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Vero Beach Sports Village president to Rec committee: We’re in same boat

VERO BEACH – During a meeting when Vero Beach recreation staff members requested more staff and a way to keep programming, Vero Beach Sports Village President Craig Callan said he could relate.

“We’re expecting a lot of the same issues,” Callan told the Vero Beach Recreation Commission at a recent meeting, echoing the same concerns as recreation staff – declining funding, limited staff and increased demand. “It’s tough. It does affect customer relations.”  

Callan was asked to present an update on the state of the Vero Beach Sports Village, formerly known as Dodgertown.

While the facility does have some challenges ahead, he said, it’s not all bad.

“If we were the stock market, we would be at a 52-week high,” Callan said, explaining that the facility is hopping with activity.

Seventy teams from high schools and colleges from 22 states are scheduled to train at the Vero Beach Sports Village. Thirty- to 40 percent of them will end up staying at Vero Beach hotels due to the crush of athletes and lack of rooming at the village, Callan said.

The facility also expects to receive its license to host the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp.’s training camp – making it one of three to provide training for umpires.

Currently, the umpires who made the cut at the two existing camps are officiating games at the Vero Beach Sports Village, where they are being evaluated.

“We just missed the deadline,” Callan said of receiving the necessary license to host the training. He expects to have the license in hand in time for next season’s crop of umpires.

If that were to happen, between 50 and 100 would-be professional umpires would spend about a month – if not longer – at the Vero Beach Sports Village come 2012.

The facility has recently hosted the Italian National Baseball Team, the China National Baseball Team, the Chinese National Boxing Team, the University of South Florida Football Team, and a Mascot Boot Camp, to name a few.

Callan told the Recreation Commission that the Vero Beach Sports Village expects to bring USF back next season and is also making “in roads” with Korea to host teams.

“It’s just taking a while,” Callan said of getting the facility’s new name out there and attracting teams. “We’re going through the pain of starting a business in this economy.”

Also in the works at the facility is a clover-leaf of baseball fields and additional lighting, which Callan expects to be under construction in April.

“That’s now coming to fruition,” Callan said, adding that officials want the lighting in place before USF returns so the team can train and have games at night.

“We burst at the seams,” he added, explaining that when USF was at the sports village, every blade of grass was utilized.

The youth baseball and softball fields, along with planned soccer fields will help the Vero Beach Sports Village diversify, Callan told the commission.

“Our business model is little pieces of all of that – soccer, lacrosse, youth,” Callan said. “One piece of business like we’re experiencing now with college and high school baseball will not make us successful. It’s a real quick hit, and then you’ve got to pay the bills the rest of the year.”

Recreation Commission Chairman Richard Yemm asked Callan if all the changes going on at the Vero Beach Sports Village would keep the facility from being considered by a Major League Baseball team looking for a new spring training home.

“We have everything we had before,” Callan said, referring to the facility when the Dodgers called Vero Beach home.

He added that the Vero Beach Sports Village is now equipped to handle both – Major League Baseball, which would use the facility part-time, and other sporting activities.

“We’re like a chameleon,” Callan said. “We can change colors.”

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