Friday, April 25, 2014

Economic Activity from New Winter Park Stadium Could Depend on Parking Garage Location

Proposed Harper-Shepherd Stadium, as obtained by the Winter Park Voice blog site.
UPDATE: 7 21 14 -- Rollins has decided against the Harper-Shepherd Stadium site.  This opens a door for Dan Bellows, developer of Ravaudage, and UP Development, developer of a new Whole Foods at 17-92 at Lee Road.)

The blogsite Winter Park Voice posted documents showing earnest negotiations between the City of Winter Park, Rollins College, and the Manatees minor league baseball team (currently located in Brevard County) over construction of a new minor league baseball stadium at Rollins College’s Harper-Shepherd Field.  A rendering of the proposed stadium shows classic architecture reminiscent of the Rollins College campus. Rollins would own, lease, and share the stadium.  

This information ought to somewhat ease the minds of Winter Park residents who were upset over the prospect of locating the stadium at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.  From a political standpoint, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park site is the least popular of four proposed locations because the City would give up recreation fields to private enterprise--one ball field for the stadium and the two remaining ball fields for parking.  Increased traffic would potentially create circumstances forestalling a much needed road diet on Denning, now a high speed barrier between residents and the park.

According to the City of Winter Park, the baseball team balked at the idea of locating on the Ravaudage site, also the most expensive option.  The developer wants $8 million in infrastructure work and an additional $3 million in cash. 

A site on the other side of 17-92 would be adjacent to a new Whole Foods strip shopping center, but little else.  The Manatees and Rollins College may not want to embroil themselves in the controversy of extending Lee Road to Denning Drive.  All traffic would concentrate on 17-92 and Lee Road, incredibly congested at rush hour.  The City characterized this site as the “most complicated” option due to the multiple parties involved.

Rollins College’s Shepherd Field is the most promising location because it is an existing baseball stadium.   Unlike the other sites, traffic would diffuse on three different roads--Denning, Fairbanks, and Orange Avenue.

The City should carefully consider where to build a parking garage, estimated to cost $6 million.  The Manatees want the parking garage next to the stadium.  However, a reasonable distance between the garage and stadium--so as to cause patrons to walk past numerous small businesses and restaurants on Orange Avenue--would generate far more economic activity before and after games.  (This is the same strategy Universal Orlando used for CitiWalk—by locating it between the parking garages and theme parks.)

Signage should steer motorists away from the residential neighborhood on the west side of Denning. 

Shepherd’s Field is located about three quarters of a mile from SunRail—a bit far for walking; however, for bicyclists, a proposed SunRail Trail could connect the Winter Park station to Shepherd Field and the Orlando Urban Trailhead at Mead Gardens. 

Shepherd’s Field has the best proximity to Rollins College, whose baseball team would play at  the stadium.  It is also the least costly option and, from what I can tell at this early stage, may be where the City is intent on bringing minor league baseball to Winter Park.