Nationals’ Kissimmee plans appear back on track

Just when it seemed like the Nationals’ long trek toward a new spring training home had gained some traction, there are indications that the team’s hopes for a new complex in Kissimmee, Fla., may have encountered an unexpected road block.

According to this blog from the Orlando Business Journal, Osceola County has temporarily tabled talks on construction of a new two-team complex that would house both the Nationals and Houston Astros.

The Nationals, who currently play Grapefruit League games at Space Coast Stadium in Viera and train at an adjacent complex, want a newer home closer to more teams than their current site on Florida’s east coast. The Astros, who have long trained in Kissimmee, would benefit from a new facility to replace Osceola County Stadium and upgraded amenities.

However, earlier this week, Osceola County Commissioners voted not to proceed into negotiations with a Dallas-based architect who would be charged with building the new two-team facility.

Why the delay?

Seems commissioners - well, at least a couple of them - want to get more information from the county’s Tourist Development Commission before committing $6.5 million to the project.

According to a study commissioned by Experience Kissimmee, the Nationals-Astros complex, if built, could create 1,600 jobs and generate $72 million to the local economy.

But in the past decade or so, it’s gotten more and more difficult for major league teams to get Florida cities to open up their wallets to fund pricey new digs. This is basically the same problem that thwarted the Nationals’ hopes of relocating to City of Palms Park in Fort Meyers, where they’d have taken over the facility previously used by the Red Sox.

The Nationals can break their current lease at Space Coast Stadium, which runs through 2017, because they have paid Brevard County back for $7 million in construction bonds. They have made known their intentions to leave Viera, perhaps as soon as after spring training in 2014.

Plans presented to Osceola County call for a new, 9,000-seat stadium, 10 practice fields and up to two hotels to be built on a county-owned parcel 1.5 miles from downtown Kissimmee. The architect, HKS Sports & Entertainment, has told the county that it could have the new complex up and running in time for spring training 2015. HSK has previously constructed new complexes for Arizona-based teams costing between $107 million and $139 million.

Update: According to a report from Fox 35 News in Orlando, the Osceola County Tourism Board has approved the proposal for a new spring training complex in Kissimmee by a 4-2 vote. The $98 million project would house the Nationals.

The project will now move on to a vote by the Osceola County Commissioners scheduled for Monday.

You can view an artist’s rendering of the proposed facility here.

The Tourist Board estimates that it will provide $88 million toward the project - $50 million already on hand and $38 million to be borrowed. An additional $10 million will come from state funds designated for the retention of Florida-based spring training teams.

Though the complex has been rumored to house two teams, only the Nationals were mentioned during the presentation to Tourism Board. The Astros have been rumored to be interested in partnering with the Nationals in the new facility, which could be ready in time for spring training 2015.

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