We now know what the Atlanta Braves want from a new Palm Beach County spring-training camp: 8,000 seats, a 2,000-capacity berm, a standard six-field training complex and player dorm. But paying for the complex is still a question mark.
The basic game plan was laid out in a meeting between team reps, lobbyists (including Tom McNicholas, who worked with the county on the new Washington Nationals/Houston Astros spring complex opening in 2017) and Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker on Friday. The preferred site is John Prince Park in suburban Lake Worth, but that’s not written in stone. The Braves are searching for a new spring home for 2018 and beyond, as the team’s lease at Champion Stadium in Disney World ends in 2017. Other Florida counties have expressed interest in hosting the Braves — Sarasota County has a site and funding plan for a complex in the southern part of the counties, while Collier County (located on the Gulf Coast, south of Lee County and encompassing Naples) reps have reached out to the Braves — but it’s pretty clear the Braves see Palm Beach County as number one on their wish list.
The preliminary meeting set out a wish list for the facility, but was short on specifics — the team said an architect would be working on a more advanced site plan — and didn’t address the biggest issue for locals: exactly how much the complex would cost and where the funding would come from. The current assumption is that a new single-team complex would cost $100 million, along with the assumption that the county would need to be the major player in financing the facility. Two variables: how much the Braves are willing to pay toward a new complex and whether $20 million in state funding is available (the county would need to apply for the funds, but insiders question whether Gov. Rick Scott would authorize the expenditure — it’s not an automatic release). From the Palm Beach Post:
But as [Braves CFO Chip] Moore and his colleagues walked out of the Governmental Center on Friday, they would not answer questions from The Post about how they would pay for the complex. Indications are the team will seek some contribution of revenue from a local hotel tax. A state law providing $20 million for a single-team stadium is still on the books.
“We are looking at being very creative in finding solutions on how to finance the project,’’ McNicholas said in an interview.
That’s good, Baker said, “because we are limited with our bed-tax dollars.”
If the Braves move back to Palm Beach County — and there’s no reason to doubt John Schuerholz when he said PBC is the preferred destination for the team — there would be six teams training in Palm Beach County and nearby St. Lucie County: the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins in Jupiter, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros in West Palm Beach, the Braves in Lake Worth and the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.
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