First some political news before diving into spring training baseball.
Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll resigned after a federal probe revealed that while she was a member of the House of Representatives her PR firm represented Allied Veterans of the World – a bogus charity that owns numerous Internet cafés.
There were 57 individuals (and counting) arrested on charges of money laundering and racketeering, including a Jacksonville attorney who headed the scam. Legislators are fast tracking bills to outlaw these cafés and other similar arcades popular with seniors.
Carroll’s departure, according to insiders, is an effort to distance the Rick Scott (re-election) effort from the scandal. So much for no gambling laws to be considered during the session.
Now to baseball.
Lakeland’s quaint downtown Joker Marchant Stadium gets a $50 million makeover co-funded by the Detroit Tigers and City of Lakeland, starting in 2014.
Mets Stadium in Port St. Lucie is back to being Tradition Field with naming rights returning to Tradition Florida Planned Communities. The stadium is adjacent to Tradition, Florida.
The Washington Nationals’ deal with Space Coast Stadium in Viera is up later this year and there are rumblings the team may skedaddle. Brevard County is trying to salvage the situation by adding a second big league team to share the complex and paying for air travel to the west coast.
In Arizona, the Chicago Cubs move to a new $84 million stadium in Mesa in 2014. Tucson, a long time spring training hub now devoid of any major league camps hosted Cubs vs. Dodgers and D’Backs vs. Padres at Kino Park.
The training complex built to house the White Sox and Diamondbacks is now home to the Tucson Padres of the Pacific Coast AAA League. Defending NCAA champ Arizona plays at center city Hi Corbett Field, home to many MLB teams dating back to the 50’s.
Initial figures indicate spring training attendance is way down…14% in some instances. Some excuses include:
• Games began a week early to accommodate the World Baseball Non Event.
• Fan favorite star players shipped out to the WBC.
• Unusually inclement weather, especially in central Florida.
Just before the season starts odds (c/o LVH) on the Marlins total wins: o/u 63½. Tampa Bay Rays total wins: o/u 87. Marlins need not despair as they are second to last. The new AL Houston Astros are at 59.
Odds to win the World Series: Marlins 300-1, Rays 20-1. We lean a bit to the OVER on the Marlins as their interleague play includes 19 games against the forlorn Mets, plus a bunch vs. Cubs, White Sox, Twins and Royals.
Turning to horse racing, citing continuing growth Gulfstream Park raised its purses 10% for the remainder of its meet. Also, the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition wants to build support for a 2014 statewide referendum on the question of allowing betting. A flight of billboard ads in Atlanta Metro is in the works.
The Miami New Times, which broke the A-Rod, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, et al. performance enhancing drugs story, refused commish Bud Selig’s request to turn over notes and evidence.
Tampa Bay area developer Darryl LeClair and his CityScape Group presented plans for a new baseball stadium at the Carillon Business Park to the St. Petersburg City Council. The 35,000-seat, retractable dome facility is projected to cost $500 million.
The proposed site is considerably closer to mainland Tampa and the fan base than ancient Tropicana Field. The Rays are contractually relegated to the Trop until 2026, but there’s a small but possible window of opportunity with the area bed tax expiring in 2016.
The Marlins Stadium turf got a complete makeover following a very ragged first year. Two hearty grasses, Paspalum in the infield and Tifway 419 in the outfield should weather the long, mostly roof enclosed summer.
In addition to the Miami Dolphins legislative efforts for a stadium renovation, the Florida Legislature is also considering bills to upgrade the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium, another to build a new soccer stadium, and a third to renovate Daytona International Speedway.
Miami Heat coach Eric Spolestra finally revealed mystery girlfriend Nicki Sapp, 24. Formerly a Heat cheerleader/dancer, she accompanied him to the Heat Charitable Gala back on Feb. 27.
Finally, the Florida State Lottery adds Mega Millions on May 15.
Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected].