With the Washington Nationals stymied in an effort to procure a new Kissimmee spring-training complex, Brevard County officials could offer a $29 million renovation of the team’s current home, Space Coast Stadium.
Of course, all the money in the world can’t move Viera closer to the majority of Grapefruit League teams; you’re still talking over an hour drive to Champion Stadium in Disney World or Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie. You’re talking about an adequate facility in Space Coast Stadium, but not one in a community where fans will spend a lot of time: Viera is a retirement community whose residents don’t give a darn about professional baseball; neither, apparently, do residents of Melbourne or Cocoa Beach, either.
Still, there are some Brevard County officials who want to see the Nats stay; they’ve already presented Nationals officials with a conceptual plan for Space Coast Stadium renovations that basically calls for a refinancing of ballpark debt to fund upgrades, as well as state funds designated for communities to keep spring training. Right now Brevard County isn’t offering any specific improvements, just a funding mechanism:
• The county would refinance the stadium for $13 million. It would pay that debt using $986,900 a year from a portion of the county’s 5 percent tax on hotel room rentals. That’s the same stream of money the county used to finance the stadium’s construction in 1993. The county made the last payments on the construction bonds earlier this year.
• The county would receive a $13 million match from a new state incentive program designed to keep major league teams’ spring training in Florida, rather than moving their operations to Arizona. The money would come to the county in 20 annual installments, beginning the first year of the new lease agreement.
• The county would use $3 million already accumulated from a share of the room tax.
Whether this would be enough to retain the Nationals should be decided quickly: Brevard County officials want to present a funding plan by Sept. 12.
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