Orioles name partner for Fla. facility

May 15, 1991|By Mark Hyman The Naples Daily News contributed to this article.

The Baltimore Orioles have a new partner -- the third in a year -- for their grand plan for a custom-designed spring-training center in Naples, Fla.

Out is Florida Rock Industries Inc., which had tentatively agreed to donate land for the Orioles' spring home.

Florida Rock, the Orioles and the Collier County commissioner called off their planned partnership after their talks bogged down over issues such as how many municipal soccer fields should be included in the project, and who should pay for a $3 million access road.

In, at least for the now, is J. D. Nicewonder, a Naples landholder. Nicewonder and the Orioles have signed an agreement outlining their plan. Now, it must be approved by the county commissioner.

The Orioles still hope the training complex can be completed by 1993, but time is growing short. Tom Daffron, Orioles senior vice president, called the '93 timetable "difficult . . . but not out of the question."

The end of Florida Rock's involvement does not help. The Orioles and the company talked for two months after announcing a tentative agreement in March. The talks never led to a formal plan.

"We had an agreement in principle with Florida Rock," Daffron said. "They went as far as they could. We went as far as we could go. In the end, it just didn't work out."

Florida Rock's chief executive, John Baker, said he is "delighted that the county has something."

"We told everybody right up front what we would be willing to do," he said. "I wish it had worked out but it is not a big loss to us."

The agreement with Nicewonder calls for the Orioles complex to be located in 165 acres a half-mile west of the land offered by Florida Rock. The county will get 60 acres for a regional park and 105 acres for a 6,500- to 7,000-seat stadium and practice fields.

Before Nicewonder and Florida Rock, the Orioles briefly were allied with USF&G, the Baltimore-based insurance company, in their Naples real-estate hunt.

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