The Homestead Police Department is settling into some new office space overlooking a baseball field.
Homestead police are moving out of their old headquarters in the historic downtown this week and into a temporary station inside the Homestead Sports Complex, an old baseball stadium originally built to attract a Major League Baseball team down south for spring training.
“Everyone is happy about it,” said Lt. Scott Bell, who is in charge of facilities. “We were packed in a tiny space. Here, we have the freedom to operate more efficiently.”
The city had been planning to build a new police station for some time. The previous 103-year-old facility has mold, water damage and radon gas levels five times higher than normal, which can cause lung cancer from prolonged exposure.
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Residents approved a bond referendum in May 2014 to increase the property-tax bill by 82 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value to raise $18 million for a new police station and $3 million to set up a temporary station in the sports complex.
While the city moves along with the plans to build a new station, all police department operations will be housed in the stadium until the new facility is ready.
Although it seemed unconventional, the baseball stadium is definitely an upgrade for the police staff, Bell said.
The 155-acre stadium site, 18 acres of which is leased to the Keys Gate Charter School, gives the police department space they never had at the old station.
With the extra space, the department replaced small cubicles for new desks. There was also enough room in the facility to build six jail holding cells, and the open space around the stadium can be used for police and K-9 training.
“What we did was take what existed and changed it up a bit,” Bell said.
For example, the contractor split the executive seats to become offices.
The move has brought new life into the sports complex, which has been mostly unused since it was built in 1991 with $21 million in county tourism tax dollars to host spring training games for the Cleveland Indians. After Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, the team relocated to Winter Haven and now trains in Arizona.
Since then, the aging stadium has been a financial burden to the city — costing about $ 357,000 a year — even when it was leased between 2011 and 2013 to La Ley Sports, a media company that broadcasts high school baseball games and tracks statistics.
City officials had hoped to eventually sell the stadium to La Ley, but shortly after, they declared the company in default of its lease for subletting the stadium to a company that had underage ball players living in the locker rooms, among other issues.
Now the city has found a good use for the facility — at least for now.
“This put us somewhere, and we get a full-fledged city facility back,” Bell said. “We didn’t modify too much. We don’t know what it’ll be used for later.”
Homestead Police Department
The Homestead Police Department station is now at the Sports Complex.
Address: 1601 SE 28th Ave., Homestead, 33035.
Phone number: 305-224-5515
More information: http://www.cityofhomestead.com/