Just months after receiving official designation as an Orlando historical landmark by the City Council, Tinker Field was degraded into a liquor bar and bathroom during this year’s bowl games. On the historic pitcher’s mound, the exact site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in his only visit to Orlando, city officials set up a Jack Daniel’s liquor bar while portable toilets lined the third base line of the protected infield diamond. It’s still unclear if this is an improvement from last year’s bowl games where historic Tinker Field was used as a parking lot.
Despite the ongoing disrespect the City of Orlando shows the historical landmark, there are no questions about the historical significance of Tinker Field. When Commissioners approved the landmark designation ordinance for Tinker Field, the City Council made certain findings of fact confirming the significance in history and culture.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to celebrate our history with this designation,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said in March 2015 before the vote. “It gives us a unique opportunity to highlight the history that took place on the field and create a place where people can learn about the events that took place on Tinker Field.”
Is this makeshift bar creating a place where people can learn about Tinker Field’s 100 years of cultural history? Is a Jack Daniel’s liquor bar the City of Orlando’s way of highlighting the history of the pitcher’s mound where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke? The 50th anniversary of MLK’s Tinker Field speech from the pitcher’s mound was marked in March 2014.
Other City Commissioners also chimed in last year before voting for the Tinker Field historical landmark ordinance. Commissioner Regina Hill took credit and claimed the historic field would be “saved” by the ordinance. She even stated her efforts led to protecting more than the infield diamond and pitcher’s mound, including the entire field.
“I truly believe, and it pains me, that I have, along with the Council, saved Tinker Field,” Commissioner Hill said during the March 23, 2015 vote. “I recall it was only originally the mound, the diamond. Well now we’ve extended it to over six acres.”
But it’s hard to believe this is what City Commissioner’s were supporting when they voted for Tinker Field’s historical designation last year. Commissioner Hill was also tasked to lead an effort to determine how best to commemorate the history of Tinker Field. Is a Jack Daniel’s bar really the best way to commemorate the history?
Commissioner Patty Sheehan, a champion of historic preservation, also claimed the preservation and protections were the reason she was supporting the ordinance. “I agree with preserving Tinker Field and that’s why I’m voting for this today. This is a preservation,” Commissioner Sheehan said at the time. “I’m not going to vote against historic preservation because I’m a firm believer in it.”
Is a liquor bar really the historic preservation Commissioner Sheehan believes in?
Commissioner Sheehan also admitted during the March 2015 vote that Tinker Field’s demise was the city’s fault. “It was demolition by neglect,” Commissioner Sheehan said.
So is this the latest example of historic preservation by neglect in Orlando?