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Baltimore Orioles might be on the way to Sarasota

The Baltimore Orioles may be heading to Sarasota.

County officials announced Tuesday they are taking a “tentative memorandum of understanding” with the Orioles to the Sarasota County Commission. The team will play spring training games at Ed Smith Stadium in 2010 if the commission accepts the agreement.

According to a new release issued by the county, the deal between the county and the team hinges on the city of Sarasota OK’ing an environmental indemnity clause in its interlocal agreement that would transfer Ed Smith Stadium over to Sarasota County.

City personnel are slated to meet at 1 p.m. today at Sarasota City Hall to discuss the matter.

Terms of the deal include a 30-year agreement for the Orioles to call Sarasota their spring home; renovation and expansion of Ed Smith Stadium, as well as the Major League Baseball facilities of Twin Lakes Park on Clark Road, currently home to the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League team; the continuation of other uses of Ed Smith Stadium; promotion of the county in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area; and a proposal for an Orioles and Cal Ripken Baseball youth academy housed at Twin Lakes.

The deal also said the team and the county will contribute equally to a capital maintenance and repairs fund — the cost to renovate and expand Ed Smith Stadium and other facilities will be $31.2 million — and the Orioles will pay all operating and maintenance costs for the terms of the lease.

Ed Smith Stadium became vacant after the Cincinnati Reds decided to move their spring training headquarters to Goodyear, Ariz., beginning in 2010.

The Reds had been in Sarasota since 1998.

The possibility of the Orioles, who spend the spring in Fort Lauderdale, coming to Sarasota is welcome news for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who train in Bradenton.

McKechnie Field in Bradenton is a little more than 12 miles from Ed Smith Stadium.

Without a team in Sarasota, the Pirates’ closest spring foe is the Philadelphia Phillies, who play more than 40 miles away at Clearwater’s Bright House Field.

“We’ve held many productive discussions with the Orioles representatives over the past several weeks,” Dave Bullock, Sarasota’s deputy county administrator and the county’s principal negotiator with the Orioles, said in the release. “We’re pleased that we’ve reached an understanding with the team that will bring them to Sarasota and preserve the long history that Sarasota has had with Major League Baseball.”

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