Another obstacle for planned Nats/Astros spring complex in Palm Beach County

The Nationals' hopes to partner with the Houston Astros on a shared spring training complex in Palm Beach County have run into another obstacle: West Palm Beach, which owns the 160 acres the teams are targeting, is considering a $14 million offer for the property from a developer who wants to build there.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, city commissioners in West Palm Beach have decided to pursue a deal that would place town houses, retail businesses and a new park on the tract, located south of 45th Street between Haverhill Road and Military Trail.

But the mayor of West Palm Beach left open the possibility that the parcel could still be used to construct the stadium, practice fields and team complexes that would result in the Nationals moving from their current spring base in Viera and the Astros relocating from their spring training facility in Kissimmee.

The issue apparently is money. The teams want Palm Beach County to pay for and build a $140 million complex, a plan that would require West Palm Beach to contribute the property. Only now, someone else may be willing to pay West Palm Beach for that land.

"Show us the money," the Sun-Sentinel quoted West Palm Beach mayor Jeri Muoio as saying in reference to potential suitors for the land. "We have someone willing to pay for this site. ... It checks a lot of boxes for us."

City commissioners will spend the next 90 days trying to reach an agreement with the potential developers for the parcel, but will continue to entertain other offers for another 30 days after that period, according to the paper.

The Nationals, who have honed in on Palm Beach County after attempts to work out arrangements for a new Grapefruit League home in both Fort Myers and Kissimmee failed, continue to believe they can make the deal work at the West Palm Beach location.

"We hope to still look at this site," Arthur Fuccillo, a partner in the Nationals, told the newspaper. "We are very, very hopeful to be in Palm Beach County."

SpaceCoastStadiumExterior.jpgThe Nationals have long sought to move closer to other teams that utilize Florida for spring training. Currently, their closest trip from Viera is a 75-minute ride to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee. Should they work out a deal with Palm Beach County, they would be a short drive from Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter (which houses the Marlins and Cardinals) and about 45 minutes from Port St. Lucie (spring home of the Mets). That would put five teams in a small geographical area.

Several options have been discussed that could make the proposal by the Astros and Nationals more palatable to Palm Beach County, including scaling back plans for the new stadium complex, asking the teams to foot more of the bill and seeking more public funds for the project.

In September, the Astros and Nationals proposed that the teams and the state would pay about 49 percent of the project's cost, with Palm Beach County using money from a hotel tax to fund a bulk of the remainder. But those figures would require the county to increase revenue from hotel stay taxes to cover an estimated additional $24 million in costs. If those revenues aren't realized, the county would need to cover the difference with public funds.

The County Commission will again consider the stadium proposal on Oct. 21.

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