Officials from Palm Beach County met Thursday with representatives of the Nationals and Astros about relocating their spring training headquarters there. The presentation made to the two clubs - who now train in the Florida cities of Viera and Kissimmee, respectively - outlines 10 potential sites from Vero Beach to Boca Raton where they could move and share a facility, according to this story in the Palm Beach Post.
Palm Beach County has focused on sites of at least 100 acres in hopes of constructing a shared facility for both spring training and Grapefruit League games. Locations being discussed also include sites in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.
But, according to the newspaper, Palm Beach County administrator Bob Weisman said that both physical location and financing issues need to be overcome to made a new spring training facility for the Nats and Astros a reality.
“These are both parallel tracks,” Weisman said. “The financing and the site are equally significant issues that need to be resolved. You can’t proceed with one without the other.”
Among those issues discussed with Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner were how the county could compensate for revenue shortfalls - which could be as high as $30 million - and still go ahead with constructing a facility.
State officials want to maintain all the Grapefruit League teams that currently conduct spring training in the state, and moving two teams to the southeastern coast would create a cluster of teams in the same geographic area. If the hurdles can’t be cleared, there are some who worry whether the Nats and Astros might move their spring bases to Arizona, but the Nationals don’t appear interested in moving out of Florida.
Weisman said Palm Beach County would have approximately $2.6 million a year available to help pay for a new facility beginning in 2016, that money coming from a hotel tax.
County officials met this week with state legislators to discuss changing language approved last year in a retention fund that would provide $50 million for two spring training facilities to be paid out over 37 1/2 years. They hope they can reduce that timeline to 25 years or less.
Other options being explored to cover the shortfall changing the state’s spring training funding plan, raising the county tourism tax, establishing a new local tax or increased contributions from the teams involved.
The Nationals are believed to be most interested in a location in Lake Worth in southern Palm Beach County. However, that site is not on the list of potential locations compiled by Palm Beach County officials, who aren’t sure it’s large enough to hold two teams.
A Nationals spokesman told MLB.com that the team would have no comment on a possible move to a new spring training site.
“We are in the process of finding the best long-term options for a spring training and player development facility, and public comment would be premature and unfair to that process,” the spokesman said.