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West Palm Beach: Another no to spring training

Houston AstrosWest Palm Beach officials dealt another blow to a new Houston Astros/Washington Nationals spring training complex, deciding to enter into an exclusive negotiating period with a rival developer.

Along with Palm Beach County, the Nationals and Astros had proposed a new spring-training complex at a 160-acre site located south of 45th Street between Haverhill Road and Military Trail in the city of West Palm Beach. The $145-million project initially was met with enthusiasm by city officials until the county demanded the prime plot be handed over to the county, which would finance the complex. City officials, who proposed a land swap, decided to go their own way, and the decision to award a three-month exclusive negotiating period to Boca Raton-based Parkside Commons essentially spikes the ballpark project. From Spring Training Online:

The move was not unexpected, as city officials have been warning for weeks about the fact they’d prefer the site stay on city tax rolls as part of a mixed-use development with housing, residential and parks. Boca Raton developer Parkside Commons has pitched the city on such a plan, and the decision last night gives Parkside Commons three months to present a firm development plan, complete with financing….

So what comes next? Palm Beach County, the Nats and the Astros can still come up with a proposal for a spring-training facility and present it to the city. But with Parkside Commons holding exclusive negotiating rights for three months, the earliest the proposal could be heard is the middle of January. That’s later than Nats and Astros officials would like to see a decision; Astros owner Jim Crane earlier this year talked about a decision before the end of the year so a 2017 opening date could be reached.

There is much at stake here, not only for Nationals and Astros fans, but for fans of spring training in general. Right now four teams train along Florida’s Treasure Coast: the Nationals (in Viera), the Cardinals and Marlins (in Jupiter) and the Mets (in Port St. Lucie). Lease clauses in Jupiter and Port St. Lucie allow the MLB to move penalty free if fewer than four teams are training in the region. A move by the Nats to,say, Tampa or the Gulf Coast would allow that clause to be triggered — which means east side of Florida could lose all its spring training.

RELATED STORIES: New spring training plan expected from Astros, Nats in coming weeksAstros: We’ll look at other spring-training sites in Palm Beach County; Astros invoke Arizona move in spring-training discussions; Boca Raton site pitched for new ‘Stros/Blue Jays spring complex; Search on for new Palm Beach County site for ‘Stros/Blue Jays spring complex; Crane: Astros close to finalizing Palm Beach training site; Florida approves $50 million in aid for new Astros, Blue Jays spring-training complex; Big night for Astros; big year ahead; Blue Jays: We’re looking for new spring home

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