Proposal to Save Tinker Field & Preserve Orlando History

Tinker ConstructionThe following proposal to save Tinker Field was presented to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and all County Commissioners in December during an official Board of County Commissioners’ discussion on the fate of Tinker Field. The proposal was also delivered to City Commissioners Sheehan, Hill and Ings.

Dear Mayor Jacobs and Commissioners,

Tinker Field, the most historic of all the Orlando Venues, survived repeated controversial attempts throughout the year to demolish and redevelop the site. However, it has been made clear by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in a local media interview last week that the planned demolition was simply delayed, not prevented.

The existing conditions and plans from the City of Orlando, outlined in Exhibit A, are unacceptable. To transform historic Tinker Field into a planned VIP parking area with future development is shameful and disrespectful. The City of Orlando’s current plan to “move” Tinker Field across the street is problematic and has not been studied by the Community Venues staff, according to meetings and statements made by city staff. The space would be limited and the direction could pose threats to traffic. But the options to preserve and renovate Tinker Field are endless.

Our community deserves a living historical landmark in Tinker Field.  Building off recent successful investments made by cities across America, Tinker Field can be preserved, restored and renovated for a tiny fraction of the cost being spent on other Community Venues. Instead of a parking lot, Exhibit B shows one possible solution to transform Tinker Field back into life.

The vision behind Exhibit B works historic Tinker Field into an integral community venue, part of a larger Citrus Sports Complex. The historical landmark could also serve as a bookend for the Church Street plan.

  • An expanded park area north of the playing field would allow more green space for concerts, like Electric Daisy Carnival, or other outdoor events. The green space would also allow more park space for local residents and children.
  • Installing a modern and removable wall in the outfield as well as improvements to the playing field would return Tinker Field to good condition. The wall would also be able to be taken down for larger outdoor events, or to allow better flow during certain Citrus Bowl events.
  • Historical markers and references throughout the renovated stadium and field would provide the community as well as tourists a glimpse into the past. Historical markers would allow children to learn about the great players who ran the base paths they are running at Tinker Field and to stand where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the pitcher’s mound.
  • A renovated and restored grandstand and pressbox would protect the entirety of the structure and allow residents and tourists capture the history of the stadium or enjoy a game or even just grab refreshments during other events or pre-Citrus Bowl events. When Tinker Field is being used as a park, the renovated and restored grandstand can serve as a sitting area for families and should have historical references or markers integrated into the structure.
  • Adding a reasonable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center on the site would allow Tinker Field to remain alive throughout the year for the local community. The small community room could be reserved for meetings, field trips, or groups. Ideally, there would be references to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s only visit to Orlando, photographs and inspirations for the community to remain engaged.
  • The possible addition of a baseball museum, adjacent or part of the MLK Community Center, would be an added draw to sports tourism, especially during the spring training activities in Florida.
  • As a compromise with the City of Orlando, a paved parking area could be constructed just south of Tinker Field, where McCracken Field stands, to allow for Citrus Bowl events and VIP parking needs. When there are no events at the Citrus Bowl, this parking area can serve local residents visiting historic Tinker Field.

These modest suggestions are not a complete solution, however they do present one of the many ways our community can step up to the plate and save Tinker Field. The reasonable suggestions would also be very affordable, making the investment decision a no-brainer. Exhibit C details recent examples of investment being made in fields across America.

  • In Cleveland, officials completed a $6.3 million restoration project for historic League Park. This restoration included refurbishing a three-story ticket booth and former locker room into a new baseball museum, an upgraded brick grandstand with new artwork, brand new bathrooms, concessions and shopping space in addition to a new historical memorial.
  • In Cincinnati, officials made a $7 million investment in creating a new Urban Youth Academy. The funds were used to build a four-field baseball complex and a 33,000 square-foot indoor facility as well. The complex includes classroom space and a technology center for children. There are references to shared community baseball history throughout the complex as well.
  • In Chicago, the City pledged a $6.5 million investment in three baseball fields. The renovations will provide brand new turf fields, new concessions and new restrooms to Palmer Park, Tuley Park and Jackie Robinson Park. The renovations will support programs and leagues at all three fields and the funds will also provide an expansion of baseball and softball youth programming, allowing more children to play on the fields for free.

It is clear the preservation and renovation of Tinker Field is possible and affordable. The culture of Tinker Field is worth saving. The history of Tinker Field is worth saving. Some of the many reasons to invest in preserving and renovating historic Tinker Field are listed in Exhibit D. It is important to remember on May 14, 2004, Tinker Field was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. On April 2, 2014, the Orlando Historic Preservation Board voted to designate Tinker Field as a local landmark, with the 1963 grandstand and the historic playing field as contributing. More importantly, Tinker Field is the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech in 1964.

There is an opportunity to encourage new partnerships, including with Major League Baseball to create youth programs and a new MLB Urban Youth Academy. An investment in Tinker Field is a further investment in sports tourism and cultural tourism that would only compliment the Citrus Bowl complex and Church Street plans. Tinker Field also presents an opportunity to engage in more community development that would complement other recent venue investments.

You have always been proud to try to meet people half way and reach solutions instead of divisions. Saving Tinker Field is another opportunity for our community to show progress is still possible through preservation. There is also a larger concern regarding the fate of Tinker Field, as many Orange County and City of Orlando residents feel that their voices are not being heard. Even City Commissioner Patty Sheehan told WFTV News her political career was threatened by Mayor Dyer’s staff over the issue.

There is a pressing need for Orange County to act. Orange County has a very strategic and powerful partnership with the City of Orlando in regards to the Community Venues. In recent years, the City and County have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Community Venues, while neglecting the most historic of them all. The City of Orlando also references the Interlocal Agreement signed with Orange County as the authorization and justification for the planned demolition of Tinker Field. It is time for Orange County to intervene and ensure Tinker Field is saved.

Thank you for your consideration,

Michael Cantone

Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd
Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson
Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke
Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson
Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards
Orange County Commissioner Victoria Siplin
Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan
Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill
Orlando City Commissioner Sam Ings

Attachments: Exhibits A-D

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