The Washington Nationals have a vision of a Fort Myers training base with unified facilities — but it’s questionable whether Lee County has the money to pull off the plan.
One of the big reasons why the Boston Red Sox left City of Palms Park in central Fort Myers: the team’s training facility was a mile or so to the east, leading to a split situation during spring training. And while the Red Sox floated plans to expand the City of Palms footprint onto city-owned land and parking lots, those plans never came to fruition, leading the team to work with the county to build a new spring-training facility, JetBlue Park at Fenway South.
Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals have been openly seeking a new spring-training home to replace Space Coast Stadium and the Carl Barger Complex in Viera, talking with other Florida and Arizona cities in search of an upgraded facility. The Nats’ lease at Space Coast Stadium runs through 2017 but the team can walk away once bonds are paid off in 2013.
The plan presented by Nats officials calls for practice facilities closer to City of Palms Park on city-owned land, with more of a direct route to downtown Fort Myersto the north. Lee County does indeed have money to invest in spring-training facilities past what’s already been committed to JetBlue Park at Fenway South, but so far discussions have centered on spending that tourism tax money on upgrades to Hammond Stadium, the spring home of the Minnesota Twins — a spring facility that certainly could use a facelift.
It should be an interesting discussion. On the one hand, the Twins have engendered a lot of goodwill in working with Lee County on Hammond Stadium issues and patiently waiting their turn for ballpark money while the Red Sox received a spankin’-new facility. On the other hand, there are two county commissioners — hello, Tammy Hall! — completely hellbent on bringing a third team to Lee County and will no doubt scour the county budget for every penny possible to both please the Twins and lure the Nats.
RELATED STORIES: Gammons: Nats present spring-training wish list to Lee County; Is Nats, Brevard County marriage over?; Nats go public with desire for new spring-training facility; Nats, Astros eying new Osceola County spring-training complex; Could Cards, Marlins leave Treasure Coast?; Kasten: Nats definitely looking for new spring home
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