Soccer company wants to lease Plant City Stadium
PLANT CITY - A company that operates four soccer teams is negotiating with the city to lease Plant City Stadium for $10,000 a month. VisionPro Sports Institute wants to lease the 5,700-seat stadium at least until August and perhaps September. The company is also interested in buying the stadium, which the city recently put up for sale. City commissioners authorized City Manager Greg Horwedel and City Attorney Ken Buchman to negotiate a short term lease for the stadium, which was built as the Spring Training home of the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds left after the 1997 spring training season and the stadium is now used for softball. Clay Roberts, director of soccer for VisionPro, said his company will pay to replace the clay softball diamond with sod, move the outfield fence and bring in more bleachers to accommodate a soccer field. VisionPro will pay to return the field to its current condition if the company doesn’t buy the stadium complex or enter into a long term lease.Roberts said the company will use the stadium for home matches for its four United States Soccer League franchise teams. The company, owned by current and former professional soccer players, also offers training programs. The company’s teams include one professional team, two amateur men’s teams and an amateur women’s team. The company hopes to take over the stadium in time for the April 13 home opening games. Horwedel said he hopes to reach a lease agreement in time for city commissioners to consider at their Monday April 8 meeting. Jack Holland, director of the Plant City Recreation and Parks Department, endorsed the lease idea. “It looks like a good deal for the city,” Holland said. The city loses about $387,000 a year on the 75-acre stadium complex. The city is soliciting bids from companies interested in buying the stadium or leasing it on a long-term basis. The deadline for bids was recently extended from April 1 to April 8. At least two other companies have expressed interest in the stadium complex.