The Indians took a look around, and decided to start spring training a few hours north in Winter Haven. The move was supposed to be temporary. Homestead understood. The city even sent its groundskeeper up with the team, to make sure the Winter Haven fields were up to par.
But a month after Homestead hosted two full-house exhibition games between the Florida Marlins and the Indians, Cleveland announced it was moving permanently to Winter Haven.
Homestead had been socked again.
We were just plain mad. Mad, Campbell said. We really wanted something sustainable. Thats what we hoped for.
Indians officials did not return calls for comment.
With the rebuilt stadium empty, Homestead officials scrambled to attract a major league team. None would come.
Slowly, the salmon-colored structure that held so much promise for the city became known as the pink elephant. It was costing the city, too up to $500,000 a year, at a time when Homestead was on the edge of bankruptcy.
From 1994 to 2000, the field saw occasional use: college ball, a summer amateur league, a womans professional team, the Homestead Challenge Tournament. But by 2001, the city had to mothball the stadium after entertaining offers to sell it to a former University of Miami basketball coach, the Homestead-Miami Speedway and even a military-type religious camp.
Other ideas were floated, such as imploding the stadium to turn it into a regional park.
For years, Homesteads pink elephant received only the most critical maintenance.
We would just put rouge and lipstick on her every year, and fix her up the best we could so that we could continue to rent it out, said Waldman, the current city council member, who has taken to calling the structure my girl.
But in 2011, the city thought salvation had come in the form of Miami lawyer John H. Ruiz and La Ley Sports. Ruiz had built a name for himself as a Spanish-language TV foreclosure lawyer. He was looking for a home for his latest business venture: a sports broadcasting and stats-gathering company. He bid on the stadium, offering to lease it at first and buy it in a matter of years, while promising at least $2 million in repairs in exchange for two years of free rent.
The Homestead complex would kind of be like an ESPN Wide World of Sports, Ruiz told the Herald at the time.
Waldman and the rest of the council were impressed, voting to hand the stadium over to Ruiz in July 2011.
Warned Waldman at the time: Shes expensive.
Im used to that, Ruiz responded.
Progress came quickly most notably when La Ley painted over the once-derided pink exterior with red-and-white. The field was restored, 169 frogs were removed from four feet of standing water in the dugouts and dead pigeons were scooped out of the long-dormant speakers, Ruiz said.
The electric systems were not working properly. The plumbing was a disaster. The sprinkler systems in the field were not functioning. The grass was knee high. The suites were destroyed. The drop ceiling was falling all over the place, Ruiz said. So we had to redo the entire, entire, entire, entire thing.
But Waldmans earlier warning would soon ring true.
Ruizs company at first failed to carry property insurance which had been so crucial after Hurricane Andrew and then asked the city to drop his requirement in his lease to do so. The city refused, though Ruiz asked three times.
La Ley fell behind on its utility bills, and according to the city, still owes tens of thousands of dollars even after it was found that the city had overbilled. Then the city found out Ruiz had sublet the stadium to a company that had underage ball players living in the locker rooms. The city, citing the sublease and a host of other issues, declared La Ley in default on its lease.
Ruiz filed two lawsuits against Homestead, leaving him in something of a standoff with city officials.
The stadium, meanwhile, seems stuck in limbo again. Though Ruiz has sunk millions of dollars into repairs, the white columns that mark the entrance are crumbling at the bottom, and a wall of translucent glass blocks is shattered. The ticket counters are shuttered for use as a broom closet. A media room with marble floors and granite countertops has a leaky roof and sagging, moldy ceiling tiles.
Ruiz is undeterred. He points to the summer tournament that draws a small, but steady crowd. He has plans for the land around the stadium a hotel, football fields and says he plans to broadcast sporting events to a world-wide audience from small city of Homestead.
He will not be one more person to walk away from Homesteads stadium, he says.
Im a visionary, and I dont give up, Ruiz said. Every day it gets better.