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No football, no baseball, no progress
BY IAN M. LOVE - MANAGING EDITOR (Week of April 2, 2009)

Not withstanding anything you may have read, do not expect to see footballs flying around Dodgertown anytime soon.

Even though officials from the fledgling United Football League have toured the property, they have no plans to move operations to Vero Beach, a league spokeswoman said.

“Don’t read too much into that visit,” said Rachel Gary. “We are always looking for new venues as the league considers expanding in 2010 and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Indian River County’s quest for a full-time baseball tenant for Dodgertown seems to have stalled as well. While commissioners had been hoping to have a deal signed with a professional baseball group – which several refer to as Major League Baseball — by now, the two sides are still going over details of how the deal might be structured.

“Things are going slower than anticipated,” said County Administrator Joe Baird.

In other words, as of the moment, there is no baseball and no football in the immediate offing.

The UFL is hoping to begin operations this fall with four teams that would play a six-game schedule from October through Thanksgiving. The league earlier scaled back plans to open with six teams, and now says it will field teams in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and Orlando.

The local daily has indicated the league was interested in using Vero Beach as a training facility for all four teams throughout the season. However, the UFL late last year entered a $20 million arrangement to partner with the city of Casa Grande, AZ, to serve as the training facility for all the teams.

That arrangement expired in January when Casa Grande officials expressed some concern whether the start-up football league could come up with the financing.

Gary said the two sides have continued discussions and the expectation is that the UFL will be in Arizona for the start of training camp.

Harold Kitching, a writer for the Casa Grande Dispatch, said as that as of March 30, no work had started at Francisco Grande resort, where the public-private football facility was to be located.

Casa Grande City Manager Jim Thompson said the scope of the deal has changed between the city and the UFL, but the parties remain in negotiations.

Meanwhile, the prospects for a renewal of baseball here are confused, at best.

Dave Barnard of RussMatt baseball recently visited Dodgertown and said he remains “guardedly optimistic” his organization will be hosting college and high school baseball tournaments in Vero Beach next year during spring training season. His group was located in Winter Haven and Auburndale this year, but he will not have access to Chain of Lakes Park (in Winter Haven) starting in 2010.

“We operate from about the third weekend in February through the weekend after Easter,” Barnard said. “In Winter Haven- Auburndale, we booked 25,000 room nights. The plan is to move half the teams over to Vero Beach. I think with Dodgertown and the brand recognition it holds along the eastern seaboard, we should be able to fill that immediately.”