The Nationals, whose desire to move their spring training home out of Viera is well known, asked Brevard County to break their lease for Space Coast Stadium after the 2014 season, three years before the agreement expires. The county’s board of commissioners was scheduled to discuss the Nationals’ request Thursday in a meeting, but the team then asked that the proposal be tabled.
The request, although not considered, is the first clear indication the Nationals hope that next season will be the final one in Viera.
The Nationals have known only Space Coast Stadium as their spring training headquarters, but they have wanted to move out of that relatively remote location for years. According to the proposal, the Nationals asked that the lease with Brevard County be amended so they could leave by Nov. 1, 2014. The lease expires on Dec. 31, 2017.
In addition to requesting that the county assume the responsibility for the complex in the joint agreement, the Nationals proposed donating $50,000 to the county for a charity. According to one county commissioner, the county would be responsible for an estimated $500,000 to $750,000 in maintenance costs for the complex if the Nationals left.
The Nationals have recently been linked to Osceola County and Kissimmee, home to the Houston Astros and about 20 miles south of Orlando. The Nationals had discussed moving to Fort Myers on the west coast of the state but talks fizzled when Lee County officials admitted their budget constraints were limiting how much of the Nationals’ list of renovations and improvements they could meet.
In the eyes of the Nationals, the location is the biggest downside to Viera. (Brevard County officials have tried convincing the Nationals to stay.) The shortest bus trips the Nationals take during Grapefruit League play — to Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista where the Atlanta Braves — require at least an hour and 15 minutes each way. No other team is so distant from its nearest opponent.
Osceola County is expected to hold a special meeting on June 17 to discuss spring training options. The Astros currently occupy Kissimmee’s Heritage Park and, according to the Houston Chronicle, are leaning heavily to leave after their 2016 lease expires. In the past, there had been talk about Kissimmee potentially accommodating two teams and it’s unclear if that is still a consideration.
Heritage Park, part of a multi-purpose complex, opened in 1985 and has undergone renovations since but at 5,300 seats it is among the smallest of spring training complexes in the Grapefruit League.