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Could Cards, Marlins leave Treasure Coast?

Roger Dean Stadium

The lease at Roger Dean Stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins expires in 2017, but before committing to an extension the teams want protection that they’re not the last two teams left standing on the Treasure Coast for spring training.

Roger Dean Stadium is surely the center of the busiest ballpark complex in professional baseball: besides hosting the Cards and Marlins for spring training Roger Dean also hosts two High Class A Florida State League teams — Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals — as well as extended spring workouts and Gulf Coast League games.

That all could end under the right circumstances. First, let’s lay out the fact that neither team is looking to end its association with Roger Dean Stadium: there’s a high level of comfort there for both teams, and having such a centralized setup (the two teams share some staffers, including a GM for both minor-league teams) makes economic sense.

Still, both teams want to see some improvements to the ballpark and complex. Palm Beach County is willing to discuss these improvements on one condition: that the teams extend their leases through 2027.

The issue for both teams, we’re told: they’re very, very aware that spring training has been moving away from the Treasure Coast. Right now only Washington and the Mets train in the area now that the Orioles and Dodgers are gone, and the Nationals ownership has not been shy about expressing interest in moving away from Space Coast Stadium and Viera. Both teams, we’re told want an out clause if either Washington or the Mets move, not unlike the clause the Diamondbacks and Rockies had with Tucson for spring training.

Having four teams in a cluster does make some scheduling sense, particularly for the nuts and bolts of spring training, like minor-league games. (Of course, the downside is that these four teams play each other a lot during spring training.) Take a team away, and all of a sudden there will be regular travel to Orlando or Lakeland. Spring training has been shrinking both in Florida and Arizona with no ill effects, and if the Nats are successful in finding a new spring home closer to the Gulf Coast, then you will likely see the Cards contemplating a return to the Gulf Coast and Jeffrey Loria resigning himself to a longer car ride for a Fish spring game.

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