Homestead awaits a hit in pitch for baseball stadium tenant
By Sherri C. Ranta
Homestead has struck out on one deal and is awaiting the final pitch on another in its search for a long-term tenant for the city-owned baseball stadium.
New York-based Levinson-Fontana Co. in November told the city council a new TV drama planned to be called "Baseball Wives" would not be made. The producers are continuing to make their $424,000 payments for a one-year lease agreement, said Curt Ivy, city manager.
'This wasn't anything to do with the City of Homestead," he said. "The project just didn't move forward."
Producers filmed a pilot last year at the stadium. They were expected to shoot 13 episodes of the baseball drama in and around the Homestead stadium and in some parts of Coral Gables and near Miami's Brickell Avenue.
Producers didn't give the city a specific reason for the change, said city spokesman Charles LaPradd.
"They just said it was the nature of the business," he said.
Some work had already been done to stadium offices, he said, such as installing an alarm system, painting and rebuilding a scoreboard.
When the contract was signed last summer, Vice Mayor Steve Losner and others had high hopes the show's production team would settle in for an eight-year run and bring exposure and jobs to the area.
City officials were also happy with the producers' lease payment that would cover the annual $350,000 cost of maintaining the largely unused 140-acre, $22 million facility that includes the stadium and practice fields.
The stadium was built in 1991 as a spring training complex for the Cleveland Indians but was seriously damaged in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew. Although the stadium was rebuilt, the Indians decided to go elsewhere. Since then, Homestead has been looking for permanent stadium occupants.
Levinson-Fontana Co. has first rights to the stadium for the remainder of its year-long contract, but Mr. LaPradd said he did not know if the company plan to bring any other projects.
The stadium has hosted other media-related events in the past, such as commercials, an MTV episode and a reality-based television show, he said, but nothing with the magnitude and length of the HBO baseball drama that was planned.
Another player in the stadium lineup could bring amateur and professional baseball to Homestead, but city officials are at an impasse with well-known sports agent and Miami attorney Joe Cubas.
As president of Sunshine Baseball Inc., Mr. Cubas approached the city this summer with a proposal. But last week, Mr. Ivy said the city had been unable to reach an agreement.
City officials made a final offer to Sunshine in November, he said, and have not received a response.
In its original proposal to the city, Sunshine asked the city for a 10-year lease with all maintenance borne by the company, plus $50,000 to the city beginning in the third or fourth years, increasing up to $100,000 by the 10th year. The city would also receive a flat fee of 3% of net revenue beginning in the third year. Sunshine also proposed a purchase option for $8 million.
City officials had requested proposals for the use of the stadium and decided to negotiate first with Mr. Cubas before proceeding with another company called Baseball Heaven. That company and its promoter, Mario Signorello, have offered to bring year-round recreational and collegiate baseball and softball tournaments. Mr. Signorello is also organizer of the Homestead Challenge, a collegiate baseball tournament featuring 70 to 90 teams already being held each March at the stadium.
Mr. Ivy said the city has not yet begun negotiations with Baseball Heaven and that Mr. Signorello had not yet contacted the city regarding the 2003 Homestead Challenge.