Sunday, January 23, 2005


It's been no secret that relations between the City of Winter Haven and the Cleveland Indians baseball club have been on the rocks for some time. The Indians are not happy with the Chain of Lakes facility, preferring a brand new, state-of-the-art complex built for them at public expense. The city would like to sell the 62 acres of prime lakefront property, which also includes the Orange Dome and is home to the annual Florida Citrus Festival, to a developer for the tax revenues. Many of the city's residents don't give a rat's behind about the Major League Baseball team, and would like Winter Haven to be rid of the half-million dollar plus deficit that the stadium's operation and maintainence puts on the budget.

It looks like everyone will be happy after this spring training season.

The Indians and Winter Haven officials had discussed the possibility of building a new complex in the northern edge of the city with costs shared by the team, city, county, and state. The state funds would kick in only if the lease is for a minimum of ten years, something the Indians had refused to do at Chain of Lakes. But the team has written City Manager David Greene saying they will not participate in any further such talks.

The Indians had come to Winter Haven as a last resort in the first place, needing a facility after the then-new complex in Homestead was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. The city was happy to have a tenant for Chain of Lakes, since it had sat empty for a year or two after the Boston Red Sox left after more than 20 years for a new facility in Fort Myers. But as teams found competition among cities in Florida and Arizona willing to build new parks to the teams' specifications and demands, the Indians soon became unhappy with their situation.

The loss of Cleveland's baseball team would leave Polk County hosting only one MLB club, the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. The Tigers and Lakeland have had a long and prosperous history together (nearly 70 years!), and Joker Marchant Stadium was renovated two years ago.


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