Fort Myers, Fla., ends courtship of Indians

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Officials have ended efforts to lure the Cleveland Indians to a new spring training site and say they want to focus efforts on keeping the two other major league teams that train here.

Monday's decision by Lee County and the city of Fort Myers ends a two-year courtship of the team after officials decided they couldn't afford the training facility the Indians wanted.

"We simply didn't have the financial resources to build a complex the Indians were looking for," Fort Myers Mayor Jim Humphrey said.

The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins also train in Lee County.

The Indians and Boston Red Sox entered a joint agreement to share City of Palms Park last November. The deal was contingent on stadium improvements and construction of a training facility for the Indians.

The county had pledged $14 million in tourist tax money for the Indians practice facility, but the team wanted a facility that would have cost at least $16.8 million. There were also environmental concerns about the land Fort Myers offered.

The Indians, whose spring training lease in Winter Haven expires in October, could remain in Winter Haven or move to Port Charlotte along the southern Gulf Coast.

The Texas Rangers, who had been training in Port Charlotte, are moving their camp to Arizona next spring.

Arizona tourism officials said last week they are trying to get the Indians to return to Tucson, where they spent 46 spring trainings. But Indians Vice President Bob DiBiasio said any consideration of that site would be years in the future and for now the focus remains on a Florida spring training venue.

DiBiasio said he was disappointed the team will not be training in Fort Myers next year.

"We had identified the southwest corridor of Florida as a good location, simply because of all of the Indians fans," DiBiasio said. "We knew it would be tough with four entities: city, the county, the Red Sox and the Indians."

DiBiasio said the Indians will present a formal letter to Charlotte County outlining their requests for improvements at the complex.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)