Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plant City looks to lease stadium for soccer tournaments

Maintenance at Plant City Stadium, foreground, cost the city $380,000 last year, while it brought in only $80,000 in leases.

Courtesy of Plant City/Jeff Fay

Maintenance at Plant City Stadium, foreground, cost the city $380,000 last year, while it brought in only $80,000 in leases.

PLANT CITY — Goodbye, baseball and softball. Hello, soccer.

City officials say they're nearing a deal to bring professional soccer to Plant City Stadium for five to six months starting in April.

But the deal comes at a price. If finalized by commissioners on April 8, it will force three youth softball and baseball leagues to play elsewhere.

In their place, Temple Terrace-based VisionPro Sports Institute Inc., which owns four United League Soccer teams, including a pro team, would gain exclusive use of the 6,700-seat stadium and nearby parking lot.

City commissioners Monday directed the staff and city attorney Ken Buchman to draw up a lease.

The deal would run through August and net the city $50,000. VisionPro would have an option to remain through September.

The company says it turned to Plant City after a scheduling conflict sidelined a proposal with the University of South Florida. It contacted the city last week.

"The stadium itself is appealing. It has everything we need, locker rooms right off the field and lights, bathrooms," Clay Roberts, director of soccer for VisionPro, said. "It's right off I-4."

In a letter to officials, the company said it plans to take on renovations, including adding sod to the infield and stadium seating in right-center field, possibly within days to prepare for an April 13 game. The city, meanwhile, would assume irrigation and mowing.

The deal would create a windfall as the city seeks a potential buyer or long-term tenant to absorb maintenance costs for the stadium and surrounding grounds. It started advertising the 75-acre site on its website last month.

Once the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds, the city took on upkeep after the Reds pulled out in 1997 and moved to Sarasota.

Since then, recreation officials have turned to weekend baseball and softball tournaments, along with other events, to generate lease revenue.

So far, the revenue hasn't matched the maintenance tab. Last year, the city paid $380,000 in costs while garnering only $80,000 in leases from both the stadium and surrounding grounds.

"This gives us an opportunity to generate additional income in the short term," City Manager Greg Horwedel said. "Our primary goal is to eliminate or curb that annual cost."

Meanwhile, three youth softball and baseball leagues that use the stadium — the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, the Global Sports Alliance and Florida Suncoast Sports — could be forced to play elsewhere.

Jack Holland, the city's recreation and sports director, said he expects the leagues to shift to the nearby Randy L. Larson Softball Four-Plex, which is exempted from the VisionPro deal.

The four-plex, at 1500 S Park Road, is already home to numerous baseball and softball tournaments. He said he'll contact the leagues this week.

Roberts said the stadium is a good fit for the company. After the USF scheduling conflict he recalled Plant City Stadium where the Reds played. Roberts grew up in Plant City.

"It's a great location for us and in a great city," he said. "It's a shame it's been sitting for so long."

VisionPro has expressed willingness for a long-term deal, but it hasn't submitted a proposal yet, city officials said. Proposals are due April 8.

VisionPro operates four teams under the United Soccer League, including VSI Tampa Bay FC, a professional team.

Roberts said the company had planned to submit a proposal for long-term use of both the stadium and four-plex, possibly for tournaments and training.

It's also looking to build a 28,000-seat stadium elsewhere in Hillsborough County. Roberts wouldn't disclose the location, but said talks are under way.

The team's first game in Plant City is set for 7:30 p.m. April 13 against the Rochester (N.Y.) Rhinos.

Rich Shopes can be reached at or (813) 661-2454.

Plant City looks to lease stadium for soccer tournaments 03/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 12:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest


    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.
  2. Police pull unconscious New Port Richey man from SUV in Cotee River


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Police rescued an unconscious driver whose sport utility vehicle plunged into the Cotee River on Saturday.

  3. Analysis: Bannon is out, but his agenda may live on


    WASHINGTON — In his West Wing office, Stephen Bannon kept a chart listing trade actions — on China, steel and autos — that the Trump White House planned to roll out, week by week, through the fall. Now that Bannon, the president's chief strategist, has been pushed out, the question is whether his …

    Steve Bannon thinks he could be more effective influencing policy from outside the White House.
  4. Trump to skip Kennedy Center Honors awards program


    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Acknowledging that he has become a "political distraction," President Donald Trump has decided to skip the festivities surrounding the annual Kennedy Center Honors arts awards later this year, the White House announced Saturday amid the continuing fallout over Trump's stance on last weekend's …

  5. Bucs' annual Women of RED preseason party attracts nearly 2,000


    TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.

    Lee White of Seminole tries on a helmet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers female fans descended upon Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate football party, the 2017 Women of RED: The Takeover, supported by Moffitt Cancer Center. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times