The Osceola County Commission has approved a measure that will pay the Florida Fire Frogs, if they accept, $500,000 to terminate its lease and exit Osceola County Stadium after this season.
The measure was added to the consent agenda and briefly discussed and approved at Monday’s meeting.
If the team approves the deal, this will mean that the Fire Frogs, the Atlanta Braves Class-A affiliate in the Florida State League, will wrap up a three-year stint in Kissimmee later this summer. The Braves played the final spring training games at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, their spring home for two decades, last month and are moving their Florida operations to a new facility in North Port, just south of Sarasota.
Inside the stadium this week it was business as usual — as it should be the remainder of the season — with Florida (3-2) winning a thriller in Monday’s series opener, 7-6 in 10 innings, on catcher Zach Soria’s two-run walk-off single. The Fire Frogs trailed three times in the game, and came back to tie or take the lead each time. The Fire Frogs conclude their first home stand of the season today at noon against the Jupiter Hammerheads.
According to documents within the agreement, the $500,000 is being re-appropriated from a Tourist Development Tax fund, and county will save $173,000 a year with the team departing Osceola County Stadium and be able to generate an additional $300,000 a year from “alternate use of the Stadium.”
David Freeman, the Fire Frogs’ Tennessee-based majority owner, has yet to respond to an email for this story. Local team leaders, having not seen or read the agreement in its entirety, asked not to comment without working knowledge of the deal.
The original lease agreement between Osceola County and the Fire Frogs signed in April 2017 called for a three-year agreement and then a series of 22 one-year opt-in clauses that the team could exercise annually. Monday’s measure would absolve both sides from that deal, and creates a new short-term, rent-free deal that expires Sept. 30. The Fire Frogs’ final 2019 home game is on Sunday, Aug. 25 at noon against the Dunedin Blue Jays.
According to public records previously obtained by the News-Gazette, the Fire Frogs have been operating without an operating license agreement since February, when Osceola County notified the team it was immediately voiding it due to failure to pay its license fees, or rent, for the 2017 and 2018 seasons; a county official sent a “friendly reminder” about the payments in July 2018. A written exchange between the county and Erik Anderson, then the team’s general manager, noted how the county failed to provide or maintain field conditions and “on-site concessions equipment” to “meet the standards set forth in the License Agreement,” and the county’s responses to those concerns.
Last August, Anderson noted the club was withholding its 2018 license fee “as an offset against damages owed to the Club as a result of continuing breaches of the License and Use Agreement by the County,” noting the stadium field’s poor drainage situation (the drainage system was overhauled and the field re-sodded this winter) and lack of group seating areas.