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Astros/Nats spring complex clears second hurdle

have approved a land swap that could lead to a new West Palm Beach Houston Astros/Washington Nationals spring-training complex, with negotiations to come on the term sheet.

Written off by many for dead, the Astros/Nationals plan calls for a $135-million facility in Palm Beach County, which has already committed $108 million in hotel taxes. Palm Beach County wants to trade two acres of prime downtown land to West Palm Beach for 160 acres of less desirable land. West Palm Beach officials had rejected the trade previously, but yesterday the plan the city commission approved a term sheet for the project that allows for the land swap and other financing details. Yesterday the West Palm Beach City Commission approved the land swap; this morning did the same:

What’s next: state approval of a change to an easement on the property (which should not be a big deal) and negotiations for a final lease based on the term sheet, which includes the following:

  • Palm Beach County will finance the project with $135 million in bonds, mostly backed by $108 million from the county’s bed tax. Palm Beach County will also pay $5 million toward planning and preconstruction costs.
  • The state will be asked to pay $2 million a year for 25 years.
  • The lease from the two teams will yield $2.2 million a year for eight years; presumably this number will be adjusted, as the Nats and ‘Stros are signing a 30-year lease.
  • The teams will commit to a 12.2-acre city park as part of the project.

The goal is wrapping up the negotiations and moving forward with a final deal, which means construction on the new facility can begin in time for a 2017 opening.

Getting a team back into West Palm Beach has ramifications past the two teams. Right now there are four teams — Washington, the Mets, St. Louis and Miami — training on Florida’s Treasure Coast. If that number dips to three, those teams have out clauses in their spring-complex leases, freeing them to move elsewhere. A new West Palm Beach complex keeps spring training on the Treasure Coast for years to come.

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