Dec 7 2016

5 things to know about Space Coast Stadium deal

Brevard County commissioners last week approved a lease agreement with the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, under which the USSSA will move its headquarters from Kissimmee to Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

Under the 20-year lease agreement, the USSSA will bring at least 175 days a year of sports events to the Space Coast, initially focusing on youth baseball, and youth and adult softball.

The association said it will guarantee at least 75,000 room nights of hotel rentals in its first full year of operation, increasing to 100,000 room nights by year three.

Among other things, the county will reimburse the USSSA for up to $10 million in upgrades to the stadium complex, including 10 new artificial-turf fields, adding artificial turf to existing fields and adding lighting.

Brevard commissioners vote 4-1 to approve lease for Space Coast Stadium

Here are five things you should know about the deal:

When will redevelopment of the Space Coast Stadium complex begin, and when will the U.S. Specialty Sports Association hold its first tournament there?

Don DeDonatis, chairman and chief executive officer of the USSSA, said the timing of USSSA’s move into Space Coast Stadium will depend in part on the Washington Nationals timeline for moving its major league baseball spring training operations out of Viera.

The Nationals plan to hold spring training in West Palm Beach, beginning as early as 2017.

•What about the Brevard County Manatees, another current tenant of the stadium?

The Class A minor league team presented Brevard County officials with a proposed five-year lease for “priority use” of Space Coast Stadium from April 1 to Sept. 30.

But County Commission Chairman Robin Fisher told commissioners the terms of that deal did not compare favorably with the USSSA plan, partly because the Manatees did not offer a room night guarantee.

DeDonatis said he is willing to work with the Manatees management, but has not yet had a conversation with them.

County Commissioner Trudie Infantini indicated that she isn’t convinced a deal will be worked out.

“I don’t understand why we’re throwing out the Manatees with the bath water,” Infantini said during County Commission debate.The Manatees have been looking for alternative sites for their baseball home

Why was County Commissioner Curt Smith’s support so important?

According to county legal staff, the way the deal between Brevard County and the USSSA was structured, it needed approval a “super-majority” vote of at least four of the five commissioners to pass.

Infantini was against the deal. So Smith’s vote was needed for the lease agreement to be approved.

During Thursday’s County Commission discussion, Smith — whose County Commission district includes the stadium complex — said he wanted to try to keep the Manatees in Viera because “they’re an asset to the community.”

Smith also wanted to make sure the contractors on the job are providing a good price so the tourist tax money “is spent well and spent wisely.”

With assurances from DeDonatis, Smith said he could support the project.

Why is a stadium lease deal with a nonprofit organization like the USSSA crucial to Brevard tourism?

Brevard County Attorney Scott Knox said, if the stadium is not used by a professional sports team or a nonprofit organization, the county’s 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals expires, and would require a public referendum to be reinstated.

Money from the Tourist Development Tax is used for marketing the Space Coast to tourists, beach renourishment, tourist visitor centers, marketing of cultural events, sports promotion and upgrades to the Brevard Zoo.

The tax raised $10.06 million in the budget year that ended Sept. 30, 2014, and is expected to raise $11.45 million in the current budget year, according to Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Eric Garvey.

Where is county’s share of the money for stadium complex upgrades coming from?

Most of the money for the county’s share of the stadium complex improvements will come from budget reserves contained within the county’s Tourist Development Tax account. Currently, the reserve account totals $6.6 million and is expected to increase to about $8.8 million by October 2016.

The rest would be financed with borrowed money paid off through future tourist tax revenue. Fisher said the borrowing would not exceed $5 million.

Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 and dberman@floridatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByDaveBerman and on Facebook at facebook.com/dave.berman.54.

 

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