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Movement to save Tinker Field emerges

Tinker Field

A movement to save historic Tinker Field, the longtime home of spring training in Orlando, is afoot, as preservationists want to see it declared a landmark, with accompanying protections.

The call to preserve Tinker Field comes from Orlando’s Historic Preservation Board, which oversees the management of historic properties for the city. Last week Mayor Buddy Dyer announced that the Tinker Field grandstand would be torn down, with portions of it moved across the street to create a new Tinker Field. The reason for the demolition? The expansion of the Citrus Bowl grandstand, making the playing field too small for serious play. Here’s the city’s vision of moving the ballpark to McCracken Field.

New Tinker Field

With so much history — besides the baseball history, many important events in Orlando history, such as a Rev. Martin Luther King rally that drew thousands, were held there — it was inevitable there would be calls to save Tinker Field. Now, granting Tinker Field landmark status won’t ensure its continued existence (it’s already on the National Register of Historic Places, which doesn’t affect whether the city can tear it down), but it would make it harder for the city to tear it down. From the Orlando Sentinel:

“I honestly believe that with the significance of a person of the stature of Dr. King, 300 years from now people will be saying, ‘How could you let the only place where he spoke in Orlando be destroyed?’ ” board member Jeffrey Thompson said. “I think that alone is so significant we would be derelict in our duty not to make this motion today.”

It may be wasted effort, however. The Historic Preservation Board is an advisory panel, and the final say on granting landmark status rests with the City Council. The council already has signaled its intention to demolish Tinker Field because the Citrus Bowl — once its ongoing renovation is complete — will encroach on the ballpark’s outfield….

But if it were designated a local landmark, it would be protected by city code. It couldn’t be demolished without the permission of the Historic Preservation Board, and there would have to be a 180-day waiting period.

There are multiple layers to any Tinker Field preservation. The playing field, which dates back to the 1920s is all torn up, used as a staging area for heavy machinery used in the Citrus Bowl expansion. The grandstand, built in 1963, looks to be in generally good shape, but it could certainly use some TLC. And a newer set of offices sits outside the grandstand. The whole thing is a mix of old and new: while the grandstand was rebuilt in 1963, the original 1920s plumbing was left in place — causing problems to this day,

The Reds trained there in 1923-1930, the Brooklyn Dodgers trained there in 1934-1935, and the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins trained there between 1936 and 1990, save the three wartime years when the team trained in College Park, Md., and are most closely associated with the facility There are some Griffith Stadium seats still installed in the Tinker Field grandstand. It was built in 1923 and named for former Chicago Cubs infielder Joe Tinker — he of Tinker to Evers to Chance fame — who retired in Orlando.

RELATED STORIES: Historic Tinker Field to be torn down


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