Mark Lerner: Nationals to stay in Viera at least one or two more years


Nationals spring training in Viera in 2010. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

While the Washington Nationals continue to search for a future spring training home, principal owner Mark Lerner said Friday the team will remain in Viera, Fla., for at least one more year but “probably two more years.” If the Nationals were to get a new spring training stadium built in Palm Beach County, with which they are currently negotiating, Lerner said he doubts the team could move there for at least two seasons.

The Nationals have made no secret about their interest in leaving Viera, where bus rides to the closest Grapefruit League opponent are at least 75 minutes. The Nationals’ lease for Space Coast Stadium doesn’t expire until 2017, but they asked Brevard County officials last May to break their lease after the 2014 season.

After failed relocation proposals in Kissimmee and Fort Myers, the Nationals hired former U.S. congressman and Palm Beach County native Mark Foley to help in negotiations with that county. Lerner and Foley have met  in February with Palm Beach County officials, who are interested in partnering the Nationals with the Astros in a joint facility. The two teams met with county officials and were presented with 10 possible locations in early March.

“We’re still in negotiation,” Lerner said. “I’m sure you guys have read we’re talking to Palm Beach and we still have some discussions going on with Viera. I’m hopeful. It’s been a long process, but hopefully sometime in the next few months, we’ll cut a deal with somebody.”

Brevard County countered last summer by offering the Nationals $29 million in upgrades to Space Coast Stadium, a deal that calls for a new 20-year lease and could potentially accommodate a second team, but the Nationals didn’t respond.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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