Out at home: Manatees moving to Osceola County in 2017
The Brevard County Manatees have played at Space Coast Stadium since 1994.
The Brevard County Manatees’ postgame fireworks on July 4 at Space Coast Stadium will be the team’s last in Viera.
Officials with the minor league baseball team formally announced June 29 that the squad will move to Kissimmee and begin play at Osceola County Stadium starting in 2017. The team signed a three-year agreement that includes options that could extend the deal to 25 years.
"We're thrilled to be in Central Florida," Manatees team president Joe Harrington said at a press conference at the Kissimmee stadium. "It's a great and growing market with a passionate and diverse fan base."
The Manatees, a Class A Florida State League affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, had played in Viera since 1994. But the Manatees started looking for a new home in Central Florida after the Washington Nationals indicated they would be leaving Viera for a new spring training site.
The Nationals will join the Houston Astros, who formerly played at the 5,300-seat Osceola County Stadium, at a new spring training facility in West Palm Beach starting in 2017.
Plans to move the Manatees to Rollins College in Winter Park fell through in 2014, as did later proposals to build stadiums for the team in downtown Melbourne and at U.S. 1 and Port Malabar Boulevard in Palm Bay.
In 2015, the United States Specialty Sports Association agreed to move its headquarters from Osceola County Stadium to Space Coast Stadium. The USSSA plans to host 175 days a year of youth sporting events at the 8,100-seat stadium and nearby fields along Stadium Parkway. The USSSA presents events in a dozen amateur sports, including baseball, fast- and slow-pitch softball and basketball.
The Manatees will have a new name in Kissimmee and are conducting a name-the-team contest online for fans.
The Manatees’ decision apparently brings an end to decades of pro baseball in Brevard County. The New York Giants, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers and New York Mets once hosted minor league teams in Brevard. The Houston Colt 45s first played spring ball at Cocoa Expo in 1964, as did their minor league squad. The Colt 45s were renamed the Astros in 1965 and trained in Cocoa until moving to Kissimmee in 1985.
In 1993, the Florida Marlins had their first spring training at Cocoa Expo, then moved into newly built Space Coast Stadium the following year.
But there’s still a chance that baseball fans in Brevard can once again root, root, root for a home team. Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher is proposing that a $25 million ballpark and events center be built at Sand Point Park in Titusville to lure another minor league team.