MLK Game Changer

Will Rollins Stadium Disappear from MLK Park?

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

MLK Game Changer

Guest Columnist — Charley Williams

At a June 15 Parks and Recreation Advisory Board workshop, the attending parks consultant stated that Rollins College and the City were contemplating moving the Rollins softball stadium out of MLK Park. Communications Director Clarissa Howard told the Voice that Rollins officials had indicated “a willingness to discuss the possibility,” though she could not confirm that such discussions are currently underway.

Whether these discussions occur now or in the future, if it turns out the stadium can be removed from its present location, a primary reason for relinquishing the bowling alley property would also be removed.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel wrote in a June 14, 2017, email: “The perpetual agreement Rollins has for the 3 million dollar (their money) lease for the softball stadium is not an attractive structure to view and disallows a long range view of the park. That is not within our purview to undo and would make extremely costly space.”

Costly or not, the stadium has outlived its usefulness. It is no longer regulation size and cannot support sanctioned play or host tournaments.

From Bowling Alley to Grand Allee

The possibility of removing the stadium opens up a whole new dynamic for MLK Park. If the bowling alley property were retained and added to the mix, it would create unobstructed sight views — a dramatic ‘view-shed’ from the planned library/events center on the north end of the park all the way to Fairbanks on the south. Winter Park would have a gateway feature with a Grand Allee, leading to a world-class library-event structure with green space in between. 

I hope the Mayor, Commissioners and City Manager do engage in discussions with Rollins to remove the stadium from the MLK footprint, and that they will reconsider the opportunity to create that unobstructed view through the park.

In the presence of such a possibility, would it not be wise to slow things down, to assume a wait-and-see stance? That kind of game changer would be a win for everyone.

  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

  • author's avatar

7 replies
  1. NIMBY-10stepper says:

    How about moving the planned library south to this area and leave the north end open? Would make the library more accessible to people and keep extra traffic off the Morse / 17-92 intersection. Unless of course, the parking facilities are intended as a “favor” to the developers who have overbuilt with little parking near that intersection

    Moving the library south to Fairbanks makes sense and would equal the accessibility and characteristics of the existing library

    • Pitt Warner says:

      It’s not productive for the WPV to post anonymous negative comments that accuse elected officials of unethical behavior. Very divisive, unfair and not neighborly.

      • Tree Hugger says:

        Pitt’s right. I had my doubts about Leary, but that all changed when he did something that now has me convinced he’s 100% honest and ethical.

        What Leary did to win me over was when he voted to dissolve Winter Park’s Ethics Board. For a long time, Winter Park had a board of citizens who would investigate ethics complaints about Winter Park officials.

        When Leary voted to end the city’s Ethics Board and do away with it, it was then that I knew Leary was honest. Because the way I look at it, if Leary was dishonest, the first thing he would want would be a local Winter Park Ethics Board to investigate him and make public their findings for all to see.

        So, being as how he voted to eliminate the Ethics Board, that proves, to me anyway, that Leary is honest because a dishonest person would never vote to eliminate a Board whose job it is to keep them honest. A dishonest person would want the public scrutiny of a city Ethics Board looking into their ethical failings, so that the public would know that they were a dishonest politician.

        This might seem like convoluted logic, but I think you will agree if you think about it long enough. I can prove it to you. Let’s say someone is a criminal. Well, you know that they would want a police department to catch them and put them in jail right? No criminal would want to do away with the police department so they would never get caught. What fun would there be in that?

        See what I mean? Leary voting to do away with the Ethics Board is no different than it would be for a criminal to vote to do away with the Police Department. This proves Leary is honest.

      • MYOB says:

        Winter Park Voice should just mind its own business! And don’t get any ideas about asking Leary to make public the tax returns for his property management company for the years he has been on the Commission.

        They are none of your business!!!

        And the client list of Leary’s property management company is none of your business either!!!

        It’s none of anyone’s business if Leary’s management company has some of the same clients that Leary approves their development deals as mayor. I’m not saying this goes on. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I’m just saying IF it goes on it’s none of The Voice’s or anyone elses business!

        And if say the contractor who wins the contract for the new $30 million dollar library a year later awards Leary’s property management company a $5 million contract to manage some of their other properties, it’s nobody’s business. I’m not saying it would happen. I’m just saying IF it happens it’s nobody’s business.

        And the fact that Leary has NEVER declared a conflict of interest as mayor, even once, even though he is heavily involved in the real estate management business, and in real estate investing, is nobody’s business either.

        I am sick and tired of anonymous people commenting here implying that Leary is somehow not being transparent with the public. For goodness sakes people, he attends ribbon cuttings! What more transparency do you want?

        These conspiracy theories about Leary are really getting out of line. There’s no way a father of young children would want any more than $3,000 a year for a job that takes 50 or 60 hours a week. Who do you think is ever going to believe that Leary is using his position as mayor of Winter Park to make himself rich?

        And if Rollins ends up buying the old library and giving Leary’s property management company some property management business, who cares? I’m not saying that would happen. I’m not saying it wouldn’t. I don’t work for Rollins. I don’t care that Rollins just hired the same guy who chaired the City committee that recommended Winter Park build a new library in MLK Park to be in charge of Rollins’ relations with Winter Park government. But IF Rollins gave Leary’s management company some business, why should Leary have to disclose it publicly if it happens AFTER Leary uses his position as mayor to approve Rollins’ deals? He’s the MAYOR, not your 5 year old!!!

        You think Seidel is some goody two shoes because he discloses his conflicts of interest. But if Leary doesn’t, so what is it to you? I’m not saying Leary has any conflicts of interest or that he doesn’t but IF he does why should The Voice care?

        Leary’s not going to approve Winter Park property sales or development deals just so he can make more than $3,000 a year he gets as mayor to feed his family. And the voters know that!

        So MYOB The Voice.

        MYOB Anonymous Voice Commenters

        MYOB Winter Park Voters

        Instead of thinking about how much Leary’s property management company has increased its revenues since Leary has been on the City Commission, think about what Leary has done for YOU as mayor. If it wasn’t for Leary, you wouldn’t have the peacock fountain in Central Park. Leary voted for that! And you remember that on election day.

  2. Cigar says:

    The park expanders appear to be heating up the political temperature in the room, making it increasingly uncomfortable for Leary, et. al. to move forward with their Fairbanks land sale. And park expanders are, quite adeptly I might add, turning the political dialogue on its head.

    Leary and cohorts, having framed the sale as, “Why not?” are now on the defensive, as Winter Park residents, ask, “Why?” And as more begin to see the proposed sale, not as forgoing a park expansion opportunity, but as LOSS of green space and also a LOSS of recreation property. Yes, the property has long been used as recreational – a bowling alley for many years – and having been purchased by Rollins as recreational for proposed sports field. Residents will likely see any future commercial or multi-family residential use as a CONVERSION (i.e. LOSS) from longstanding recreational use, creating strong political headwinds against Leary in 2018, and adding to the claims that Leary is a park swiper.

    So, Leary’s choice is either to continue to paint himself in a corner, by appearing to be unreasonable and vindictive in selling the land – we’re only talking about a little more than an acre here, folks, and he’s already got his library deal sewn up – or to sell it, and gamble that the park expanders will just give up, lose all hope, and not run a candidate to oppose him in his 2018 re-election bid. If he likes the odds of winning the Lottery, he just might do something that crazy.

    The 2018 re-election campaign has already begun in some respects. Leary’s trusted lieutenant, Sarah Sprinkel, at Monday’s City Commission meeting fired a barb at Commissioner Greg Seidel for recusing himself on some City contract renewal votes. Of the sitting commissioners, Seidel is the potential challenger Leary fears most for 2018, because Seidel is not a polarizing figure and has made few political enemies during his short time on the Commission. Fresh off his own stunning re-election this year, in which he demonstrated extraordinary political agility and finesse, Seidel stands the best chance (should he choose to run) to defeat what is expected to be an extremely well financed, but politically wounded Leary – given Leary’s opposition to letting the residents decide where their library will be, and his support of what over half the voters never supported – $30 million debt for a new library they don’t want.

    If Seidel – or another commissioner – chooses to run, that will create an open seat on the Commission – that will also be decided by the voters. And if someone like Williams entered the race for that seat, it would only serve to raise MLK Park’s profile as the defining issue of the campaign. Stuff like “reserve account balances” make voters eyes glaze over. But ignoring resident petitions of over 2,000 signatures, selling off City owned recreational land, etc. create voter wrath, which is exactly the ingredient an under-financed opponent needs to win.

    Selling the “Fairbanks Acre” would just add fuel to Leary’s opponents political fire. Makes no political sense for Leary to sell it. Even people who supported the library in MLK Park would begin to question Leary’s judgement.

    It’s always more advantageous politically to tell voters what they stand to lose, rather than what they stand to gain. And it’s clear that the park expanders are learning this as each day passes.

    • Love the Park says:

      Let’s not forget the other stellar land deal made by the Leary/Bradley/Sprinkel commission when it voted to trade the federal office building on the northwest corner of Denning and Morse for a toxic wedge along the railroad tracks at Minnesota, Orange and Palmetto. That useless patch is still vacant.

  3. Beth Hall says:

    All of the commissioners have stated that they embrace the idea of expanded and enhanced parks and greenspace in the city. But don’t actions speak louder than words?

    In 2014 at a CRA work session Leary voted to acquire the bowling alley property with CRA funds. On March 14, 2016, Sarah Sprinkel stated that the city ought to acquire ALL of the property along Fairbanks from Harper to Denning (including the bowling alley property) and incorporate it into MLK Park. But now that the city actually OWNS the bowling alley property, Leary and Sprinkel have voted to sell it rather than to use it to expand the park.

    Likewise, at an April 10, 2017, CRA work session Pete Weldon stated that the acquisition and buyout of the WP Post Office property in order to add it to Central Park ought to be a long-term city goal. Yet just two weeks later on April 24, 2017, he (along with Sprinkel and Leary) voted AGAINST adding language to the revised comp plan that would have stated that acquisition of the post office property in order to augment Central Park was a long-range goal. A complete change of heart in only 14 days.

    These inconsistencies between words and actions are puzzling.

    The bowling alley property possesses great potential and could be used in multitude of ways to enhance MLK Park. The news that Rollins may be moving the soft ball stadium from the park IS a game changer. Does a crisis of the imagination prevent the majority of the commission from seeing this obvious truth? The recent suggestion that the library might sit on Fairbanks was even intriguing. I hope the commission will reverse course and retain the land.


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