Termites force Apopka to tear down Edwards Field bleachers – Orlando Sentinel

If youre keeping score, its Termites 1, Apopka 0.

The ravenous insects turned the Edwards Field grandstand, where generations of parents in north Orange County watched their kids play ball, into a bug smorgasbord. Termites caused so much damage to the structure over the years that the city has decided to tear it down rather than try to fix it.

Time and Florida weather also have been cruel to the edifice, built in 1970. The wood-and-concrete structure is now considered a liability, city administrator Glenn Irby said. Its become dangerous for local fitness buffs, who sometimes add to cardio workouts by running the steps.

The city has closed the grandstand with wire fencing.

A city inspection estimated the bill would top $500,000 to get rid of the bugs, upgrade bathrooms and make other improvements to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law mandating accessibility for all.

I hate to see taxpayer money wasted and I hate to disappoint the old people who would like to keep Edwards Field, said City Commissioner Billie Dean, 86, the longest-serving City Council member. But it would be wasteful and foolish to take taxpayer money to try and preserve and conserve that little field.

He suggested replacing the grandstand with a memorial, similar to Orlandos plan for Tinker Field, which hosted baseball greats Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron and a civil-rights speech by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964.

Orlando leaders opted to tear down Tinker Fields grandstands in 2015 rather than spend an estimated $10 million to repair the aging ballpark.

I really think Edwards Field should not be a forgotten place, Dean said.

Demolition is much cheaper, with Central Florida Environmental Services guessing it would cost $21,500 to tear down the edifice and haul its remains to the dump.

A demolition date has not been set.

Located on South Highland Avenue, east of Kit Land Nelson Park, the fields havent been the hub of youth sports in Apopka for many years. Most of Apopkas youth leagues play at the Northwest Recreation Complex, which opened on Jason Dwelley Parkway in 2008.

But the history of the eight-acre Edwards Field goes far beyond athletics.

The grounds, named for early 21st-century businessman William Edwards, was converted into a military installation during World War II. It featured soldier barracks, a mess hall, search lights and anti-aircraft guns. The Armys 351st Coast Artillery Search Light Battalion based its operations there in conjunction with the Fighter Command School in Orlando.

We have very few historic buildings and I would say this is one, Apopka history enthusiast Peter Jordan said in an email appealing to city leaders to keep the grandstand.

In his correspondence, Jordan, 49, outlined Edwards Fields historical significance with a timeline dating to the 1880s when baseball was a popular social event in Orange Countys second-largest city.

The field hosted both white and colored teams, though they never shared the playing field at the same time. It also hosted a Fourth of July celebration and boxing matches.

The field was once the heart of Apopka, Jordan said in an interview at Edwards Field. Its sad to see our history just being demolished.

City Commissioner Kyle Becker appreciated the history lesson but said he didnt put the park grandstand in the same historical league as Highland Manor or the Apopka Seaboard Air Line Railway Depot, which was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1993.

Both the manor, now a popular wedding venue on U.S. Highway 441, and the depot, which sits on East Station Street, are part of Apopkas redevelopment plans. Edwards Field wasnt included in the citys future recreation plans.

Earlier this year, while outlining options to the Apopka City Council, the citys chief building official, Raymond Marsh, warned that repairs would be costly, but failing to do something could be costlier if a jogger were injured or someone fell while climbing on the stairs.

What I find perplexing is we had a public place that we think so highly of but its not accessible to people with disabilities, Marsh said.

Apopka will try to even the score with the wood-munchers as the city hired Orkin pest-exterminators to fumigate the 22,500-square-foot police headquarters on Sixth Street.

Staffer Jeff Weiner contributed to this report.

Stephen Hudak can be reached at 407-650-6361, shudak@orlandosentinel.com or on Twitter @Bearlando.

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Termites force Apopka to tear down Edwards Field bleachers – Orlando Sentinel

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