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Debate Rages Over Location of Spring Training Stadium

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Copyright 2013 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)
November 8, 2013 Friday
FINAL EDITION
A SECTION; Pg. 1A
810 words
Gardens residents not in accord on stadium;
Gardens residents voice;
varied views on stadium;
Gardens residents;
divided on stadium;
Gardens residents for, against stadium plan;
City's mayor says final decision on complex could be months away.
By Willie Howard Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
PALM BEACH GARDENS

The proposed $100 million spring training baseball stadium would bring too many cars and people to the neighborhood off Central Boulevard where children walk to two public schools, some residents told members of the city council Thursday.

But other residents said the stadium complex would fulfill the need for more youth baseball fields in the city and would bring in amateur tournaments that would boost the city's economy in the offseason.

Speaking during the first city council meeting since the city hosted an Oct. 16 open house at the DoubleTree hotel to explain details of the baseball complex to the public, many residents said they do not oppose the spring training complex that would bring the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays to Palm Beach Gardens.

Many residents among the crowd of more than 200 said they simply don't agree with the proposed location.

"Go ahead and build a stadium, but don't ram it into a residential area," said George Lagos, a resident of the Bent Tree neighborhood, where many residents have signed a petition opposing the stadium location.

Shady Lakes resident Vito DeFrancesco drew applause when he suggested two alternative locations for the stadium complex -- one at PGA Boulevard and Beeline Highway and another along the Beeline Highway north of the north county airport.

But Councilman David Levy said putting the stadium in western locations would create urban sprawl and traffic problems.

"The idea of putting this out west does not make any sense to me," Levy said.

The proposed stadium complex would include a dozen practice fields and grass parking lots on 117 acres on the north side of 117th Court North across from Timber Trace Elementary and Watson B. Duncan Middle schools.

Shady Lakes resident Kristine Kerr said she worries that the stadium would distract and endanger children at the two schools.

"The students will see it, they will feel it," Kerr said. "Safety for our students is in jeopardy."

Both 117th Court North and Shady Lakes Drive would become four-lane roads under plans for the stadium complex. Shady Lakes Drive also would be extended north to join 117th Court North, creating another way for cars to reach PGA Boulevard.

Residents of Shady Lakes and Bent Tree have said they don't want Shady Lakes Drive extended north because it would eliminate a paved path and grassy area under power lines, a community corridor that area children use to walk to school and adults use for jogging and walking dogs.

Old Palm resident Mark Auerbach said putting the stadium complex in a residential neighborhood "makes no sense" and said the stadium would be so close to Roger Dean Stadium that it would compete with the Jupiter stadium for fans.

Bent Tree resident Kathy Sorkin said she has more than 400 names on a petition opposing the stadium location.

"I do have one question," Sorkin said. "How many names do I have to get to make an impression?"

Sharon Dean of the Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association said the proposed 12 practice fields are needed for youth baseball.

"We would finally be able to host a world series," Dean said.

"I'm hoping we can all come to some sort of compromise and make this happen."

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche said the county has not taken a position on the city's stadium plan.

Mayor Bert Premuroso said it could be months before the council makes a decision on the baseball complex. Premuroso assured residents that city taxpayers' money would not subsidize it.

"It's got to be the right fit," Premuroso said. "It might not happen tomorrow. It might not happen for a year."

Councilman Joe Russo said the council still has many questions to answer before making a decision on the stadium complex. "We haven't seen anything yet that would make me vote for baseball yet," Russo said. "We're not there."

Mike Martino, a former mayor and longtime councilman, submitted a five-page letter to the city Monday suggesting that the spring training complex be moved to another location.

"This site for a stadium complex of the magnitude and massiveness being contemplated is less than advantageous to the quality of life for the immediate neighborhoods as well as the city of Palm Beach Gardens," Martino wrote. "I say yes to the idea of the stadium complex but question the current location."

The city has not scheduled additional public meetings to discuss the baseball stadium proposal, but city officials plan to discuss details of the proposed spring training complex with homeowners associations and individual residents, said Jamie Voss, assistant to the city manager.

"Another open house may occur in the future, but none are scheduled at this time," Voss said.

whoward@pbpost.com Twitter: @PBPostWillie

proposed stadium

$100 million stadium complex on 117 acres east of Central Boulevard

would become the spring training home of the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays.

November 11, 2013

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