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Osceola in jeopardy of losing U.S. Specialty Sports Association

Osceola County will have to step up to the plate with a better economic development offer this year to keep the United States Specialty Sports Association, which is a step closer to moving its $37 million in annual economic impact to Brevard County, a lead official told GrowthSpotter.

USSSA, which organizes amateur sporting events throughout the year and had a $37 million impact on Osceola's economy in 2013, per county records, is headquartered at a 12,000-square-foot, two-story building at Osceola Heritage Park.

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Based in Osceola since 2003, the association has a lease on that building through Jan. 31, 2018, but has the option to leave at the end of 2016 if the park ends its relationship with a major league baseball team for spring training. The Houston Astros have been planning to leave Heritage Park after the 2016 or 2017 spring seasons for Palm Beach County, the Orlando Sentinel has reported.

USSSA has been negotiating for months with Brevard County to move to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, if and when it ends a lease in Osceola. The Brevard County Commission approved a memo of understanding on May 26 to work on a deal to bring USSSA to that stadium.

"The biggest thing they have been looking for is more fields, and that is what we're lacking in (Osceola)," said Don Miers, Osceola County's director of sports facilities. "We've proposed building more, but nothing has ever come to fruition, as the BCC (Board of County Commissioners) has voted it down in the past."

"Brevard is offering to build them something right now, so we need to be able to offer them something to stay in the game," he continued. "We're in the process of talking to USSSA about that. We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

Osceola County's lease with the Houston Astros expires this year, but one-year extension options exist for the next two seasons. The team is expected back next season, but after Spring 2016 remains in doubt.

USSSA would sign a 20-year lease with Brevard County to move to Space Coast Stadium, where it would take 19 full-time employees and operate the public stadium, according to the memo from Brevard County.

Brevard will invest $10 million to improve the facility so that USSSA can hold more youth events, which includes adding 600 seats and adding new fields with synthetic turf.

Osceola's BCC voted against building a multi-field sports complex for USSSA on the Judge Farm property in 2012. It's where the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center is now being built, and other plans for long-term business development are under way by the county.

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USSSA President and CEO Don DeDonatis did not return calls for comment.

bmoser@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5685

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