The Osceola County Board of Commissioners met tonight to discuss whether to proceed with a $98 million proposal to construct a new spring training facility for the Nationals in Kissimmee, Fla., but delayed until Aug. 19 a vote on the matter.
By delaying the vote for slightly more than a month, reported the Orlando Sentinel, the commissioners will allow taxpayers, opponents of the proposed complex and the Chamber of Commerce of Kissimmee/Osceola County additional time to review details of the plan.
The Nationals have announced their intention to move their spring training base from Space Coast Stadium in Viera on Florida’s east coast because of their remote location in relation to other Grapefruit League teams. The team has apparently been in negotiations with Osceola County for about a year, but negotiations were shrouded under a confidentiality agreement that only recently was disclosed as public review of the plans began.
The Sentinel reported that commissioners voted 3-2 Monday night against approving the proposal, which would build a new stadium, practice fields and training facility across U.S. Highway 192 from the Osceola County Stadium where the Houston Astros currently conduct spring training. The Astros are rumored to be moving to a new facility in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., which could be shared with the Toronto Blue Jays, who would move across the state from their current spring headquarters in Dunedin.
While commission chairman Frank Attkisson raised questions about the feasibility of committing a bulk of the new facility’s price tag through the collection of tourist tax dollars, Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner pledged to continue to work with Osceola County to make the Kissimmee deal a reality.
“The Washington Nationals are optimistic that we are a step closer to bringing Osceola County a one-of-a-kind, family-friendly spring training and fan-experience facility,” Lerner said, according to the Sentinel. “We will continue to work together with Osceola County toward the common goal of making this the best spring training facility in Major League Baseball.”
The Nationals’ lease at Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County runs through 2017, but they can break it early because they have already paid back $7 million in construction bonds.
The Astros were long thought to be willing to partner with the Nationals in a two-team facility in Kissimee, but those plans now seem unlikely with their planned move to Palm Beach Gardens when their current lease expires in 2016. An artist’s rendering of the proposed new Kissimmee complex lays out a stadium and practice fields for the Nationals, and shows space for additional fields should a second team join the Nats.