Baseball or cheesecake? Writes Sam Frank, I’d say they’re aesthetic and moral equivalents, wouldn’t you?
Florida without spring training used to be unthinkable, but the unsentimental fact is that it costs a lot, and places like Winter Haven have turned cynical about the benefits. It took $1.2 million to run Chain of Lakes Park last year, but revenues totaled only $520,000, according to the city. The difference came out of Winter Haven’s general fund, a subsidy for baseball that Mayor Mike Easterling said could not continue.
“If you live here you can’t even enjoy the games unless you’re retired, because most are at 1, 1:15 in the afternoon,” Mayor Easterling said. “Yet John Q. Public, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, are paying for it.”
Instead of the quirky red and blue stadium, the mayor, a retired city employee, envisions “a Cheesecake Factory, a theater, upscale shops of every description” on the 60-acre site. These would make Winter Haven, now more a Wal-Mart than Banana Republic type of town, “a real destination.”