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Florida approves new Nats/Astros spring training complex

New West Palm Beach spring training complex

Despite a deeply contentious end of session, the Florida Legislature approved changes in zoning to allow construction of a new Washington Nationals/Houston Astros spring training complex in West Palm Beach.

Yesterday the Senate approved HB 1213, which changes the boundaries of the water cachement area in West Palm Beach, allowing 27 acres of land to be incorporated into the Nats/Astros spring-training site. The total area of the $135-million project: 160 acres. You can see an early site plan above; the design work is from HKS. From the Palm Beach Post:

The bill was necessary, because no actual construction could start without tweaking the law that created the catchment area, home of West Palm Beach’s water supply. The bill sent to Scott reduces the protective zone separating the south end of the property from the canal.

Giles Kibbe, general counsel for the Houston Astros, speaking on behalf of both teams, said the teams had been concerned this week with all the drama between the chambers. “A little bit of a curveball,” he said.”But I’m glad to see it was all resolved.”

If the water bill had languished, Kibbee said he didn’t think the project could have gone forward for another year.

While this bill in and of itself wasn’t necessarily controversial, there was always the danger it would be lost in the chaos always accompanying the end of a Florida legislative session. This year’s session was especially chaotic: the state House adjourned three days early, earning the wrath of senators who say it was an unconstitutional move. And there are far larger issues at play with this spat: the two bodies are feuding over the future of Medicare in the state, a place where ideology clashes with real-world concerns.

With the passage of this bill and the expected signing by Gov. Rick Scott, work can proceed on the project. Some site prep work has begun, and look for a big groundbreaking this fall in anticipation of a 2017 opening.

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 decades to come.

RELATED STORIES: Landfill next obstacle for Nats/Astros spring complex; Planning for new Astros/Nats complex to begin; Astros/Nats spring complex clears second hurdle; New Astros/Nats complex gets first approval; Astros, Nats spring complex back in play; 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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