Osceola County rejects plans for Nationals’ spring training complex

The Nationals won’t be moving their spring training headquarters to Kissimmee, Fla.

Last night, Osceola County commissioners voted 4-1 against constructing a new complex and stadium for the Nationals, who want to move their Grapefruit League operations out of Viera, Fla. Those commissioners voting against the $98 million deal said that any potential benefits from the project were outweighed by the county’s investment in it.

Monday’s vote followed last month’s 3-2 rejection of the team’s original proposal. After that vote, commissioners agreed on a 30-day extension to allow further negotiations between the county and the Nationals. A motion was made last night to delay a final decision for another six months, but it failed, in part because the Nationals are committed to moving out of Viera and want to get that process under way.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Nationals agreed to pay a higher rent to use the stadium complex and commissioners weighed a $3-a-ticket surcharge that would have raised another $24 million in revenue over the next 30 years. But the alterations to the proposal didn’t garner sufficient backing.

“We will continue to talk with other interested counties in Florida and Arizona and believe that the appropriate combination of site and investment will pay dividends for the right community long into the future,” the Nationals said in a statement issued following the vote.

While the Nationals want to leave Viera, where they train at Space Coast Stadium and an adjacent complex, the fact that they have a lease there through 2017 affords the team some leeway in negotiating for a new spring home. The Nationals can exit their lease with Brevard County early because they have repaid $7 million in construction bonds.

The Nats previously sought to become the third team in Fort Myers, joining the Twins and Red Sox in that city on Florida’s southwest coast, but Lee County officials balked at paying for significant renovations to the vacant City of Palms Park. Lee County instead committed funds for renovations at Hammond Stadium, which houses the Twins.

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