Indian River County will again try to purchase 35 acres from the City of Vero Beach next to the county-owned Dodgertown.
At the Jan. 23 meeting, County Commissioner Joe Flescher added a few sweeteners to the deal, a prior offer turned down by the city the week before at its Tuesday, Jan. 15, meeting.
The new offer raises the purchase price $50,000, slightly over-matching a developer’s prior bid, bringing it to $2.45 million.
The offer also gives the city “the right of first refusal,” Flescher said, to purchase the property back from the county if Major League Baseball fails to renew its leasing and management agreement with the county.
The county and Major League Baseball recently signed a 10-year agreement with three five-year renewal options. Their further involvement with Dodgertown is expected to increase tourism in the area, which already brings an estimated $34 million a year in food, hotel and purchases to the area.
Vero Beach City Councilman Tony Young was at the Jan. 23 meeting. He said he would change his nay vote from last week to a yea vote given the fine-tuning to the offer. He also promised to put the new proposal on the city’s Feb. 5 agenda.
Last week City Councilman Harry Howle and Lange Sykes voted in favor of selling the property to the county. Young, Laura Moss and Val Zudans voted against the sale. If Howle and Sykes remain in favor, Young’s vote will gain a majority and the sale will go through.
The county needs the property to ensure it can provide 2,000 overflow parking spaces to Major League Baseball for big events.
The county agreed last week to add a deed restriction that it will not sell or develop the property, but keep it green and recreational space while the Major League Baseball deal is in place.
The city bought the land about 10 years ago to ensure it remained green space and to ward off a housing development.
The city has done nothing with the property but mow it during the decade of ownership, costing $660,000 a year in debt and mowing fees.
The county offer guarantees it will put up trees, interior paths and roadways, as well as a storm-water treatment flow-way to remove nutrients that would otherwise drain into the Main Relief Canal, which forms the southern border of the property.
In addition, the county will also fix up an existing building as a small museum to honor Dodgertown’s history. It was the first ball club to break the color barrier by hiring Jackie Robinson, the first major league black ball player, who came for spring training at Dodgertown. The “barracks” on site were integrated as well, another first for ball clubs.