Homestead Weighs Options To Gain Revenue From Mostly Idle Stadium
By Mindy Hagen
While awaiting word on its bid to become the training camp for the US Soccer Federation, the City of Homestead is entertaining other proposals for its baseball stadium that include turning it into an amateur sports complex or a residential ministry.
With an economic impact estimated at $25 million, municipal officials said the soccer training program would bring welcome relief to the financially strapped city and give the Homestead Sports Complex a permanent tenant.
Built in 1991, the $22 million debt-free complex has remained vacant since the Cleveland Indians decided not to use it for spring training after it was damaged by Hurricane Andrew. Homestead repaired the stadium and pays about $500,000 a year to maintain the 6,500-seat stadium and surrounding practice fields.
After applying to be the camp’s headquarters on Sept. 30 and giving soccer officials a tour of site in February, Homestead officials said they figured they were out of the running after not hearing from the Chicago-based soccer federation for the past few months.
But Jim Moorehouse, director of communications for the US Soccer Federation, said the search for the headquarters is "an ongoing process.
"There has been a lot of analyzing of all the bids in the past months," Mr. Moorhouse said. "There is so much that goes into the decision-making process. We are finally starting to get some answers."
Mr. Moorhouse said he is hopeful a decision can be reached by next month. He said federation officials are giving a close look at bids from South Florida, including one from Broward County, and Los Angeles.
Homestead City Manager Curt Ivy said he thought the soccer federation was "close to going with another site" after communication with area officials broke down.
"There hasn’t been any information flowing back and forth, that’s for sure," Mr. Ivy said. "We haven’t heard a word from them. We felt we were out of the running."
He said recent developments could muddy up the picture. Because city officials said they thought soccer was no longer a realistic option, they started hearing other proposals from organizations interested in utilizing the 140-acre complex.
Representatives for the All American Management Team, led by Washington Wizards and former University of Miami basketball coach Leonard Hamilton, want to turn the complex into a tournament venue for amateur events, similar to Walt Disney’s Wide World of Sports near Orlando. The group says it will lease the complex for 40 years and turn it into a $30 million sports facility that could bring up to $150 million a year to Homestead.
Another proposal for the complex came from Operation Yes, a faith-based group wanting to turn the area into a resident camp ministry, and the Homestead Speedway, interested in the land for parking and a drag strip.
Operation Yes is offering the city a lease of $500,000 a year for three years, which it would pledge toward buying the property for $15 million. The speedway, meanwhile, has pledged $1.7 million for a parking area. The speedway, however, only needs 87 of the complex’s 140 acres for its proposal.
Mr. Ivy said the city has "more competing interest than we’ve had in some time" for the complex. He said city officials would continue to listen to proposals for the baseball stadium at a July 24 meeting despite the site still being a candidate for soccer headquarters.
Mr. Ivy said members of the city council would have to decide whether to wait to hear from soccer about the bid or move along.
"I don’t want to kill the soccer deal, but we have to go forward," he said. "We have to review the choices and make the best business decision for the city. We have to move on and see what happens.
"I doubt we will stop and wait around. But if the council decides we want to wait for soccer, then we will," Mr. Ivy said. "We are dedicating ourselves to hearing all possibilities."
Mr. Moorhouse said the soccer federation wouldn’t select a site until there is approval on both ends. The federation will ensure a deal is final before announcing it, he said.
"A site wouldn’t still be considered at this level if they weren’t going to go through with it," Mr. Moorhouse said. "It would be a nice economic impact for any community to have not only the physical presence of teams, but also the intangibles of media coverage and attention on the city."
The training site, he said, would house 240 players and coaches from the US men’s and women’s national and youth teams. The federation now uses facilities in San Diego and Central Florida.