The city has come to a full stop on the long-awaited Sports Village project. After complications with the negotiations between the city and Gary Sheffield Sports Village, LLC, the groups have decided to call it quits.
It appears Sports Village will remain a dream.
The City of Plant City officially announced the negotiations with Gary Sheffield Sports Village, LLC have dissolved after months of planning.
“Mr. Sheffield has withdrawn from the negotiation process,” City Manager Bill McDaniel said. “It’s really a product of reality. I would say that his withdrawal is probably in the best interest of both sides at this point, given how the situation has evolved.”
Those who have been studiously following this process knows the long road we’ve walked to end up back at square one. Originally the city had a development agreement with GCJ Sports, LLC.
The company promised to have at least $50 million worth of development in five years and were touting big plans to exceed that expectation by approximately double the total worth of development.
Then everything went south. Internal issues with the GCJ Sports, LLC led to a split between the partners and the agreement with the city eventually died.
So Plant City put a bid out again and waited to see which new fish would bite.
Sheffield got a new uniform, assembled a new team, dusted off his cleats and headed back to the batter’s box.
His new lineup was impressive and he planned to develop a world-class amateur baseball complex on the property the Plant City Stadium is currently housed. There’s approximately 130 acres up for grabs, 80 of which McDaniel said was easily usable, and the company had impressive plans for the complex.
Out the gate the proposal had a championship stadium, nine fields, a 1,500-bed “player village” housing, a players’ cafeteria, weight rooms, a community park and a town center, among other amenities. But then, the plan started to change.
Once Sheffield presented his RFP for the project and entered negotiations with the city, he had a study done that determined they couldn’t build everything they wanted to create on the stadium property. There simply wasn’t enough room.
They wanted to build more fields than originally planned and, with only approximately 80 acres on deck for use, they quickly realized their dream could not become a reality on the site.
According to McDaniel, the group decided it wanted to be closer to the interstate and set its eyes on the property that is Mike E. Sansone Community Park, the Otis M. Andrews Sports Complex and Ellis-Methvin Park.
“That creates a couple of problems,” McDaniel said. “Number one, that is completely outside the scope of the RFP we were operating under and there was absolutely no basis or authority for me to be able to negotiate or to even consider that. To do so we would have to go back to square one, do a whole new RFP and go through the process from scratch to even entertain it.”
Another problem is the centerpiece of that massive property, the Otis M. Andrews Sports Complex, is not owned by the city. It belongs to HCC, adding another complication to the proposal.
The city also couldn’t fathom losing the Mike E. Sansone Community Park and Ellis-Methvin Park, as that would mean several public sports and recreation programs would be eliminated.
“I do not see that as a viable position for the city to be in,” McDaniel said. “We had very frank discussions about that and after that was the position, he withdrew.”
The parting was amicable, McDaniel said, but he doesn’t believe the city should consider starting over again with the offer of its oft-used parks on the table. He recommended city commissioners not entertain the notion and said it appears as if Sports Village has finally been laid to rest.
“I think we’ve hit the ‘stop’ button, not just ‘pause,’” McDaniel said. “I think what we do at this point is we step back and we reflect on what direction we want to go and what is the best possible uses or alternative uses for the property. That’s going to require some thought.”