota

Orioles move spring home to Sarasota

The Orioles ended one era and began another on Wednesday, when they learned that their deal to relocate to Sarasota from Fort Lauderdale had been approved.

The Orioles had agreed on Tuesday to a 30-year lease with Sarasota County that calls for more than $31 million in funds to be provided for the renovation of Ed Smith Stadium, and the proposal passed a vote of both the City Council and Sarasota County Commission late on Wednesday night.

The move will happen immediately, starting with Spring Training 2010 and ending a 14-year landing at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. Baltimore will play in Ed Smith Stadium without renovation for one spring, and then development will commence sometime after the Orioles fly north for Opening Day.

The City Council voted 3-2 on one issue in the morning, but the matter wasn't resolved until several hours later, when the County Commission voted 4-1 on three issues at their discretion. That cinched Baltimore's return to Sarasota, where it also had spent the spring in 1991 and from 1993-95.

John Angelos, executive vice president of the Orioles and son of managing partner Peter Angelos, released a statement as part of the team's official press release.

"It is with great excitement that we announce that Sarasota will be our new long-term spring training home," it said. "We thank the Sarasota County Commission, City Commission, local business leaders and our good friends at the Chamber of Commerce who worked tirelessly to make this partnership a reality. We look forward with great anticipation to becoming an important part of the civic fabric of the Sarasota community and to bringing Orioles baseball to the residents of the Greater Sarasota area."

The contract also calls for renovation to the team's current Minor League facility at Twin Lakes Park, which also will house a branch of the newly established Cal Ripken Youth Baseball Academy. In Baltimore's previous arrangement, the Minor League camp was situated 200 miles from the Major League team.

Together, Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park comprise nearly 89 acres of usable space, and the Orioles will get to spread out after being limited to three fields in Fort Lauderdale.

Ripken, the Orioles' iconic Hall of Fame shortstop, also released a statement celebrating the move.

"I am thrilled that the Orioles have found a new comprehensive Spring Training home and that Ripken Baseball will be a part of the facility in Sarasota," it said. "I have always liked the idea of the kids playing side by side with the professional ballplayers as it really enhances their experience. We are excited to partner with the Orioles and bring our youth academy model to the Sarasota community."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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