Lauderdale won't support new stadium; Orioles could move training site
By Sarah Talalay
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
December 20, 2006
Fort Lauderdale – Reversing an earlier decision, city commissioners refused Tuesday to support funding to upgrade Fort Lauderdale Stadium, which could end the city's more than 40-year tradition of spring training.
The Baltimore Orioles had counted on Fort Lauderdale's support for a $48 million plan to overhaul the stadium and create a recreational park complex. The commission's decision likely means the city will not be eligible for $15 million in state dollars to help build the project.
Without a refurbished stadium, the Orioles could be looking for a new spring home by 2008.
City commissioners, who in September pledged $240,000 a year for 30 years for the project, voted 3-2 against spending just $150,000 a year to help pay off the bonds. Mayor Jim Naugle and Vice Mayor Cindi Hutchinson voted to provide the money.
Naugle twice urged his colleagues to allow the Orioles to state their position, but commissioners refused.
Commissioners Carlton Moore, Christine Teel and Charlotte Rodstrom said the city originally was to contribute only the land, and they complained the team continued to ask for more. Rodstrom also objected to using general fund revenue for the project.
"The majority of the public will probably never go to a spring practice or spring baseball game," Rodstrom said.
Stunned by the commission's decision, Bernie Friedman, an attorney representing the Orioles, said he hoped the commission would reconsider.
"We stand ready and willing and able and urge the mayor and commissioners to have a special meeting," Friedman said.
The team has a lease to play at the stadium through next spring, but wants to overhaul the 45-year-old building. The Orioles hope to take advantage of the state Legislature's decision to set aside up to $15 million for each of five communities to upgrade their aging spring venues.
Communities are eligible only if they sign contracts with their Major League Baseball teams that include a funding match and a long-term lease. Broward County commissioners have pledged $800,000 a year in hotel bed taxes for 30 years.
The city and the Orioles must agree by Dec. 28, because the Florida Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development is scheduled Jan. 2 to decide which communities will receive the state dollars.
Naugle said one of the commissioners who voted no would have to call a meeting to reconsider. Rodstrom said she would think about it and scheduled a meeting with an Orioles official.
Naugle said the team could continue spring training at the stadium, but would likely be lured by another community in Florida or Arizona. If that occurs, the city would be stuck with the $500,000 annual maintenance of the building or the cost for its demolition, he said.
The Orioles have held spring training at the stadium since 1996. Before that the New York Yankees held spring there for 33 years before moving to a new complex in Tampa.
Under the Orioles' plan, the stadium would be stripped to its basic structure and vastly upgraded with 7,000 fixed seats and grass berms with room for 2,000 fans.
The plan also calls for tearing down Lockhart Stadium and adding three full-size practice fields, four multi-purpose fields, and parking.
Exit39 saidwhat i don't like about this is that makes 2010 the date for the stadium not 09', there will be no rush to get it done know.
And the other points as well - but i couldnt quote them all
Guess we will wait for someone with "authority" to respond…Ie Brogan, Angelos, or the "Heel Draggers"…
Wonder if FAU had anything to do with the "Decision"?