Osceola County rejects Nationals’ spring training plan (updated)

Viera, Fla. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Viera, Fla. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Osceola County (Fla.) commissioners voted 4-1 on Monday night to reject a proposal to build a $98 million spring training facility for the Nationals, dealing a blow to the team’s hopes of leaving its facility in Viera after next season.

Under the proposal, the project in Kissimmee would have been built primarily with tax money from tourism. Including financing costs, Oscoela County would have committed $174 million in taxes from 2014 through 2044 for the project, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Commissioners originally delayed voting on the proposal last month because of concerns over funding and wanted more time to consider the project. According to a Sentinel report, the revised proposal called for the Nationals to kick in another $18 million over the 30-year deal and tack on a county surcharge of $3 per ticket. The changes were intended to generate an estimated $24 million for Osceola County, but officials were still concerned about risk.

“While the Washington Nationals are sorry that we couldn’t come to an agreement with Osceola County, we recognize this was just one option toward finding the right site, deal and partner to build our one-of-a-kind, family-friendly Spring Training and fan experience facility,” the Nationals said in a statement released on Tuesday night. “We would like to thank Osceola County for approaching us about this project and for their professionalism and good spirit throughout the negotiations. We will continue to talk with other interested counties in Florida and Arizona and believe that the appropriate combination of site and investment will pay dividends for the right community long into the future.”

The Nationals and Osceola County had been in secret talks since last fall over a new spring training complex to be constructed in Kissimmee, about 20 miles south of Orlando, on an empty plot of land near an existing spring training facility, Heritage Park, which now houses the Houston Astros.

The Nationals have known only Space Coast Stadium in Viera as their spring training headquarters, but they have wanted to move out of that relatively remote location for years. In late May, the Nationals asked that their lease with Brevard County be amended so they could leave by Nov. 1, 2014. The lease expires on Dec. 31, 2017.

The Kissimmee proposal called for a second major league team, but it appears the chances of landing a team to share the facility took a hit when the Astros announced plans to share a complex in Palm Beach Gardens. The Nationals would have been allowed to design the spring training complex, which called for a two-team facility that included a 8,600-seat stadium, two major league practices fields, major and minor league clubhouses, and eight minor league fields.

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