A group led by nine-time All-Star Gary Sheffield is making a pitch for Plant City Stadium, proposing that the former spring-training facility anchor a surrounding sports village.
Plant City Stadium originally opened as the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds in 1988, but has more recently been used as a softball complex. Gary Sheffield Sports Village, LLC was the only entity that responded to a recent request for proposal (RFP) issued by Plant City, FL as it sought proposals for city-owned property that includes Plant City Stadium and four backfields currently known as the Randy L. Larson Softball Four-Plex, plus two adjacent Urban Forest parcels of land.
Under the preliminary proposal that calls for development over three phases, Plant City Stadium and the backfields would receive upgrades to host amateur baseball events, with additional fields developed on a nearby site to give the complex a total of nine fields. Mixed-use development would surround the revamped complex, highlighted by a hotel, player dorms, amenities such as dining and entertainment options, and more.
Sheffield was part of a previous effort that came up short after a split in the partnership, but a revamped concept could move forward. City commissioners voted this week to allow the city manager to proceed with negotiations, and construction could begin in November 2020 if those discussions lead to an agreement. More from the Plant City Observer:
“Negotiations took a long time the first time, but now I think we have a lot of work done,” City Manager Bill McDaniel said. “The speed at which we go forward depends on if their team wants to work off the existing plan or start over.”
This is not Sheffield’s first time at the plate as he was a part of GCJ Sports, LLC, which originally had an agreement with the city to develop the property. The original plan was to have at least $50 million worth of development in five years and the group told the city the plan was to exceed that and aim for $100 million to $120 million in the first phase. However, after a split between the partners the agreement eventually dissolved.
Now Sheffield is back with his own concept and is ready to bring Sports Village to fruition.
Nothing is set in stone until negotiations are complete, however, the hope is the project will develop a world-class amateur baseball complex that would have the amenities in place to host massive baseball tournaments filled with players from across the country.
Plant City Stadium was the spring training home of the Reds from 1988-1997. They then moved to Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium from 1998-2009, before shifting spring training operations to Arizona’s Goodyear Ballpark.
Image courtesy City of Plant City.