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Osceola rejects new Washington Nationals spring-training complex

Washington NationalsFierce opposition from the local tourism industry caused the Osceola County Board of Commissioners to reject a $98-million spring-training complex for the Washington Nationals.

The proposal would have used tourism funds to build the complex near the current Osceola County Stadium, currently the spring home of the Houston Astros. The funding formula: $88 million from tourism taxes (including much of the funds held in reserve by the local tourism board) and $10 million from the state.

One reason for the rejection: it’s not at all clear whether the county needed the Nats as a spring attraction. Orlando’s spring-break economy is already quite strong, as anyone who descends on the area in March knows, and while in other communities the luring of spring training would have a huge impact on county businesses, the move of the Nats to Osceola wouldn’t necessarily have a huge financial impact on local businesses, no matter what the economic-impact studies argue. From the Orlando Sentinel:

The Nationals, who are focused on a new stadium with revenue-generating amenities, have said they would not be interested in using a renovated Osceola County Stadium, which is across U.S. 192 from the proposed new-stadium site.

Leaders in Osceola’s tourism industry expressed concern that the deal would commit too much of the county’s tourist-tax money to allow adequate funding of Experience Kissimmee, the area’s convention and visitors bureau, and would preclude the county from pursuing any other tourist development projects.

Mark Miller, owner of the Arabian Nights attraction on U.S. 192, said stadium backers were using “theoretical numbers to make this look like a fabulous deal.”

For the Nats, it looks like a return to a new-site search, as we’re guessing a long-term commitment to Viera’s Space Coast Stadium is not in the works. Lee County and Fort Myers would love to make a deal for City of Palms Park, but with no renovation funds available, this is a long shot. The New York Mets have been discussing adding a seconf team to the Port St. Lucie spring training complex, and the Houston Astros still have not formally closed a deal to bring a second team to a proposed Palm Beach Gardens complex, though numerous sources in baseball have pegged the Toronto Blue Jays as being involved in the project.

RELATED STORIES: Osceola County delays vote on new Nats spring facility; Tourism Board approves new Nats spring-training facility; New spring complex pitched for Osceola County; Nats petition to end Viera spring lease; Osceola County solicits bids for new spring complex; End of the line for Space Coast Stadium?; Nats, Osceola County talking new spring-training facility; Nationals in talks for new spring-training site; will leave Viera; Early setback in attempt to keep Nationals in Brevard County; Prepping for spring training; Lee County commissioner: Nats unlikely to move to Fort Myers; Kissimmee pitching two-team complex for spring training; Nats, Lee County to keep continue discussions on spring training; Nats: We’re still interested in Fort Myers — if spring complex is upgradedPro baseball an endangered species in Viera?Twins, Lee County negotiating over player dorms, naming rights at spring-training complexTwins sign 30-year spring-training lease extensionLee County: Twins spring-training improvements hinge on state grantTwins present spring-training wish list to Lee County; Lee County to Nats: We really, really love youIf Nats leave Viera, will other teams follow?Lee County commissioner: “50-50” chance Nats will move spring ops to Fort MyersLee County, Nats to meet about spring training; Lee County applying for state ballpark-improvement grantLerner: Fort Myers is tops on our spring-training wish listGammons: Nats present spring-training wish list to Lee CountyIs Nats, Brevard County marriage over?Nats go public with desire for new spring-training facilityNats, Astros eying new Osceola County spring-training complexCould Cards, Marlins leave Treasure Coast?Kasten: Nats definitely looking for new spring home


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