Homestead decides to hold onto baseball complex
By Sherri C. Ranta
After years of trying to lease or sell its baseball complex without success, Homestead officials now say the city can score the most by keeping it.
"I think we're in the mode now, where unless something better comes along [the baseball facility] will remain a recreational area for the community," said City Manager Curt Ivy.
"We've tried a lot of different things, but it does not appear we're going to get spring training this far south anytime soon."
The city built the $22 million Homestead Sports Complex, a 140-acre facility at 601 SE 28th Ave., in 1991 as a spring training facility for the Cleveland Indians. The complex includes a 6,500-seat stadium, five practice fields, a clubhouse, batting cages, dormitory, four softball fields and special event areas.
When Hurricane Andrew swept through in 1992 and damaged the facility, Mr. Ivy said, the team exercised a clause in its contract and pulled out without penalty.
Since then city officials have looked for other professional sports teams come to southern Miami-Dade County.
The US Soccer Federation declined to use it as a training facility. Various entrepreneurs tried to convert it to an amateur sports facility. In 2002 the stadium was to have been a backdrop in a proposed HBO television drama Baseball Wives, but the show was canceled.
Community recreational baseball, softball and soccer teams still use the fields. Several baseball tournaments drawing teams from the Southeast also use the stadium. Entertainment events sometimes held there include the city's Fourth of July celebration that drew several thousand people.
Mayor Roscoe Warren, a city councilman for 20 years before becoming mayor four years ago, says the council's consensus seems to be one of holding onto the stadium for green space and recreational use.
The city talked about selling the stadium during hard times, he said, but "that is behind us" because of explosive residential growth, increased retail and commercial development and an expanding tax base in the city.
Homestead is reported as being the ninth-fastest growing city in the US, said Judy Waldman, council member and chair of the city parks and recreation committee.
City council members voted this year not to sell the stadium, she said.
"At that time they were very vocal that they did not want to sell it," she said. "To my knowledge the stadium is off the market."
Homestead recently completed a master plan for parks, Ms. Waldman said, that includes $6 million in ongoing improvements. The plan won a state award, she said.
"Our city was near bankruptcy just four years ago. We had no money to fix anything. Our parks were in deplorable condition. They were a mess," she said. "We're seeing it happen. We're already starting these improvements."
An additional master plan to improve and redesign the stadium probably will be necessary to make the facility a regional park, she said.
The City Council voted July 5 to rename its 14th park now under development at Southwest 344th Street and 162nd Avenue, for Mayor Warren. The 33-acre park - 20 acres are a class 2 landfill - is to be redeveloped in two phases and completed in 2008.
The park will be the second largest in the city, said Lillian Delgado, city public information officer, and include features such as a dog park, picnic areas, children's playground, soccer fields, basketball courts, racquetball courts, walking/jogging trails, parking and a building with restrooms.
Funds for the park, she said, include $3.5 million from the county's General Obligation Bond and $429,000 in fees from residential developers M&H Homes and Pride Homes.