Palm Beach County OKs funds for Nats/Astros spring complex, teams have 90 days to find site (updated)

Palm Beach County commissioners this morning voted 5-2 to approve $108 million in hotel bed tax revenues that will help fund the new spring training facility the Nationals and Houston Astros want to share.

The teams now have 90 days to find a suitable site to build a new stadium, practice fields, offices and other facilities that would be used for both spring training and Grapefruit League games.

"It's a critical step in the success of keeping Major League Baseball on the east coast of Florida," Arthur Fuccillo, a Nationals minority partner, told the Palm Beach Post after the vote. "That was very important and that's what they did today. They basically said we'd like Palm Beach County to become the home of Major League Baseball on the east coast of Florida for decades to come."

The Nationals and Astros had hoped to build the new facility on a 160-acre site owned by West Palm Beach. However, city commissioners last week voted to entertain another offer for the property by a developer who wants to build a mixed-use complex there, and have agreed to discuss selling that land for a period of 90 days.

The planned Nats/Astros complex would allow Palm Beach County to cluster four Grapefruit League teams in a small geographic area, creating a hub for Grapefruit League games and a desirable travel destination for baseball fans. The St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins train and play in Jupiter, home of Roger Dean Stadium. The New York Mets, who have their spring headquarters at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, are the next-closest team training in Florida.

The plan approved by Palm Beach County also includes a one-time payment of $5 million toward costs such as architectural and engineering work. The teams have agreed to reduce the cost of the proposed stadium to $135 million, down from a one-time estimate of $170 million.

With the site the teams preferred likely off the table, the Nationals and Astros will now reconsider sites on a list compiled months ago by Palm Beach County. As a result of today's vote, the teams can use some of the bed tax funds for potential land acquisition.

Update: The Nationals and Astros have issued the following joint statement on today's vote by the Palm Beach County commissioners:

"The Board of Commissioners took a major step today toward keeping the tradition of Major League Baseball's spring training in Palm Beach County and on the east coast of Florida. The teams will now work to find a location here in Palm Beach County that will serve our needs, those of the youth sports commission and area tourism for decades to come. We will continue our efforts to accomplish that goal."

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