The future of Plant City Stadium, former spring home of the Cincinnati Reds, surprisingly lies in the future of softball in future Olympics.
The Reds trained at 6,700-seat Plant City Stadium between 1987 and 1996, before moving on to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. After the Reds departed, the International Softball Federation set up shop in 2000 and continues to be headquartered out of the facility.
With Plant City subsidizing the ballpark to the tune of $400,000 annually, local politicians are looking at alternate uses for the site and issued a request for proposals for the ballpark as it stands now. The only respondent: Big League Dreams, which sought $5 million in upgrades as part of a lease. Of course, with the goal for the city to reduce subsidies, not increase them, officials weren’t too pleased with the demand and instead are looking at tearing down the ballpark in favor of industrial space. (If you’ve been to Plant City Stadium, you know it’s not exactly in the most scenic of locales; it’s outside of town in an industrial area.)
One potential development that could derail demolition plans: the return of softball as an Olympic sport, which would cause the International Softball Federation to seek an expanded lease:
[City Manager Greg] Horwedel said he doubts the city will seek new bids on the 75-acre stadium complex, which includes the Randy L. Larson Softball Four-Plex. The city will hold off making any decisions until the International Softball Federation, which has offices at the stadium complex, decides whether it will make greater use of the stadium. The federation has been based at the stadium for nearly 15 years.
Softball federation President Don Porter said his organization may need more frequent use of the stadium if an Olympic committee decides next month to establish softball as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Olympics. Returning softball to its status as an Olympic sport probably would increase the federation’s need for the stadium as a venue, Porter said.
A decision should come this year.
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