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The long, sad history of the empty ballpark in Homestead, Florida

Aug 24, 2012, 1:03 PM EDT

Homestead Ballpark

In the early 90s, the city of Homestead, Florida built a ballpark designed to attract a major league team looking to relocate its spring training facilities. Then, 20 years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew all but blew Homestead off the map.  The ballpark was rebuilt, but no team ever came to fill it and since then it has been a source of misplaced pride, false hope, fights, litigation and everything else you can imagine.

The Miami Herald has a long, in-depth story about the La Ley Sports Complex its history and its battles.  It’s fascinating stuff that puts one in mind of all of the bad sports stadium plans you’ve heard about over the years mixed with a healthy dose of Springfield’s Monorail.

  1. Rich Stowe - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    great…now I have that damn Monorail song stuck in my head! thanks a lot Craig!

    • kopy - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:25 PM

      Thanks, imdb!

      [Homer can’t stop the monorail]
      Marge: Homer, there’s a man here who thinks he can help you.
      Homer: Batman?
      Marge: No, he’s a scientist.
      Homer: Batman’s a scientist.
      Marge: It’s NOT Batman.
      Homer: Marge, I wanna be a monorail conductor.
      Marge: Homer, no.
      Homer: It’s my lifelong dream!
      Marge: Your lifelong dream was to run out onto the field during a baseball game, and you did it last year, remember?
      [Points to a framed newspaper reading “IDIOT RUINS GAME – Springfield forfeits pennant”]

      • ajcardsfan - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        I call the big one Bitey

      • delawarephilliesfan - Aug 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM

        Lanley is a fraud; the man cuts corners like nobody’s business! There were no emergency brakes, the shocks were made of matress coils, and the celebrity for their maiden voyage was Gallagher!

    • tmohr - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”

    • blackandbluedivision - Aug 24, 2012 at 6:06 PM

      Crap! Now I have it.

  2. itsacurse - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    I shouldn’t have stopped for that haircut.

  3. Old Gator - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Haven’t seen the article but I do hope it makes a point about how the Cleveland Indians organization strung Homestead and (then just plain) Dade County along about wanting to occupy the new ballpark after Andrew, then did an about-face and jumped for a better deal in central Florida, leaving the new park empty and county taxpayers holding the bag. When the Feesh beat the Indians in ’97 it was especially gratifying to those of us who live on the south side of Macondo, and the Indians’ record of futility ever since then continues to be a source of schadenfreudian gratification to this day.

    That no one in positions of authority in Macondo seemed to learn any kind of lesson about dealing with the dharmapalas of baseball when they let Scrooge McLoria and the Chihuahua bribe and snooker them again into the building of Macondo Banana Massacre Field says everything you need to know about how corrupt and clueless our public officials are down here.

    • Old Gator - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:35 PM

      PS – they also destroyed several thousand acres of ideal indigo snake and eastern diamondback rattlesnake habitat to build that empty ballpark. For that alone, may the Indians be cast into that pit of snakes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and rot there.

      • b7p19 - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:51 PM

        Are you saying the Indians stole someones land?

      • blackandbluedivision - Aug 24, 2012 at 6:08 PM

        lol @ b7p19. You can’t steal what was already yours…unless you’re OJ.

    • icu84bs - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:24 PM

      +1 for using schadenfreudian in a sentence. There is a Canadian cartoonist with a website based on this word. Odd stuff…

    • natslady - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:59 PM

      There is a book on spring training stadia messes through the years (including this one).

  4. istillbelieveinblue - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    Indianapolis made a similar gamble by building the Hoosier Dome in the early 80’s. When Bob Irsay couldn’t get a new stadium in Baltimore, then Indy Mayor Bill Hudnut called to say Indy had a shiny new stadium already built they could move into. That was a critical moment for the revitalization of downtown Indianapolis.

    • kopy - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:07 PM

      The Sprint Center in Kansas City hosts a nice concert once in a while…

      • hittfamily - Aug 24, 2012 at 3:08 PM

        The Thunderdome, AKA the Trop, sat empty for over a decade. Some might say it sits empty to this day (wildcard vs wildcard drew 11,000 last night).

      • indaburg - Aug 24, 2012 at 4:28 PM

        I hear you, hitt. It’s so depressing to watch the games and see rows upon rows of empty blue seats. I know that sooner or later, we’re going to lose the Rays, and that this area isn’t worthy of such a great product. I’m originally from the northeast, where baseball is a religion. It confounds me that more people aren’t excited about them. If they were anywhere north of the Mason-Dixie line, they would be playing to packed houses. I feel bad for the players too. It must be hard to get excited when it seems like no one cares.

        Of course, I could be accused of being a hypocrite, as I sit comfortably at home watching the game on a 60 inch plasma when the Trop is a mere 20 minute drive from my house. In my defense, I have a 6 month old and a 3 year old–I was a season ticket holder, but had to give them up, thanks to the kiddos.

      • hittfamily - Aug 24, 2012 at 6:43 PM

        The kiddos are the biggest reason I drive from Jax to St Pete to see a game. It’s a little too early now, but in a few years, you will be taking them to games, big screen be damned.

        I don’t think location has anything to do with the Rays woes here in Florida. I think Florida is the problem. There is just soo much to do. Also, THE HEAT! I know it is indoors and air conditioned, but it is hot outside. I think that makes us lazy and complacent when it comes to our recreational activities. When you come home from work, or have on off day, who wants to even venture out for the walk to the car in 98 temps with 100% humidity. The TV and delivery sounds pretty good.

        Disney almost gives away tickets for Florida residents, and they still can’t get them to show up (weekday pass is $200 +$10 per month). $ 90 for a 1 day ticket or 320 for the year. Still pricey, but the kids love it, and staying with grandma (the wife likes her family for than I do).

        Still sad to see though. A great club with great fans (5th highest TV ratings), but a complacent fan base.

  5. willclarkgameface - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Down With Florida Baseball.

    • Old Gator - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:46 PM

      You don’t sound like you’re senile quite yet, but the mindless repetition of a phrase is a sign of several other types of brain damage. See a specialist.

  6. tcostant - Aug 24, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    The Nationals have been looking for a new spring training home, pretty much every year since they relocated to D.C. I don’t get it.

  7. rcali - Aug 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Surprising, people in Florida love baseball. They always attend games. Can’t we just add another MLB franchise in Homestead?

  8. kalinedrive - Aug 24, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Homestead is too far away from every other Spring Training facility. Now that Ft. Lauderdale is empty, Jupiter is the furthest South they go, and that’s 2-3 hour bus ride from most of the parks in Central Florida. And it’s another 2 hour bus ride from there to get to Homestead. Millionaires don’t like 4-5 hour bus rides.

    Maybe if they put in that multi-billion dollar bullet train from Miami to Orlando to Tampa…

    • Old Gator - Aug 24, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      We’d love to do that, but we have a mephitic crook of a governor who hasn’t yet figured out how dropping his opposition to a 21st century transportation might personally profit him or his closest cronies.

      • hittfamily - Aug 24, 2012 at 6:46 PM

        Jeb dropped one a dozen years ago, then his crook of a buddy dropped another one. I guess they love 4 hour car rides more than we do.

      • Old Gator - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:48 PM

        Incidentally, you’ve got a pretty nice minor league ballpark in Jax, right to the west of the Jags’ soupbowl, right? Ever go to the games there?

        BTW the chipotle corn chowder at the Mossfire Grill…ummmmmm….

    • GoneYickitty - Aug 24, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      Almost all of the facilities are too far apart. Teams will continue to migrate to AZ where the longest trip is under 90 minutes and there are far few rain-outs. I think within 20 years there will be fewer than 10 teams left in Florida.

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