Rejected By Marlins Hialeah May Get Baseball Training Facility
Written by Eric Kalis on March 8, 2007
By Eric Kalis
If a deal is reached to build a baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins in downtown Miami, Hialeah, once considered a potential stadium location, could get a new Major League Baseball training complex.
In a memo last month updating the progress of negotiations for a stadium on 9 acres of land next to the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami, Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess said Major League Baseball will work with Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina to create a youth baseball academy in the city. Mr. Robaina has advocated building a stadium on 60 acres of land between Northwest 154th and 170th streets.
A baseball academy would be built to recognize "the important contributions [Mr. Robaina] made to this project," Mr. Burgess said. "While [Mr. Robaina] might prefer the ballpark to be in Hialeah, he recognizes the complexities of the Hialeah location and the benefits of the Government Center site."
When Marlins officials were courting cities last year, Mr. Robaina encouraged Major League Baseball to consider Hialeah and get more involved in discussions. Despite fiercely pushing for the Hialeah site, Mr. Robaina said Monday that his top priority is to keep the Marlins in Miami-Dade.
"One of the things I emphasized was to have Major League Baseball at the table and make sure it is part of the negotiations," Mr. Robaina said. "It turned out to be what I thought. Major League Baseball has been the driving force" behind recent discussions.
Once baseball officials became more active in the negotiations, the downtown site emerged as their top choice for a stadium, Mr. Robaina said. County officials say a $30 million funding gap must be closed for a retractable-roof stadium.
Major League Baseball’s "emphasis is on a downtown venue," the mayor said. "I tried to convince [baseball officials] that Miami is not like San Francisco, St. Louis or Washington, DC. There are different traffic patterns, and people do not necessarily go looking for entertainment value downtown."
With negotiations progressing for a downtown stadium, Mr. Robaina asked baseball officials to consider Hialeah as a home for a baseball academy. Officials of Major League Baseball, which opened its $10 million Urban Youth Academy last year in Compton, CA, have been looking to launch another one, Mr. Robaina said. A complex in Hialeah would sit on 12 to 15 acres at the site promoted for a Marlins stadium, he said.
The Compton facility sponsors youth baseball programs and contains fields for semiprofessional leagues and international tournaments and a training academy for umpires.
The complex would "not be just a place to have camps," Mr. Robaina said. "There would be classrooms for training umpires and people who want to stay in baseball as a career. We would create an adjacent community complex both for kids and young adults. It would encompass a lot of levels."