We’re in Florida for spring training, so this story is entirely appropriate: the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros have received preliminary approval from West Palm Beach to begin planning for a new spring-training complex.
The funding for the complex is still to be determined, but the city is giving the pair and their design/engineering teams access to the site to start prepping for construction of the $135-million complex, which could open as soon as 2017. The land transfer between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County still needs to be finalized, and the state legislature needs to sign off on funding (which probably won’t happen until the final days of the current session) and small changes to a water-protection law. But officials apparently are feeling pretty confident about these changes taking place — knock on wood — and are giving the Astros and Nats the chance to begin preliminary measurements and environmental tests. From the Palm Beach Post:
The first players on the 160-acre site south of 45th Street will be engineers, land-planners and appraisers who will start conducting initial measurements and environmental tests on the land, a former landfill….
“It officially allows us on to the property to do our investigation and to do our work,’’ said Art Fuccillo, a Nationals executive. “We are going to go in there and make it happen.’’
But the teams, facing a tight schedule to open in January 2017, want to start now on the preliminary work, which includes appraisals for a land swap with Palm Beach County needed to complete the baseball project.
The aforementioned land swap would give the city 1.7 acres of downtown real estate, with the county receiving the 160-acre ballpark site.
As mentioned, the county has already approved $108 million in hotel/motel taxes toward the project, with $50 million requested from the state from a fund dedicated to new and improved sports facilities. The term sheet covers 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 Nationals currently train at Viera’s Space Coast Stadium and Carl Barger Complex, while the Astros train at Osceola County Stadium. 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 remaining 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 decacdes to come.
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