Old Baseball City to Be Replaced by
The sound of a bat cracking a ball won't be heard much longer
at the old Baseball City site, but the sound of a wrecking
ball will be loud and clear as the old buildings are torn
down early next year to make way for the Victor Posner Park.
Project planners discussed the future of
the 366-acre site, near Interstate 4 and U.S. 27, on Wednesday,
as they sat in the echoing, empty baseball stadium's media
office. The new development will have nothing to do with
bats, gloves or clowns. Rather, it will be a complex reminiscent
of a turn-of-the-century "Garden City," complete
with shops, office space and multifamily residences.
While instructional league players held
a practice in an adjacent field, representatives discussed
the future of the site. No clowns will be around to bring
back memories of the Circus World days, and no baseballs
will remain, they said.
However, Polk County will surely be glad
to see the upscale development, said Gregory Arnone, director
of land procurement and development for Victor Posner Enterprises.
The project is the brainchild of the late
Victor Posner, Arnone said. Posner and other planners thought
the site was a choice slice of land, he said. "A group
of us saw a commercial opportunity on this corner,"
Specialty and general retail and office
space will take up some 34 acres, Arnone said. About 24
acres of business park and mixed-use space will be included,
as well as 2,600 hotel rooms and 1,991 residential units,
according to the plan.
Arnone said there was a temptation to retain
some of the flavor of the site's past. "We toyed with
it, many times," he said. "And still, after agonizing
over what may be the end of this little icon, we just decided
The existing baseball stadium and buildings
will be taken down, he said. "Even Kansas City decided
to move out to Phoenix," he said. The Royals will train
next season in Arizona, ending a 15-year spring era at Baseball
The new development will be one that Polk
County will take pride in and welcome, he said. "We
felt that, economically, this would make good sense for
the community, rather than a hard, industrial site,"
In a statement, planners said the site is
"envisioned as a spectacular gateway to northeastern
Polk County, this mixed-use development is specifically
designed to address the community and residential needs
of 21st-century Americans."
Haines City Chamber of Commerce President
Jeff Vandiver said the community will be delighted to see
new life being pumped into that site. "I think that
anything that's going in there will have a great economic
impact on the Haines City area," he said. "What
is there right now is an eyesore."
Signs still tease passers-by that Baseball
City is near, but all that remains are empty buildings.
Nearby stores and gas stations -once busy with traffic drawn
to the now-closed attraction Circus World (later called
Boardwalk and Baseball) -- have suffered, Vandiver said.
"Once Baseball City went out, that
whole area just took a dive," Vandiver said. "Hopefully,
the Posner group has done a lot of research, and knows what
will work for that area. I am sure they have."
Arnone said that's exactly what the group
has done. "The synergy of the project's innovative
design and wide array of name brand apparel, home and lifestyle
retailers, destination restaurants, when combined with lavish
landscaping, inviting public spaces and the energy generated
by the center's anticipated 4,500 residents, will usher
in a new dimension in mixed-use development for Polk County,"
No specifics were provided Wednesday for
potential businesses that might be drawn to the office space,
or stores to the retail spots. Existing buildings will begin
to be removed in early 2003, he said, when the retail phase
County approval for zoning plans will be
sought later this month, Arnone said.
Community approval is already there, according
to Vandiver. "As far as the chamber goes, and the community,
they have our support," he said. "Anything that
goes up in the corner is going to be a great improvement
in that area."