With Winter Park moving forward with planning for a new Brevard County Manatees (High Class A; Florida State League) ballpark, Rollins College’s Alfond Stadium is back in the mix as a potential site.
Consultant Mike Thiessen, principal at the Madison Group, has already determined Winter Park can support Minor League Baseball. (As it would be the only summer team in the greater Orlando area, most would concur.) Five sites were initially under consideration for hosting the ballpark, including the Ravaudage development on U.S. 17/92, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and the UP development. A fourth site on Lee Road was eliminated after it was apparent it didn’t offer any street appeal. Today the Winter Park city commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with an evaluation of all four site, with Alfond Stadium the lowest-cost location and the Ravaudage development the most. A decision is expected by August.
Alfond Stadium also remains in the mix, and it represents the most intriguing site for a ballpark. It’s located in downtown Winter Park, on Orange Avenue and just off Fairbanks Avenue. These two streets are among the busiest in Winter Park, which means great visibility but it could also mean huge challenges for folks making their way for a ballgame. There are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance, so you’d be placing the ballpark in what’s already a busy commercial area (though it would also be on the edge of a residential area, full of folks who may not be thrilled with a ballpark in the area).
And there are some other reasons to consider the Alfond Stadium site, says Thiessen: because Rollins College owns the property, there’s no messy land-acquisition issues, and because it sits in a Community Redevelopment zone, it’s eligible for additional state and city funding.
But there are other issues. There’s precious little parking at the ballpark site as it is, and presumably much of it would be lost if a new 3,000-capacity ballpark replaces the very small college ballpark. Rollins College would probably welcome a new ballpark at the site, but officials there already say they have no money to contribute to the project. And, of course, the city would need to come up with a funding plan.
And time is of the essence. The Manatees were looking to move by next spring, but obviously that’s not going to happen. The city says a decision on a site and a funding plan could be worked out in the next five months, making 2016 a very viable deadline.
With a population of 2,134,411, the greater Orlando-Kissimmee–Sanford, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area is the largest American MSA without professional baseball.
RELATED STORIES: Winter Park moves forward with ballpark feasibility plan; New Manatees ballpark pitched for Winter Park — again; New Winter Park ballpark plan scrapped — for now; Developer pitches new Winter Park ballpark; Brevard County Manatees, Rollins College discussing new ballpark; Pro baseball an endangered species in Viera; Nats go public with desire for new spring-training facility
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