Palm Beach County to consider spring training proposal by Nationals, Astros

Viera, Fla. in 2011. (Jonathan Newton/WP)

Viera, Fla. in 2011. (Jonathan Newton/WP)

For years, the Nationals have searched for a new spring training home beyond Space Coast Stadium in Viera and failed to pin down a future home. Yet another of the team’s proposals — this time a joint venture with the Houston Astros — will be taken up by Palm Beach County officials beginning next week.

Representatives from the Nationals and Astros are expected to make a presentation to the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council on Sept. 11 about a proposal to share a new spring training facility in West Palm Beach. The Palm Beach County Commission is then expected to see the plans two weeks later.

According to a Palm Beach Post report, the teams will ask for as much as $3 million a year in hotel tax money to help offset the costs of the proposed $140 million facility. The state and teams are expected to cover the rest of the cost. The plan calls for a new two-team facility on 160 acres of city-owned land near Haverhill Road and 45th Street in West Palm Beach, which is about 1-hour, 45-minutes south of Viera and much closer to the Mets in Port St. Lucie and Cardinals and Marlins in nearby Jupiter.

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. Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner and Foley met  in February with Palm Beach County officials. The two teams met with county officials and were presented with 10 possible locations in early March.

In April, Lerner said the team will remain in Viera 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, Lerner said he doubts the team could move there for at least two seasons.

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