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Plant City Stadium’s days may be numbered

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Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2013 at 10:52 AM

PLANT CITY — The former training home of the Cincinnati Reds faces an uncertain future after the city broke off negotiations with a sports management company.

The city is pondering the possibility of tearing down the 6,700-seat Plant City Stadium and selling the land for industrial use or creating recreation fields.

Big League Dreams Inc. was the only firm to respond to the city’s requests to sell or lease the Plant City Stadium complex. Negotiations broke down over who would pay for $5 million in improvements that Big League Dreams had proposed.

City Manager Greg Horwedel said the California-based company originally said it would pay for most of the work but in negotiations wanted the city to pay.

“We’re not in the position to finance $5 million,” he said.

Horwedel said Big League Dreams is a “great company” but further negotiations would be pointless because the two sides are so far apart.

Horwedel said he doubts the city will seek new bids on the 75-acre stadium complex, which includes the Randy L. Larson Softball Four-Plex. The city will hold off making any decisions until the International Softball Federation, which has offices at the stadium complex, decides whether it will make greater use of the stadium. The federation has been based at the stadium for nearly 15 years.

Softball federation President Don Porter said his organization may need more frequent use of the stadium if an Olympic committee decides next month to establish softball as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Olympics. Returning softball to its status as an Olympic sport probably would increase the federation’s need for the stadium as a venue, Porter said.

The city loses nearly $400,000 a year on the stadium and the surrounding sports complex, which never recovered financially after the Reds left in 1997.

The stadium was built for about $6 million at 1900 S. Park Road to accommodate the Reds, who moved to Plant City in the late 1980s from their longtime spring training home, Al Lopez Field in Tampa.

 
dnicholson@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @dnicholsonTrib

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