Brevard County Commission Votes To Enter Into Agreement With USSSA
By Space Coast Daily // May 26, 2015
usssa: 'We will guarantee our performance'
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – With a vote of 4-1, the Brevard County Commission agreed to enter into negotiations with the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) to take over operations of Space Coast Stadium and the adjoining baseball complex after the Washington Nationals move their spring training operations to West Palm Beach.
“We produce thousands of events annually and we would like to enter into a long term agreement to be in Brevard,” said Bill James, a spokesman for the USSSA.
“We will guarantee our performance and we want to expand our brand.”
Commissioner Trudie Infantini was the only vote against the plan and continually questioned the projected $100 million annual economic impact that had been included in the agenda item for discussion.
“The Johnson Study stated that in 2012 the USSSA economic impact was $37 million,” Infantini said.
“How do you plan to triple your business in the first year here in Brevard.”
Don Dedonatis, USSSA founder and president, said his organization’s plan is to produce a lot more activities with the complex in Brevard.
“This is our 48th year of operations, with our first 29 years being just slow pitch softball,” said Dedonatis.
“Now we have 4 million members, of which 56-57 percent are youth athletes. We feel that this is the right place for us to be.”
Tom Westerburg, a retired Brevard County principal, spoke about the benefits that the Brevard County Manatees professional baseball club, a current sub-tenant at the stadium, bring to the community.
“This sounds like an eviction notice for the Manatees and they have been with us for 20 years,” said Westerburg.
“The Manatees have 71 home games each season and have a direct involvement in Brevard through their youth camps and through their help in the schools.”
Commissioner Curt Smith echoed the benefits of the Manatees staying in Brevard.
“They bring a certain cultural aspect to the area,” said Smith.
Dedonatis said that even though they have not been contacted by the Manatees, it is possible that they may be able to work together.
“That door is still open and we want to do what is best for the area,” said Dedonatis.
Commissioner Andy Anderson questioned how local businesses and promoters might be able to use the stadium and complex under the agreement for concerts like Charlie Daniels and high school uses.
“While I am not trying to negotiate from the dais, how does 75 days sound instead of 60 (community use days),” said Anderson.
“That will be fine,” said James.
Several Brevard hoteliers spoke in support of the USSSA coming to Brevard.
“We hope that you will support this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) as this represents a great return on our investment in the stadium,” said Tom Hermansen, one of the area’s most prominent hotel owners with five properties in the Cocoa Beach area.
Tourism leader Laurilee Thompson also spoke in support of the plan.
“This will free up a a lot of the tourist tax money, which can now be used to promote the county even more and bring more tourists here,” said Thompson.
“The whole tourism community is behind this, and this will make Brevard a major league attraction for little league players,” said longtime hotelier Bob Baugher.
Rusty Buchanan, the preeminent business of sports organizer in Brevard for decades, echoed the support of USSSA.
“Congratulations to the staff and to the commission for making sure that we had the whole complex to negotiate with, as that was the key to this plan,” said Buchanan, referring to the recent negotiation that Commission Chairman Robin Fisher undertook between the county and the Viera company, securing the use of the adjoining baseball complex .
“USSSA has the most bat and ball players of any sports organization, and they will attract lots of people here. The community days will be great for local event organizers and producers.”
James also mentioned that the USSSA’s own professional fast pitch softball team, the Florida Pride, will also call the stadium home.
“We will have 35 games a year in this stadium, some of which will be on CBS and ESPN,” said James.