Seeking to put the team out after the 2019 season, Osceola County officials voted to offer the Florida Fire Frogs (High A; Florida State League) $500,000 to terminate their Osceola County Stadium lease.
Following the 2016 season, the former Brevard County Manatees moved from Space Coast Stadium in Viera to Oscecola County Stadium–the former spring-training home of the Houston Astros, and a former Minor League Baseball ballpark for the Kissimmee Astros/Cobras (High A; Florida State League)–and rebranded as the Fire Frogs. Originally, Osceola County and the Fire Frogs agreed to a three-year lease that included 23 one-year options that could be exercised by the team annually.
County officials are looking to end that relationship, however, as commissioners voted last Monday to terminate the existing agreement and pay the club’s ownership $500,000. The team would have to relocate after playing the 2019 season at Osceola County Stadium, as county officials are seeking to facilitate an undisclosed alternate use of the ballpark. While Fire Frogs ownership has not decided whether it will accept the offer, the measure approved by commissioners allows the county to seek a court order to terminate the lease if the offer is declined by the organization. More from the Osceola News-Gazette:
“While we’re pleased that the Fire Frogs will finish out the 2019 season at Osceola Heritage Park, we have ended our contractual relationship with the team and entered into an agreement that provides a settlement of $500,000, “ County Manager Don Fisher said. “Baseball is a uniquely cherished American sport, and we look forward to a final exciting season in Kissimmee.”
Erik Anderson was the team’s Chief Operations Officer until a month or two before the season. He offered to part ways with the club mostly due to the friction that ensued between it and the county, which he once worked for; Anderson was the baseball facility coordinator before going to work for the team. He essentially went from being the landlord to being the tenant at the end of the 2017 baseball season.
He said, while officially separating from the team around Opening Day last week, he has received authorization to speak for the Tennessee-based ownership group.
“The community wants to know why this is happening,” he said. “There’s no question there were bargains not lived up to. The county now acknowledges they breached the original deal, and that it’s for financial reasons. And they acknowledge there is another deal in the works.
Since the agreement was originally signed, there have been some conflicts between the two sides. The Fire Frogs withheld rent payments in 2017 and 2018, contending that the county had not lived up to its end of the agreement by failing to properly maintaining the field and not fulfilling other obligations. The playing field was upgraded before this season as part of a project that included re-sodding and an upgraded drainage system.