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Pasco County makes pitch for spring training

Wiregrass Ranch

With a proposed Palm Beach County spring-training complex in flux, Pasco County is jumping into the spring-training fray and working with a developer on a 19-field facility in Wesley Chapel.

Wesley Chapel is about 25 miles north of Tampa, in the southernmost part of Pasco County. Wiregrass Ranch, where the facility would be located, is a 5,000-acre mixed-use development.

Pasco County commissioners voted to spend $11 million toward the $34-million cost of the project, which will include nine MLB fields and ten youth fields. The money, from the county’s tourism tax, is contingent on development partner Blue Marble on raising $23 million privately.

The move by Pasco County certainly is well-timed. The Washington Nationals are officially searching for a new spring-training home after informing Brevard County that the team’s days at Space Coast Stadium were numbered. The Milwaukee Brewers are looking for a new spring home and are considered a move to Florida. The Houston Astros have started over on their search for a new complex in Palm Beach County, but there’s no assurance the Toronto Blue Jays would follow, and a move to Wesley Chapel from Dunedin would be a lot less jarring for Blue Jays fans than a move to Palm Beach County from Dunedin. So we’re talking at least three potential lessors for the facility. From the Tampa Tribune:

“We’re elated — ecstatic,” Blue Marble founder James Talton said. “We look calm, but inside, we’re jumping up and down.”…

Talton said Blue Marble has revised its site plan after the size of the park was scaled down to about 120 acres. Space restrictions forced them to add a parking deck and multi-level dormitories to house visiting athletes.

The parking deck would have retail shops, concessions and training facilities — including batting cages — on the ground level, Talton said. The dorms would feature a full-service restaurant and sports bar for spectators and a cafeteria for visiting athletes. Preliminary designs even call for practice fields on the roof and a players’ lounge with comfy sofas and gaming consoles.

RELATED STORIES: Astros: 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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