Homestead weighing stadium uses from sports agent, concert promoter
By Sherri C. Ranta
Homestead's sports complex could be home to year-round professional and amateur baseball and concerts if pending proposals prove compatible with a new TV drama set to begin filming in August.
Sunshine Baseball Inc., a new baseball initiative by Miami sports agent Joe Cubas, and a concert-entertainment proposal from Lauderdale Investments, a West Hartford, CT-based promotions company, are under serious consideration, said City Manager Curt Ivy.
City officials expect to move quickly on negotiations, he said, because Mr. Cubas' baseball proposal is time sensitive. Mr. Cubas set a deadline of this month and city officials hope games could be scheduled later this year.
Lauderdale Investments principal Henry Zukowski - a Fort Lauderdale resident, concert promoter and land developer - said he is also ready to begin as soon as possible.
"We need to make sure producers of the HBO show and their schedules are compatible with either proposal. They have first say in the stadium," Mr. Ivy said.
The Homestead City Council on July 15 approved a one-year, $424,000-use agreement with renewal options for Baseball Wives, an HBO drama series backed by producers Levinson-Fontana Co. The deal, he said, gives first rights to use the stadium to the series. Weekday production of the series is scheduled to begin Aug. 1.
City officials will consider Baseball Heaven, a third proposal, from Champion Sports Productions principal Mario F. Signorello Jr., if negotiations fall through with Sunshine Baseball, Mr. Ivy said.
Baseball Heaven, which includes Mr. Signorello and a group of unspecified investors, also proposes year-round baseball and softball leagues and tournaments at the stadium. North Miami Beach-based Champion Sports Productions schedules and organizes sports leagues and tournaments statewide.
Mr. Signorello is no stranger to Homestead's sports complex, city officials said. He organizes the Homestead Challenge, an annual college baseball tournament held there each March. About 70 to 90 college teams from around the country come to play.
Players, staff and relatives fill the city's hotels and restaurants during the tournament, Mr. Ivy said. The Homestead Challenge, he said, provides more of an economic stimulus to the business community than money in the city's coffers.
Homestead Vice Mayor Steve Losner said the city chose to deal with Mr. Cubas first because his rent projections far exceed those in Baseball Heaven's proposal.
"That promoter seemed to have the edge," he said.
The Sunshine Baseball proposal includes a 10-year lease with 100% of maintenance costs borne by Sunshine, plus $50,000 to the city in years three and four, $75,000 in year five, and $100,000 in years six through 10. The city would also receive a flat fee of 3% of net revenue beginning in year three. Sunshine officials also want a purchase option for $8 million.
Baseball Heaven proposes taking over all maintenance cost. They also propose facility improvements that include painting and adding TVs and a kitchen in the dormitories at a cost of about $176,000. Baseball Heaven would begin making unspecified rent payments to the city in year five, according to the proposal.
Mr. Signorello said the Homestead Challenge would continue under the Baseball Heaven proposal. Upgrades to the stadium's dormitories and installation of kitchen facilities would allow the students to stay on-site. Plans would include brining more teams on site for tournaments throughout the year.
"We're losing money because there is no television in the dorms and we can't feed them," he said.
Homestead attorney John Maas said he and other members of the city committee that reviewed the proposals agreed Sunshine Baseball offered the best financial deal for the city.
"Sunshine Baseball's proposal was significantly better than Mario's proposal. If you look at it financially, I honestly think Mr. Cubas has a better chance of making it work than the other. He has ties to Major League Baseball."
The committee made its recommendation to the city's council in early July and plans to discuss the stadium proposals again before August.
The city council would need to approve any new uses for the stadium, which does not have a permanent tenant.
Homestead spends about $350,000 a year to maintain the largely unused 140-acre , $22 million facility. Built in 1991 as a spring training center for the Cleveland Indians, it was seriously damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The complex was rebuilt, but the Indians had decided to train elsewhere.
Mr. Cubas declined to discuss his baseball proposal in detail until a contract is signed. He said he would bring a number of projects - leagues and tournaments - to the facility and "a brand of professional baseball to the complex.
"We had a meeting with the city this past week. We're expecting a contract at any moment," Mr. Cubas said.
Mr. Losner said Sunshine Baseball proposes bringing international baseball players to the stadium to play for major league scouts as well as scheduling amateur and college baseball and softball games throughout the year.
In addition to agreeing to the city's terms, Homestead Communications and Marketing Manager Charles LaPradd said the companies must show "financial wherewithal" and reveal the identities of project principals.
"We like to know who we're doing business with," he said. The parties have not yet revealed themselves in a formal way, Mr. Ivy said.
City officials say they are intrigued by Lauderdale Investment's proposals to bring big name musical entertainment and other events, such as a rodeo or monster truck show, for example, to the stadium. Mr. Zukowski, proposes staging several pay-per-view concerts at the stadium featuring prominent music industry entertainers.
A real estate broker and principal in a Connecticut land development company, Mr. Zukowski said he was once a principal of a 7,000-seat concert facility in West Hartford. That facility, he said, was used to stage some 300 shows between 1981-88. He said he and a partner recently opened a nightclub featuring live entertainment in Hartford.
If negotiations with Homestead fall apart, Mr. Zukowski said, the company will go to Broward County with hopes of staging similar concerts in Sunrise's Markham Park.
In its proposal to the city, Lauderdale Investments seeks a lease purchase agreement for the athletic complex and stadium. Lease payments to the city would begin at $5,000 per event in the first year and climb to $10,000 per event after five years. In year seven, the city would realize a $1 fee for each ticket sold with half going for the lease payment and half for the ultimate sales price at closing. Lauderdale Investments propose $17.5 million as the purchase price.