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Friday, Aug 01, 2014

Company hopes to swing a deal for Plant City Stadium

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PLANT CITY The city is preparing to negotiate with a California-based company that wants to take over operation of the Plant City Stadium complex.

City Manager Greg Horwedel hopes to wrap up talks with Big League Dreams Inc. by about mid-September. The city would like to decide soon on the future of the 75-acre complex, which is anchored by the 6,700-seat stadium, Horwedel said.

The city has twice offered the stadium complex for sale or lease and each time Big League Dreams was the only bidder.

VisionPro Sports Institute, which is leasing the stadium for soccer through at least August, decided not to put in a bid, company Director of Soccer Clay Roberts said.

Big League Dreams builds and operates replicas of famous ballparks, such as versions of Boston's Fenway Park and New York's old Yankee Stadium.

Big League Dreams Chief Development Officer Richard Odekirk said his company is anxious to start negotiations with the city. He said he envisions developing at least two replica stadiums at the complex, which includes the Randy L. Larson Softball Four-Plex.

The company would like to sign a long-term agreement to take over operation of the stadium complex. The city would remain the owner of the property.

Odekirk's company operates 11 sports complexes in four states.

The stadium has received only sporadic use since the Cincinnati Reds moved spring training following the 1997 season. The city built the stadium to accommodate the Reds in the mid-1980s.

The city gets some rental income from the stadium complex, but it doesn't come close to covering the cost of maintenance, Horwedel said. The city's loses about $387,000 a year on operating the stadium complex.

Big League Dreams makes its profits by charging rental fees to teams or tournaments that play on its replica fields.

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