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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart


Broward pledges $800,000 a year to overhaul spring training stadium for Orioles

By Sarah Talalay
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

September 27, 2006, 5:25 AM EDT

FORT LAUDERDALE ? After a lengthy debate that stretched into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Broward County commissioners agreed to pledge at least $800,000 a year for 30 years toward the Baltimore Orioles' $38 million plan to overhaul Fort Lauderdale Stadium and create a community park.

The Orioles, who have held spring training at the 45-year-old stadium for 11 years, had hoped to gain a commitment of $1 million a year, but were not disappointed with the county's offer, which is contingent on securing funding from the state. The team will also need to hammer out a final agreement on the funding plan with the county and Fort Lauderdale, which owns the stadium, by the end of the year.

County commissioners, who voted 8-1 with Commissioner Jim Scott dissenting, almost didn't support the project. They objected to being asked to act so quickly to meet the state's Monday deadline to apply for the state dollars. They questioned whether Fort Lauderdale, which agreed to contribute $350,000 a year in the form of a facilities use fee the Orioles will pay annually, and another $240,000 in maintenance and equipment, was providing enough.

They questioned whether committing hotel bed tax dollars to the stadium would take funds from other county priorities in line for those dollars, including beach re-nourishment, a convention center hotel and a convention center expansion.

They also hesitated after just completing a five-hour hearing in which they slashed $20 million from next year's budget, even though the dollars for the stadium project come from the additional hotel bed tax collected above what's needed to pay the debt on BankAtlantic Center and their uses are limited to tourism-related ventures and sports venues.

"We were in the batter's box a long time tonight, but we squeezed out a big run," Alan Koslow, an attorney representing the Orioles, said after 2 1/2 hours of debate that ended with the vote about 1:40 a.m.

The Orioles envision vastly improving Fort Lauderdale Stadium, which would have 7,000 fixed seats and room for 2,000 fans on berms. Adjacent Lockhart Stadium, which is now home to high school football games and international soccer matches, would eventually be leveled to make room for baseball diamonds so the team could move its minor league operations from Sarasota. The community would be allowed to use the park when the Orioles were not using it for spring training and instructional league.

Broward School Board officials and the Broward County Athletic Association and others oppose tearing down Lockhart, which serves as the home football field for Dillard, Stranahan and Fort Lauderdale high schools.

But only Commissioner Lois Wexler questioned razing Lockhart, and she said she was satisfied when Orioles Executive Vice President John Angelos said the team would not charge the Broward School Board to use the baseball stadium for football and soccer games.

The county's pledge did exact a price from the Orioles, which agreed to sign a 30-year lease at the venue and cover their portion of the debt service and secure a replacement team for the venue should the team leave sooner.

The team also agreed that if the county only contributes $800,000 year, the team would raise its contribution to a projected $750,000 a year for 30 years and cover cost overruns. The team has also promised a comprehensive advertising and promotional package valued at $2 million a year that will promote the region on its sports regional network that reaches more than 6 million homes from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

Commissioners only agreed to the deal after learning that Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman would reduce her advertising and marketing budget in the Orioles' home territory by $800,000 if the hotel tax dollars were needed for other projects, such as beach re-nourishment and the convention center plans.

The Tourist Development Council, which advises the county commission the on the use of hotel bed tax dollars, supported the $1 million request at a meeting Tuesday morning.

"My issue is not with the money," County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said early Wednesday. "Do the priority projects get funding? Are they safe?"

With the county's support, the city will now apply to the state for up to $500,000 a year for 30 years for the project. The Legislature agreed this spring to set aside up to $15 million over 30 years each for up to five communities to upgrade their aging spring training venues.

The deadline to apply for the state funding is Monday and the state is expected to make a decision by January.

Sarah Talalay can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4173.

This is actually good news. Hopefully, this will spur the building of something…ANYTHING….on campus in the next couple of years.
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

Unless I missed it, I didn't see FAU mentioned as a current user of the stadium.

FAU - THE REAL SLEEPING GIANT
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

Yeah, it was odd that they didn't even mention FAU. Must have been an oversight, as we are all very aware that we still play there.
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

What's interesting is the Orioles are targeting 2008 to demolish Lockhart. 2008 being the end of the contract between the city and the Broward County School Board. I think we can all agree that there will be no dome on campus by '08. Boca High here we come.
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart


Baller07 said

What's interesting is the Orioles are targeting 2008 to demolish Lockhart. 2008 being the end of the contract between the city and the Broward County School Board. I think we can all agree that there will be no dome on campus by '08. Boca High here we come.

would Boca high be a move up from Lockhart?

FAU - THE REAL SLEEPING GIANT
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

I bet our attendance would be higher, the students could walk there!
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

its an on campus facility if that helps. Only its not on FAU's campus.

In all seriousness, I wonder what the options will be.
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

Tailgaiting would be a little bit weird at a highschool.
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart

Maybe things have changed but I would think alcohol (beer) would not be allowed on a public school property.

FAU - THE REAL SLEEPING GIANT
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The Beginning of the end for Lockhart


illinoisowl said

Maybe things have changed but I would think alcohol (beer) would not be allowed on a public school property.

I'm pretty sure they wouldn't let us drink.
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