Concerns Arise With USSSA Space Coast Stadium Proposal

By  //  February 18, 2015

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requirements of deal could be costly

BREVARD COUNTY broke ground on Space Coast Stadium on April 29, 1993, and opened on March 2, 1994 in time for the Florida Marlin’s spring training. Construction cost was $6.2 million, or $9.87 million in 2015 dollars. About $5 million worth of improvements have been made to the stadium from 2005 to 2010. The 33.4 acre stadium site was evaluated by the county at $26.5 million. (Image for

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – While the Brevard County commission’s vote to begin negotiations with a sports organization to operate out of Space Coast Stadium seems like a home run, a look at USSSA’s relationships and claims with other Central Florida counties may actually show that the proposed deal could be nothing more than a lazy fly ball to left.

District 1 Commissioner Robin Fisher is the point man for the negotiations with USSSA and pitched the proposal to the county commission. Fisher did not respond to email and phone inquiries from Space Coast Daily related to this story.

The initial proposal by USSSA for Brevard County says that potential benefits include guaranteed hotel room nights of up to 100,000 by Year 3 of an agreement. USSSA would also take over operations/maintenance of stadium facilities. And, they also will “commit 25 percent of facility time (70-90 days) throughout the year to community programs.”

However, the requirements of Brevard County in the deal could be costly.

The county, and most likely its tourism entities, would be required to convert Space Coast Stadium and six other local fields to synthetic turf, build a 600 seat mini stadium at Space Coast Stadium for televised tournaments, and add a concession area to the Spring Training Complex.

There is a history of past negotiations between USSSA and Brevard County, according to sources who were involved.

Back in 2003, a deal for a USSSA move to Brevard fell apart after a then county commissioner questioned the merchandise and hotel revenue sharing aspects of the proposal. Shortly after, before the issue could be resolved, USSSA signed an agreement with Osceola County.

Add to the mix current negotiations with the Brevard County Manatees, who have played at Space Coast Stadium for the last 20 years. A requirement for Brevard County to be able to collect one-half penny of the local option tourist tax is that there is a professional sports franchise operating out of Brevard County.

Kyle Smith, General Manager, Brevard County Manatees Professional Baseball Club, said, “The Manatees want to stay in Central Florida and intend to stay in Central Florida. We’ve obviously received several inquiries over the past couple of years from nearby communities that value the economic impact delivered by Minor League Baseball. We will continue to listen and evaluate.

“But we’ve also proactively reached out to the leadership in Brevard County. We believe there are a couple of viable options within Brevard County but our timeline is short and the window is closing. The exit of (Washington) Nationals heightens our sense of urgency and expedites our timeline.”

The Nationals are expected to leave Brevard at the end of their current lease in 2017.

Space Coast Daily has learned that both Osceola and Volusia counties have recently rejected deals with USSSA because of concerns.

In 2012, USSSA sought an agreement with Osceola County officials, where they have been headquartered since 2004, to build a sports complex on county land. The initial proposal said that Osceola would provide $6.5 million in tourist tax funds to build a new complex. The county would also provide USSSA with a $30 million loan guarantee.

USSSA claimed that the new field would generate “an additional 100,000 hotel room-nights a year for the county.” A source, who was close to the negotiations, said, “I suspect the current terms, which are somewhat performance based if they weren’t renegotiated, are difficult to verify which may be the cause of their claims being suspect.”

According to minutes from the October 2012 meeting, Osceola TDC officials were concerned that USSSA did not have experience operating facilities, there could be no guarantee of hotel room-nights, and the near-exclusivity of use of the facility might hamper efforts to attract other organizations.

According to minutes from the October 2012 meeting, Osceola TDC officials were concerned that USSSA did not have experience operating facilities, there could be no guarantee of hotel room-nights, and the near-exclusivity of use of the facility might hamper efforts to attract other organizations.

According to a story in the Orlando Sentinel, “The county’s Tourist Development Council voted unanimously against the deal. Members said they favored the sports complex but were unconvinced it would have a large enough economic effect to justify the expenditure.”

In fact, during the January 2015 meeting of the Osceola TDC, County Commissioner Sara Shaw requested specific information from USSSA about previous hotel-room night guarantees.

A source, who was at the meeting, said, “The numbers just don’t seem to add up.”

Bill James of Extreme Synergy, the firm hired by USSSA to negotiate with communities who have an interest in USSSA, said that the sports organization has a methodology for counting hotel room-nights.

“USSSA does extensive surveying of teams/participants and works closely with hoteliers.”

Mark Pino, Public Relations Officer for Osceola County told Space Coast Daily, “Osceola County has enjoyed a decade-long relationship with the United States Speciality Sports Association. As part of the ongoing assessment of Osceola Heritage Park and our current master planning, we have had discussions about their future needs.”

Just three months ago, a Volusia County councilman proposed a $20 million deal for USSSA to move from Kissimmee to Daytona Beach. Josh Wagner said that his negotiations with USSSA are “ongoing.” However, the proposal asked that tourism entities contribute 75 percent of the required funds.

James confirmed that USSSA is “in discussions” with Volusia.

Volusia County Councilman Pat Patterson told Space Coast Daily that he believed at the time that USSSA CEO Don Dedonatis was “just fishing.”

Under the agreement, USSSA would be able to use county facilities rent-free and USSSA claimed they would generate 50,000 to 97,000 room nights in its first year of operation in Volusia, news reports said. Patterson felt the proposal favored USSSA.

“I think he (Dedonatis and USSSA) would even get a percentage of the hotel room revenue,” Patterson added. “They were only bringing in 10-12 jobs.”

Also at issue is membership numbers. On their website, USSSA cites over 3.9 million members. However, sources in the sports industry have questioned how USSSA counts their members.

A source who requested anonymity said, “USSSA does not market their total membership number. Instead, they market the total number of times members participated in events.”

When asked to provide the methodology USSSA uses to track total membership, James said, “Numbers are compiled from team and/or individual registrations.”