County gives approval of Dodgertown lease swap, provided parking issue resolved

Update | 9:05 p.m.

Following the Board of County Commission meeting, the Vero Beach City Council Tuesday evening directed its top staffers to work on the parking issues and hammer out a lease swap deal with County Attorney Alan Polackwich. The matter is expected to come back to the Vero council no later than Nov. 2.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Indian River Board of County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to the framework of a long-term lease swap that will allow Minor League Baseball to build softball fields near Holman Stadium.

Commissioners gave tentative approval by a 4-1 vote to exchange 9.13 acres of county-owned land for 11.93 acres of the old Dodgertown Golf Course owned by the city where MiLB  wants to build the cloverleaf of softball and little league fields.

However, the two sides must still negotiate an agreement that the county-owned facility, which sits inside the Vero Beach city limits, will be in compliance with city parking requirements. The county purchased the 9.13 acres from the city in order to meet parking requirements when Dodgertown was a spring training facility and regularly drew crowds of 8,000 or more.

County Administrator Joe Baird said he was concerned that without the matter of parking being settled the city could prevent the county from making improvements at the facility, now known as  Vero Beach Sports Village, because it was not in compliance with city code.

MiLB Vice President Craig Callan did not think coming up with the available parking spaces would be a problem since when he was running Dodgertown as a Dodger Vice President he regularly parked the estimated 3,000 cars without use of the 9.13-acre parcel for sold-out Dodger games.

“Since I have been at Dodgertown, we have always found a way to find parking for 15 straight sellout seasons,” he said. “There is plenty of land, we have 65 acres right at Dodgertown.”

Callan told the commissioners that in years past the Dodgers had used the outfield area of their practice fields to park cars.

The Vero Beach Sports Village is marketing itself as a multi-sport facility and has already hosted high school and college baseball tournaments, spring practice for the University of South Florida football team, a women’s professional soccer training camp, as well as a other event and sports camps.

MiLB is anxious to get the go-ahead to build the softball fields and considers attracting softball and little league tournaments a key driver in generating money for the facility. Callan said if ground is not broken soon he will miss a full year of marketing to softball and little league teams.

For Commissioner Gary Wheeler the only issue was that at the end of the negotiations between the county and the city MiLB would be able to build the softball fields and the county would be in compliance with city parking regulations.

“I want to be in compliance,” he said. “I don’t want to tell the city how to do it.”

Commissioner Bob Solari voted against the proposed deal and negotiations.

The swap would allow the city to consolidate for development property it owns at the former Dodgertown site from its current L-shape into more of a rectangle running along 43rd Avenue and give the county property to the south of Holman Stadium. That property includes a large portion of the former Dodgertown 9-hole golf course.

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