Homestead sports complex gets remake as city deal with La Ley nears
By Zachary Fagenson
La Ley Enterprises has just invested about $1 million in oft-dormant Homestead Sports Complex to ready it for a Mixed Fighting Alliance match in early May and a June-to-August international youth baseball tournament.
Though La Ley and the City of Homestead have yet to sign a deal for use and possible purchase of the 140 acres, the city council in January ordered staff to begin crafting a deal with La Ley and recently issued the Miami entertainment firm a 60-day license to use the complex.
"Hopefully within the next couple weeks we'll move something forward" on the contract, said Marleen Volkert, executive assistant to City Manager George Gretsas.
Meanwhile, La Ley has "pretty much redone all the seating, all the suites, painted the entire outside of the" baseball stadium, said President John H. Ruiz. "We have redone entirely all of the fields that were out in the back as well as the field in the main stadium. We've taken down the scoreboard and are bringing in a jumbo LED screen. We've redone the sound system, the dugouts, the locker rooms, all the interior offices."
La Ley has also replaced broken lighting, built a baseball diamond for children 7 to 13 and retrofitted the complex so it can transmit games in high definition.
Finally, Mr. Ruiz said, "we're in the works of starting to build an [outdoor] Olympic-sized swimming pool and we're also looking into building a water park."
At the outset of negotiations, Mr. Ruiz, an attorney, said he planned to redo much of complex and add up to 20 indoor basketball courts, all to breathe life into the city and pump $60 million to $80 million into its economy.
In return, he would pay the complex's upkeep costs, now $300,000 a year, and have the option to buy the whole ballgame for $16 million.
The complex's official opening under La Ley is to be June 17, when baseball teams for youths 8 to 18 from across the US as well as Japan, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and even Cuba will jet to Miami to compete until Aug. 12.
The crack of bats at the complex may elicit a collective sigh of relief from the surrounding area.
The city built the baseball stadium, centerpiece of the complex, in 1991 as spring training home for the Cleveland Indians. About $12 million of the $22 million construction cost was wrested from the City of Miami Beach when courts ruled it had to give Homestead tourist tax collections after Miami Beach reneged on a deal to give a surplus from the county's 3% resort tax pool to Homestead.
The complex sustained about $6.2 million in damage in 1992 from Hurricane Andrew. After it was rebuilt, the Indians decided not to move in. Since then, the stadium has served a variety of uses, including as a backdrop for reality television and a set in the Oliver Stone movie "Any Given Sunday."
Homestead has since tried to pitch the rebuilt stadium to professional soccer and to professional baseball teams for spring training to no avail.
Mr. Ruiz has said his plan for the center will annually attract 150,000 to 200,000 persons to the southern part of the county.
Read the entire issue of Miami Today online. Subscribe to e-Miami Today.