ORLANDO, Fla. - In a 4-3 vote Monday, Orlando city commissioners elected to approve an ordinance that will allow the city to demolish the grandstands at Tinker Field.
The ordinance will preserve the field, but some expresses concern over just what that means.
"I fear, as this ordinance stands, there will never be baseball on Tinker Field," said Emmett O'Dell with Saving Tinker Field, one of the groups that have battled to save the 92-year-old ballpark.
Some have expresses a belief that if the city were to rebuild the grandstands that baseball might return to the park. They also said their fear is that once the old stands come down, they won't be replaced.
"(There are) no plans at this point to put new stands up," Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
It was at the start of a multimillion-dollar renovation to the Citrus Bowl in 2014 that the city announced Tinker Field, which sits adjacent to the bowl, would have to go. That outraged many in the community, who see the ballpark as a landmark.
"One could wonder how we found $200 million for the Citrus Bowl, for people of Caucasian skin, but we can't find $10 million for something historical in the African-American community," one man said to the council.
Under the ordinance, the baseball diamond, where Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson once played, and where Martin Luther King Jr. once addressed a group, and outfield will be protected as a historic landmark. But the ordinance would also allow that historic landmark to be used temporarily as a parking lot, as it was over the weekend when 62,000 people filled the Citrus Bowl for a soccer game.
"I was in the dugout when Martin Luther King gave his speech," one resident said. "Whatever it takes, save Tinker Field."
Commissioner Sam Ings criticized city officials, saying they are rushing into tearing down the grandstands to make room for the Electric Daisy Concert, which he called a drug party that disturbs the African-American community.
The ordinance will not become final until the second reading on March 23.