When the Baltimore Orioles hosted the New York Yankees Sept. 18, a sold-out crowd showed up despite tornadoes ripping through nearby counties, heavy rain and high winds.
The crowd watched a showdown between two division rivals fighting for spots in one of the most heated postseason run-ups in recent major league baseball history. They also got a free lunch box imprinted with art promoting Sarasota County.
The swag is one part of a partnership between Sarasota County and the Orioles that began after the county paid for part of a major renovation to the team’s spring-training headquarters at Ed Smith Stadium.
Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley said she’s always known the promotional agreement was worth the stadium investment.
“There’s a lot of people who felt that they stuck their necks out, and there were a lot of naysayers — there will always be naysayers.” Haley said. “I don’t think anyone thought things would be going this great.”
Fans left that Sept. 18 game with lunch boxes courtesy of the annual Sarasota Day at Camden Yards, which is only one aspect of the promotional agreement. The banners promoting the county behind home plate and commercials that play during Orioles and Washington Nationals — hitting the Washington, D.C., market — games are other perks of the deal.
But, the Orioles will do more than bring the county to sold-out crowds and television audiences — the team’s home finale drew 94% more spectators than the previous year, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Orioles representatives approached Visit Sarasota County to offer a full-page advertisement in the team’s postseason guide for free, Haley said. The former Convention and Visitors Bureau coordinated with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the Sarasota County Economic Development Corp. on the design.
The county also gets complimentary use of suites at Camden Yards and the Nationals’ stadium, which it uses to court clients, including sporting-event organizers, to bring them to the area. And, despite the record of either team, the agreement broke Sarasota County into “two fantastic markets,” with Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Haley said.
“The team’s success is just the icing on the cake,” Haley said.