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Spring training funding on agenda in Palm Beach County

Houston AstrosA request to devote $108 million in hotel taxes toward a new Houston Astros / Washington Nationals spring training complex will be heard today by Palm Beach County commissioners — but it may be too little, too late.

The main issue: the county will be hearing the request without an actual complex location on the table. A proposed site in West Palm Beach fell through, and with the Nats and Astros rejecting other potential ballpark sites in the cities, any decision on funding could be a waste of time. From the Palm Beach Post:

“Now we are being asked to approve all this money and there’s virtually no place to go,’’ said Commissioner Mary Lou Berger. “Is there even a point talking about this? I’m almost to the point of just not seeing the point of this anymore.’’…

Now, the teams are asking for “conceptual approval” of a new financing plan that would allow them to use some of the money to purchase land at an alternative site in the county if the West Palm Beach site ultimately is ruled out.

The latest financing plan, to be considered Tuesday, calls for the county to allocate $108 million in bed-tax revenue through annual payments of $3.6 million a year for 30 years. The teams also want the county to kick in a one-time payment of $5 million toward so-called “soft costs” such as engineering and architectural work….

The strategy, apparently, is for the Nats and Astros to wait out West Palm Beach, which has granted an exclusive negotiating period to a developer seeking rights to a 160-acre site coveted by the teams as a complex home. That’s a risky strategy for two teams wanting to open a new complex in 2017: earlier Astros Jim Crane had stressed the need to close a deal by the end of a year to make a 2017 opening viable.

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