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Caviar Set Ousts the Cracker Jack Crowd

Fort Lauderdale managed something miraculous in this economic climate. The city wrangled a $15 million tax rebate from the state and hammered together a $40 million deal to renovate its 45-year-old baseball stadium. Plans were finalized that would have provided a very snazzy spring training home for the Baltimore Orioles. It was a 15-year-deal. Everyone was happy.

Except for the super rich.

The stadium and nearby Lockhart Stadium, which doubles as a soccer field and high school football stadium, sits on land officially owned by Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, where the wealthy alight in their private jets.

The Federal Aviation Administration has final say over alterations to airport land. The bureaucracy chewed on the proposal for two years. The city was antsy. The team was antsy. Finally, the FAA said no. Though it was said in an obtuse way.

The feds officially declared that the city and the Orioles deal was okay as long as the city first bumped up the rent. Slightly. From $70,000 a year to $1.3 million. More than an eighteen fold increase.

On Thursday, to the surprise of no one, and to the secret delight of the FAA, the county administrator in Indian River County said he had worked out a counter deal to bring the Orioles to Vero Beach. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, dismayed by the FAA's intransigence, said, "Not only will we lose spring training, but the Orioles were going to build 22 multi purpose fields for soccer, baseball, football, all of them available to the public some of the time, and some of the fields all of the time."

But getting rid of the Orioles will allow the unfettered expansion of private aviation at Executive Airport. Baseball fans lose. But the glitter set won't be inconvenienced.   


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