Another sign that the Nationals will surely move out of Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., in the near future comes today courtesy of Florida Toady, the daily newspaper serving Brevard County (with a tip of the ol’ ballcap to Federal Baseball).
According to the paper, the Nationals have informed Brevard County commissioners of their intention to exit the facility as early as November 2014. The team’s lease on Space Coast Stadium runs through 2017, but the Nationals can break the agreement early because they’ve paid back $7 million in construction bonds.
The county is reportedly preparing “to play a little hardball” with the Nationals in negotiations. The Nats may cede control of the practice fields, training complex and common areas around the stadium, which would make it more marketable to another major league club or more useful for amateur tournaments. A proposal made by the Nationals has already been tabled at the team’s request, Florida Today reported.
The Nationals want to make a donation to a Brevard County-based charity, but county representatives want a heftier payment to cover maintenance and utility costs at Space Coast Stadium. The Nationals are responsible for those year-round costs, despite the fact that the facility also houses a Single-A affiliate of the Brewers in the Florida State League.
These negotiations, despite their start-and-stop nature, are further proof that the Nationals intend to eventually move into a new facility in an unnamed Florida city. Two weeks ago, we reported that the Nationals were linked to Kissimmee, Fla., an hour west of Viera. The Houston Astros currently train at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, but the Astros are rumored to be departing that site for a new stadium in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., they would share with the Toronto Blue Jays, who would move from Dunedin on Florida’s west coast.
Osceola County might be willing to build the Nationals a new stadium and training facility at the Osceola Heritage Park complex, something team ownership has long desired. Should the marriage between the Nats and Kissimmee come to pass, it would put the Nationals closer to teams in central Florida while still keeping them in driving distance of the east coast teams.
The Nationals have long sought to limit long bus trips during spring training. Currently, their shortest trip is the one-hour trek to Kissimmee. However, if the Astros and Blue Jays move to Palm Beach Gardens, that would add to the number of nearby teams but not really solve the travel dilemma since the Nationals would still be making trips to Jupiter (which houses the Marlins and Cardinals) and Port St. Lucie (Mets). The Nats would be closer to the Braves in Lake Buena Vista and the Tigers in Lakeland.
Update: According to WFTV-TV in Orlando, Osceola County has issued a request for proposals to build a two-team spring training facility in Kissimmee. Osceola County commissioners will meet June 17 to discuss plans for a spring training site.