Nationals begin spring training negotiations with Lee County

The Nationals have officially begun negotiations with Lee County and the city of Fort Myers that could lead to the team moving its spring training facility as early as 2014.

According to reports out of Florida, representatives of the Nationals met with Lee County officials earlier today, and the two sides discussed what it would take to get the Nationals to relocate to the spring training complex in Fort Myers which was formerly occupied by the Red Sox.

The Nationals have considered moving to City of Palms Park, but would require some improvements to the current facility. According to the reports, the Nats requested the construction of an adjacent practice field, updates to the clubhouse, berms for extra seating and modern therapeutic equipment.

The Nats have used Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., as their spring training home since the team relocated from Montreal in 2005, but have been searching for a new location due to logistical and travel difficulties. Their closest spring opponents are located in Kissimmee, Fla., and Lake Buena Vista, Fla., which each are about a 75-minute ride from Viera.

Should an agreement with Lee County be reached, the Nationals would have the Twins and Red Sox (who relocated to the brand new Jet Blue Park) as neighbors in Fort Myers, and would also have the Orioles and Pirates within 90 miles.

There are obstacles to the Nationals moving to City of Palms Park, however, the largest of which appears to be financial, as Lee County officials agreed to finance Jet Blue Park and might not have much monetary wiggle room remaining.

The Nationals must remain in Viera at least through spring training 2013, according to their lease with Brevard County. The lease runs through 2017, but the Nationals can get out of the agreement after March 2013, when their annual bond payment of $765,000 ends.

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