Considering there’s no site and no game plan, Palm Beach County showed a surprising amount of enthusiasm for a new Washington Nationals / Houston Astros spring-training complex, with commissioners approving $135 million in public spending.
The margin among commissioners was 5-2. Considering the doom and gloom we heard before the vote — how can we move forward without a site for the complex? — the fact that the allocation from hotel taxes was a little surprising. From the Sun-Sentinel:
“Let’s do it already,” Commissioner Shelley Vana said. “Let’s play ball.”
After striking out on proposed stadium locations in Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach, the teams plan to take up to 90 days to try to find a new site within the county to build a new stadium.
“We have a good starting point,” said Giles Kibbe, who represents the Houston Astros. “We are going to work hard over the next couple weeks [to] try to find the best place.”
The move is a retreat from a desired West Palm Beach site, basically taken off the market after the city granted an exclusive negotiating period to a Boca Raton firm putting together a development and financing. In theory, the Nationals and Astros could wait 90 days to make a move on the property should the Boca plan go down, but it sounds like an impending deadline is more important to heed right now. Earlier Astros owner Jim Crane had stressed the need to close a deal by the end of a year to make a 2017 opening viable, so finding a new site in the next two weeks is pretty much mandatory.
Both teams are not happy in their present spring-training digs: the Astros train at Kissimmee’s Osceola County Stadium, while the Nationals train at Viera’s Space Coast Stadium. Both have been rather public about their desire for a new spring complex.