Vero Beach May Have Team To Replace Dodgers

Ever since the Dodgers announced plans to abandon Vero Beach as their spring training site in favor of Glendale, Ariz., rumors have floated about the Florida community concerning a possible replacement team. Now those rumors at last appear to have a basis.

Indian River County Administrator Joe Baird, the man appointed to head a group to explore a replacement team, says he is in "significant negotiations" with a major league team interested in relocating to Dodgertown. What team? That Barid won't reveal, citing state laws that prohibit his doing so.

Baird will say the team in question approached him- not the other way around. And, although major league baseball has offered help in finding such a team, no third party is involved. But he says the team is interested in a long-term deal with Vero Beach and he hopes to have an agreement "very quickly."

The city of Vero Beach and Indian River County joined to buy the property from the Dodgers when the team was owned by Fox Sports which had indicated it was interested in moving. At that time the Dodgers signed a 20-year lease agreement to stay on as tenants.

However, when Frank McCourt purchased the team, he made the decision to go to Arizona, citing the distance between the training base and the team's source of fans. The team then reached an agreement with the city and county allowing them to break the lease in return for not buying back the property which it had the option of doing.

Indian River County officials have been firm in their commitment to find a replacement team rather than try to sell the land to developers. Speculation has run from the wish list of local residents such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees (two teams will sell out Holman Stadium on the rare occasions when they visit) to more likely prospects such as the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds.

However, the Orioles have signed an agreement to stay in Fort Lauderdale, where they presently train if they can obtain Federal Aviation Authority approval for a new stadium. That's necessary for the property there abuts the airport.

And Sarasota, where the Reds train, has placed a stadium referendum on the November ballot. The Reds have indicated their willingness to stay there if it passes.

So the rumors can start flying again. This time, Baird says, he'll have the facts out shortly. In the meantime, the Dodgers hope to have the first earth moved on its Arizona site next month.