Arizona for the Nationals’ future spring training site? Far less likely

The Nationals in February 2011 at their spring training site in Viera, Florida. (Jonathan Newton/WP)

In March of 2011, Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner clearly stated the team’s intentions of eventually moving out of Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., because of it’s far-flung location and that the team was exploring potential relocation sites elsewhere in the state and Arizona. The Nationals have been interested in the former Boston Red Sox complex in Fort Myers, City of Palms Park on the west coast of Florida and closer to other major league teams in the Grapefruit League, but Lee County’s strapped finances could affect the team’s interest.

Arizona, however, has yet to be officially and publicly ruled out. Lerner said then that the Nationals’ preference was to stay in Florida, but that the team had toured potential sites in Florida and Arizona. While Arizona seemed unlikely then — because the Nationals would be the team furthest east to train in the state if they moved there and fans would have to make a longer trip from Washington — it still appears unlikely now. Mark Coronado, the president of the Cactus League Association, said Thursday that he knows of no talks with the Nationals about sites in Arizona.

The Cactus League has 15 teams, an uneven number that makes scheduling difficult — but, at the moment, there are no unused sites. The Chicago Cubs play at HoHoKam Park in Mesa but will move to a new facility in the city in 2014. The Oakland Athletics, who play in Phoenix Municipal Stadium, have been interested in the facility the Cubs will vacate.

Lerner said then that Arizona was attractive because many of the teams were closer to each other and the weather was more consistent and favorable. But, it appears, the mention of Arizona as an option may just have been part of the Nationals’ doing their due diligence on possibilities and/or leverage in negotiations. For now, given the Nationals’ interest in Fort Myers and their current lease with Viera, Florida seems like the current and future home for spring training.

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