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Tinker Field receives reprieve after community outrage

Tinker Field

The demolition of Orlando’s Tinker Field is on hold, after politicos and community leaders expressed outrage that the historic facility was set to meet the wrecking ball with little notice.

Mayor Buddy Dyer announced that plans to demolish the former home to spring training and Minor League Baseball in Orlando would be put on hold to study alternatives to demolition. The city had slated $3 million to tear down Tinker Field and then build a new Tinker Field next door at McCracken Field. The rationale: the expansion of the Citrus Bowl next door would cut into the Tinker Field playing field and creating a 265-foot right-field fence.

But many in Orlando expressed dismay that the ballpark would be torn down; besides serving as the home of summer-collegiate ball in the last three seasons, Tinker Field hosts many concerts and community events while actually generating a profit for the city. Besides spring training, several other historic events have been held here, including a landmark Rev. Martin Luther King speech during the height of the Civil Rights era. So the old ballpark has a soft spot for many Orlando residents, who first called for it receive landmark status during meetings last week. The community reaction forced Dyer’s hand, per the Orlando Sentinel:

The mayor said he had ordered a halt to the demolition that was scheduled to happen as soon as next month. He also asked architects to “look at all options to preserve the historic significance of Tinker Field.”…

“The guiding principle regarding the future of Tinker Field was that this is an opportunity to build a facility that would restore a functioning baseball stadium to the area and to preserve the historic significance of Tinker Field,” Dyer said Monday.

Though Tinker Field’s demolition has been at least temporarily halted, the plan to build a new ballpark atop McCracken Field will proceed, he said.

Of course, you could argue that the venue would look a lot better with $3 million in improvements, and you could also argue some sort of Green Monster (maybe a White Monster?) in right field wouldn’t be inappropriate for summer-collegiate ball. And keeping the ballpark intact would keep the venue viable for concerts and other community events.

Tinker Field

Though the field was used for baseball as far back s 1914, Tinker Field opened in 1923 and was rebuilt in 1963. The Cincinnati 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, as well as a bust of former Sens owner Clark Griffith. 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: Movement to save Tinker Field emerges; Historic Tinker Field to be torn down


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