'Baseball Wives' TV show first to call Homestead stadium home field
By Sherri C. Ranta
TV producers will shoot the new drama Baseball Wives in Homestead's unused baseball stadium in a deal that gives the city the flexibility to secure additional moneymaking uses for the complex.
Homestead's City Council unanimously approved a one-year, $424,000 agreement with renewal options to Baseball Wives Inc., backed by Levinson-Fontana Co.
Finalized Monday, the deal grants first rights to the stadium to the New York producers, said Vice Mayor Steve Losner.
Production on 13 episodes is expected to start Aug. 1, city officials said. The drama is set in South Florida around the Miami Kings, a fictional Major League Baseball team. In addition to Homestead locations, Coral Gables and Brickell are likely to feature prominently in the series as story lines develop beyond the stadium, said producer Jim Finnerty, a part-time Coral Gables resident.
In addition to the user fee, Baseball Wives Inc, will pay for all utilities the production uses plus a $3,000 monthly demand fee, Mr. Losner said. The electricity, water and sanitation utilities are city-owned.
The city will also benefit from stadium renovations and improvements made by the show's producers, he said.
"Based on the history of the producer and director, we anticipate this series to be conducted at the stadium four to seven years. Even if it doesn't, maybe two to three years, that gives us two to three years where someone else is paying the bills out there," Mr. Losner said.
Levinson-Fontana produces HBO's Oz and NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street, among other shows.
Homestead has been spending about $350,000 a year to maintain the unused 140-acre, $22 million facility, built in 1991 for the Cleveland Indians as a spring training complex. The stadium was seriously damaged in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew. The Indians decided to train elsewhere.
Homestead has since been seeking a permanent occupant.
The new agreement is a welcome revenue stream for the cash-strapped city, which is carrying about a $4 million general fund deficit. Mr. Losner said the city expects to make up the debt in about five years and has out-sourced some services, laying off 21 people from a 400-person workforce.
The HBO agreement will mean thousands of dollars in revenue for the community, Mr. Losner said. About 100 people, making more than $40,000 a year, will be employed by the series year-round in Homestead.
"They will rent homes here, patronize businesses here," Mr. Losner said. "You also have other income to the community - homes and businesses will be used as backdrops for the series. They will be well-paid for a little bit of disruption."
Homestead spokesman Charles LaPradd said the agreement leaves room to schedule other uses for the stadium. Officials anticipate the show to be shot on weekdays, leaving the stadium open for weekend use.
Tournaments and other sports-related events can still be held on the five baseball and four softball practice fields during the week, he said. A local soccer league and high school uses the fields, he said.
City officials have already begun negotiations with three other companies interested in using the stadium. The proposals include two baseball-related projects and a concert promotions company.