Florida Fire Frogs (High A; Florida State League) co-owner David Freeman wants to return the franchise to Brevard County, but an idea to use Cocoa’s Coastal Florida Sports Park has hurdles to clear.
Following the 2016 season, the Brevard County Manatees relocated 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. Under its original deal with Osecola County, Fire Frogs owners agreed to a three-year lease that included 23 one-year options that could be exercised by the team annually. However, the team accepted a half-million buyout from the county this year, facilitating a new use for Osceola County Stadium as the home of professional soccer’s Orlando City B (USL League One) beginning in 2020.
That has left the Fire Frogs in limbo. The club has not finalized its home venue for the 2020 season, and is floating a plan to return to Brevard County as early as 2021. With the U.S. Specialty Sports Association now operating Space Coast Stadium, which does not have enough available event dates to accommodate a 70-game Florida State League home schedule, Freeman is pursuing the potential use of Coastal Florida Sports Park (shown above). Once known as Cocoa Expo Stadium and a former spring-training home for the Houston Colt .45s/Astros and Florida Marlins, Coastal Florida Sports Park has had a resurgence in recent years as a tournament venue. Freeman and operators of the facility have confirmed mutual interest in the idea of the Fire Frogs using Coastal Florida Sports Park, but the earliest that the arrangement would kick in is 2021. It also too early to tell whether that will come to fruition, and there are also plenty of complications to sort out, including the financing and completion of any ballpark upgrades. More from Florida Today:
J.C. Unnerstall, a principal in the company that operates the Coastal Florida Sports Park, said he has spoken in the past with representatives of the team, but added that “it’s kind of premature” to speculate on what might happen.
Unnerstall said “it would be good to get professional baseball back in Brevard County.”
Freeman said Florida State League officials have visited the 4,000-seat stadium, and are open to the team moving there, as long as upgrades are made.
“It’s a beautiful park,” Freeman said, although areas that need work to bring it up to professional baseball standards include the playing surface, lighting, clubhouse facilities, concessions equipment and group seating areas.
Renovations to the ballpark and surrounding complex have given Coastal Florida Sports Park a new life as a destination for tournaments in multiple sports, making it a big player in the region’s sports-tourism scene. Any plan to have it serve as a full-time home to an affiliated Minor League Baseball team, however, will surely require discussions about how to best upgrade the facility, with improved player facilities and some new fan amenities likely on the table in those talks. Meanwhile, with the proposal by MLB to eliminate 42 MiLB teams—a list that includes the Fire Frogs–there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the status of leagues and facility standards beyond 2020.
Image courtesy Coastal Florida Sports Park.
RELATED STORIES: Osecola County Stadium to Host Pro Soccer Beginning in 2020; Fire Frogs to Depart Osceola County Stadium at End of Season; Osecola County Votes to End Fire Frogs’ Lease, Facilitating Potential 2020 Move