The Brevard County Manatees (High Class A; Florida State League) are close to a deal on a new ballpark at Winter Park’s Alfond Stadium site, with two hearings on the project set for today.
Winter Park is a suburb of Orlando. The team, currently playing at Viera’s Space Coast Stadium (spring home of the Washington Nationals), has been working on the city on a ballpark plan and in recent months settled on four potential ballpark sites. Alfond Stadium at Harper-Shepherd Field, owned by Rollins College and home to the Tars as well as the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (summer collegiate; Florida Collegiate Summer League), as shown above, would be torn down and replaced by a new $30-million facility, due for a 2016 opening, as well as a parking garage. The city would bond $6 million of the project via its Community Redevelopment Agency, which would also kick in an additional $5 million. Rollins College would pay $4 million and donate the land to the project.
Some residents have already opposed the project, saying it would bring more traffic to an already bustling part of the upscale suburb. That’s true: 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). But because of zoning issues, it was identified by consultant Mike Thiessen as the best place for a new ballpark.
The move would also bring professional baseball back to Orlando. Depending on how you account for Daytona Beach (it’s technically part of the Orlando MSA and TV market), Orlando is a largest MSA in the United States without professional baseball. After the presumed move of the Manatees, that distinction falls to Tucson.
This is not a done deal: two hearings this afternoon will address the ballpark proposal; final approval by the City Commission wouldn’t happen until sometime this summer.
RELATED STORIES: Alfond Stadium back in Manatees ballpark mix; 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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