Winter Park strikes out with Alfond Stadium minor league deal

Winter Park’s biggest baseball stadium won’t become home to a minor league team.

Winter Park’s biggest baseball stadium won’t become home to a minor league team.

Tim Freed

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The search for a minor league baseball stadium site continues as Winter Park announced that Harper-Shepherd Field has been ruled out for consideration, according to an official statement from the city released on Friday.

A proposal to build a new, 2,500-seat stadium at Harper-Shepherd Field at Rollins College surfaced last month, with the stadium set to be built by spring 2016.

The $33 million project would have included a 48-car parking garage and given a new home to the Brevard Manatees, the Single-A affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers.

“The city is continuing to explore other alternatives,” the statement read.

The announcement came the same day as a Rollins College board of trustees executive committee meeting over the fate of the baseball stadium. Under the proposed deal the college would have obtained ownership of the field and used it for college baseball games.

Rollins College has stated that it will continue to be involved in finding a location elsewhere. The school had agreed to pay more than $16 million of the building costs in the previous deal that struck out.

Winter Park crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Park off its list of stadium sites as well during last week’s City Commission meeting. Residents had gathered more than 2,000 signatures in hopes of knocking the proposed stadium out of the park – for good.

“There are over 2,000 very happy people being represented by this ordinance,” said Winter Park resident Donna Colado before the City Commission voted to rule out the park. “These are the citizens who want to keep the ‘park’ in Winter Park.”

The Orlando area has brought Major League Baseball affiliate teams to the area for more than a century, but despite the area’s growth has seen baseball decline as of late. From 1919-2003 the city had some manner of minor league team for all but 13 years of that span. But with the shuttering of the Class AA Orlando Rays in 2003, the city hasn’t seen a minor league team since.

The Florida Collegiate Summer League has filled in with a six-team prospect league in the mean time, with college-level players showcasing their skills, but with teams unattached to major-league clubs. Winter Park’s Diamond Dawgs, playing out of Harper-Shepherd Field, have proven one of the league’s most consistent contenders. That league has sent more than 270 players to major league clubs and their affiliates in the past 11 years.

With the recent news cutting out potential locations for stadiums, Winter Park’s options have shrunk to two remaining locations for minor league baseball: the Ravaudage development off U.S. Highway 17-92 and the Winter Park Tech location off of Denning Drive.

Both sites would require an additional land cost along with building the stadium.

"If Ravaudage is a possibility, great," Manatees owner Tom Winters told the Orlando Sentinel. "And I hope the city of Winter Park wants us. We don't want to go where no one wants us."