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Astros, Nats renew efforts on Palm Beach County spring training complex

Houston AstrosWell, that didn’t take long: Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and Washington Nationals general partner Art Fuccillo met this morning with Palm Beach County officials about financing a new spring-training complex.

Crane has long targeted Palm Beach County as the site of a new Astros spring-training complex, first with the Toronto Blue Jays and now with the Washington Nationals. Both are seeking a new home after expressing dissatisfaction with Osceola County Stadium (Astros) and Space Coast Stadium (Nationals). The initial effort to build a complex in Palm Beach Gardens fell through after locals opposed its location near a school and some county politicos questioning whether potential state money for a facility would actually come through.

As it turns out, fears about the lack of state funding were well-founded, and the Florida State Legislature addressed the issue with new legislation this session that increased state funding of sports facilities and expanding the list of potential recipients after framing the issue as an economic-development move. Projects between $100 million and $200 million — and it’s expected a two-team complex would cost at least $100 million and probably closer to $140 million — would apply for sales-tax rebates of up to $2 million a year. We reported yesterday on how the legislation could benefit Palm Beach County.

So, with the legislation in place, Crane and Fuccillo met with Palm Beach County officials this morning to financing a new facility. There’s no immediate urgency to talks, but there is a deadline of sorts: Both teams would like to see a new complex in place for 2016 or 2017, and that means a financing deal would need to be in place by the end of the year.

Speaking of the Nationals: It’s no secret that the team is seeking to leave Space Coast Stadium, and the future of that facility is in serious doubt after the Brevard County Manatees (High Class A; Florida State League) took another step closer to a move to Winter Park in suburban Orlando in 2016. With the Manatees on the way out and the Nats looking to exit as well, talk in Viera is that the ballpark could be downsized and used for youth tournaments and recreational purposes. Now, youth tournaments are a significant part of the Florida economy — both in baseball and soccer — and old spring facilities like Terry Park, Dodgertown and Chain of Lakes Park have been revitalized by youth baseball tournaments.

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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