Winter Park’s quest to land a minor-league baseball team may finally be reaching the seventh-inning stretch.
Rollins College, the Brevard Manatees Single-A baseball team, and the city of Winter Park are nearing an agreement to bring the Manatees to Rollins’ Alfond Stadium, which would be rebuilt with 2,500 seats by spring 2016 under the proposed deal.
The $33 million project would include a potential 480-car parking garage nearby and give ownership of the new stadium to Rollins College, which would pay for nearly half the cost, just over $16 million in land and funding.
Winter Park City Commissioners have looked at several locations for a baseball stadium since January — including the Ravaudage development and Martin Luther King Jr. Park — but Rollins’ Alfond Stadium moved to the forefront based on its feasibility and potential funding opportunities, Mayor Ken Bradley said.
“The best place is ultimately the place that it can happen,” Bradley said. “The best vacation is the one I can ultimately afford.”
“Is it viable to happen at this place? Yes.”
On Monday the City Commission approved a resolution requesting Orange County to add another five years to the Community Redevelopment Agency, a board dedicated to viability and livability within the CRA area, an area that already includes Alfond Stadium.
The stadium’s location in the CRA area played a significant role in choosing that location, City Manager Randy Knight said. It would allow the city to cover $5 million for the project in partnership with the county through the CRA.
But residents at Monday’s City Commission meeting were hesitant about Winter Park pursuing a deal at Alfond Stadium. An earlier discussion at that meeting about extending Lee Road to help mitigate traffic on U.S. Highway 17-92 brought up the issue of traffic as a whole in the city.
Building a baseball field along Denning Drive would simply add to existing traffic problems along that road, resident Steve Goldman said.
“This one I got to say just really blows my mind,” he said. “Nothing against baseball, but you’re talking about building a major venue right in the middle of Winter Park.”
“Why do we want to put in thousands of people from out of town after we just had this big discussion about why we have such horrible traffic problems? … This is why it gets worse. We keep doing this kind of stuff.”
The City Commission will be presented with a formal deal at a meeting in August if the agreement moves forward as planned, Knight said. Construction would start by January of next year.