Orange County Democrats passed a resolution this week calling on Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City of Orlando “to take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure that the original venue is preserved and recognized for its intrinsic value to the sports, civil rights, and cultural history of Orlando.”
The Democrats are the latest group to step up to the plate and demand the history and culture of Tinker Field be preserved. Considering the Mayor and a majority of the elected City Council are registered Democrats, the move further escalates the current controversial situation.
The Orange County Democratic Party’s Tinker Field resolution is very timely in the ongoing struggle to save Tinker Field, but also carries substantial meaning given its passage during Black History Month. The resolution is clear in its message to Mayor Dyer and the City Council and provides ample reasoning supporting the decision, highlighting much of the history of the site, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech at Tinker Field: “WHEREAS, one of the most historic events to take place at Tinker Field was a visit by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964, on his only visit to Orlando, when he spoke from the pitcher’s mound to a racially mixed audience of thousands seated together in the very grandstand, which is still in place in the current stadium.”
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee calls upon Mayor Dyer and the City Council of Orlando to direct staff to more thoroughly research the potential uses for the field and the historic grandstand; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee calls upon the City of Orlando to take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure that the original venue is preserved and recognized for its intrinsic value to the sports, civil rights, and cultural history of Orlando; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee calls upon the City of Orlando, Orange County and any other interested parties, both public and private, to develop a plan for the preservation and use of the facility.
The Democrats’ resolution is also the latest sign that the efforts to save Tinker Field continue to grow across the community. Mayor Dyer has been insisting the historic site be demolished and does not want to entertain ideas to save and preserve the field. City Commissioner Robert Stuart, also an elected Democrat, agrees with Dyer’s plans to pave a VIP parking lot for the Citrus Bowl on the historic site. Contrasting the mayor’s plan, I have presented a proposal to save Tinker Field and preserve Orlando’s history to the Orange County Commission as well as several Orlando City Commissioners.
Democratic City Commissioner Patty Sheehan has been the most outspoken about Tinker Field on the City Council, along with fellow Democratic Commissioner Sam Ings. The resolution from the Democratic Party could provide a boost to their efforts ahead of any vote on the fate of Tinker Field. Newly elected Commissioner Regina Hill, another Democrat, endorsed the “Saving Tinker Field” effort during her campaign last year, but has become quiet on the Council in terms of saving the historic site. The party’s resolution may help move Commissioner Hill off the fence and back into the vocal “save Tinker Field” camp.
Mayor Dyer is not often rebuked by his own party like this. The Orange County Democrats did pass a resolution overwhelmingly in 2011 against elected “Democrat” Dyer regarding his arrests of those feeding the homeless. However, Dyer did not budge on that policy despite his own party’s pressure and it is still illegal to feed someone in need in Orlando.
As the controversy over the fate of historic Tinker Field continues, time will tell if Dyer’s own party can help pressure the Mayor to save such an important historical site for so many residents.