Even though pro baseball is highly unlikely to return to Historic Dodgertown, the former home to Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers spring training survives thanks to a shift to sports tourism.
We do get frequently asked if spring training will ever return to Vero Beach, and the answer is always disappointing: it’s highly unlikely that pro baseball will return to Dodgertown. Part of the issue is the market — Vero Beach is pretty small — and part of the issue is that Holman Stadium and Dodgertown don’t have the facilities required by MLB teams, both for spring training and ongoing operations. A spring-training camp must not only host spring games, it must be a year-round development complex for minor and major leaguers, and unless Indian River County has $100 million or so lying around for a facility makeover, you’re not going to see an MLB team interested in setting up training camp at Dodgertown.
But that’s not to say Historic Dodgertown isn’t worth a visit. From Ballpark Digest:
There’s no doubt Historic Dodgertown is one of baseball’s most historic sites, a former naval air station converted to a spring training camp by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 and serving as the team’s spring home until 2008. The camp — unique for its time, complete with barracks, food facilities, workout fields and a golf course — was a key cog in the integration of MLB, giving Jackie Robinson and teammates a sanctuary from the rampant racism of the day.
When the Dodgers left for Arizona, the future of the facility was in doubt. Minor League Baseball took over operations and lost a million dollars over two years before walking away. With the site up barely operational and eyed for potential redevelopment, Peter O’Malley — who spent many of his formative years in Dodgertown — stepped up to present a plan for running Dodgertown as a multiuse sports camp. He enlisted his sister, Terry O’Malley Seidler, as well as two former Dodgers, Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo, and worked with Indian River County (which actually owns Dodgertown) on a redevelopment plan with new fields for softball, soccer, rugby, lacrosse and football.
Sports tourism is a growing industry, and the new Historic Dodgerstown is well-attuned to that trend, attracting a wide range of paying customers, ranging from the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes and Edmonton Eskimos to a Norwegian swimming club. The new Historic Dodgertown isn’t yet profitable, O’Malley says, but a break-even point is possible soon.
If you’re interested in watching a game at Holman Stadium, the High Class A Florida State League annually holds the Jackie Robinson Celebration Game, on the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first MLB game on April 15, 1947.
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