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Land swap back on table for ‘Stros/Nats spring facility

Proposed Washington Nationals/Houston Astros spring facility

A land swap once rejected by Palm Beach County is back on the agenda and could lead to a new Houston Astros/Washington Nationals spring-training complex in West Palm Beach.

The Nats and Astros have proposed a new spring complex on 160 acres of city-owned land south of 45th Street in West Palm Beach. The teams and the city have proposed trading two acres of prime downtown land for the 160 acres, but county officials have rejected the swap, instead targeting the large parcel for redevelopment. And the county is in the midst of an exclusive negotiating period with a Boca Raton developer for the site.

But apparently things are not going well with the developer, and the Nats/Astros team has sweetened the offer by including an eight-acre park as part of the spring-training development. Put the two together, and all of a sudden the original rejected deal is looking better to county officials. From the Palm Beach Post:

“I think when they look at our proposal and they see all the economic impact and all the benefits to the city, the revitalization to the city, they will be very excited about our project,” said Giles Kibbe, general counsel for the Astros.

But the swap is far from a done deal. And some county commissioners indicated they would like the city to consider donating the land — which the city has refused to consider in the past — since its residents and businesses will benefit most from fans and teams using the spring training complex….

The County Commission on Oct. 21 agreed to allocate $108 million in revenue from the county’s hotel tax to help finance a spring training baseball facility on the condition the teams find a location for the project within the next 90 days. On Tuesday, the commission said it would be open to extending that deadline to accommodate the teams’ planned presentation to the city.

Bringing in the Astros and Nationals is key to keeping spring training in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins train in Jupiter, while the New York Mets train in Port St. Lucie. All three have leases that can be broken should fewer than four teams train in the area. The Nationals train in Viera; a move from the area would trigger these clauses. And time is now of the essence: both teams want to see a new spring facility open in 2017, and that means some sort of deal needs to be in place at the beginning of the coming year.

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