With COVID-19 impacting Palm Beach County tourism, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium upgrades will be put off for now, as the status quo for the spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins continues.
A $108-million renovation plan was approved by Palm Beach County to address both team and fan amenities, with the plans calling for the demolition of existing clubhouses to make room for additional outfield seating, replacement clubhouses, free WiFi, relocated bullpens, new scoreboard; new groups spaces and other improvements. (Already cut from the project, surprisingly: a 360-degree wraparound concourse.) Funding would include revenue from county’s tourism (hotel/motel) tax, augmented by a state fund designed to help communities retain spring training.
The improvements were to allow the Cardinals and the Marlins to keep pace with other MLB teams enjoying new and renovated facilities. Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium originally opened in 1998, with the Cardinals beginning spring training operations at the facility that year and the Marlins replacing the Montreal Expos in 2003.
But with COVID-19 curtailing travel and tourism taxes down by tens of millions, the project is on hold, and the whispers now confirmed by the county that it could be four or five years until improvements come along. From the the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
The pandemic has “certainly put a strain on us being able to resurrect [the project] and move forward on this right away,” said Glenn Jergensen, director of the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council….
Palm Beach County saw a 20 percent dip last year in “bed tax” dollars, which are taxes associated with hotel rooms and short-term rentals, and constitute the majority of the project’s funding.
That’s placed the county in “recovery mode,” said Jergensen, who added that the county had to dip into its reserves last year. As a result, it could be 2025 or 2026 before work actually begins on the stadium, which hasn’t seen any major renovations since opening in 1998.
As of right now the county is forecasting some $45 million in bed taxes in 2021, down some $9 million from 2019.
The works was originally set to begin in 2021 and continue through 2022. Despite a delay, Palm Beach County may not have much of a choice in committing to the renovations in a few years. The lease for both teams ends in 2027, and the renovations were contingent on both teams committing to a new lease through 2048.
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