Ft. Lauderdale reverses O's vote

Free of funding role, city OKs construction


December 23, 2006|By Sarah Talalay | Sarah Talalay,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Fort Lauderdale city commissioners reversed a decision they made earlier this week and voted yesterday to continue the tradition of Orioles spring training at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. The unanimous decision came after the Orioles agreed to spare the city any costs to upgrade the venue and add baseball diamonds and soccer fields.

The Orioles, who have held spring practice at the stadium since 1996, plan to cover all the costs of the projected $40 million complex with the help of $39 million from Broward County and the state. The plan calls for Lockhart Stadium eventually to be torn down and fields to be built in its place.

Commissioners voted 4-0 for the last-minute agreement that was still being hashed out yesterday. On Tuesday, commissioners voted 3-2 against contributing $150,000 a year for 30 years.

The Orioles have a lease to play at the stadium through next spring, but want to overhaul the 45-year-old venue.

"We're happy with the decision of the commission," Orioles executive vice president John Angelos said. "We've been pursuing this for a number of years."

Broward County has agreed to put $800,000 in hotel bed taxes annually for 30 years into the deal. If the state grants the $15 million, the Orioles plan to strip the 8,340-seat park to its basic structure and then upgrade it with 7,000 fixed seats and grass berms with room for 2,000 fans. Lockhart Stadium is to be demolished and three full-size practice fields and four multipurpose fields added for public use.

Commissioners reconsidered the plan after Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom agreed to a special meeting and persuaded the team to craft a deal that would not tap city dollars aside from maintaining the fields.

County commissioners voted unanimously last week to commit $24 million over 30 years to the project.

Sarah Talalay writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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