The Nationals’ search for a future spring training home has been filled with more roadblocks than victories. But the Nationals’ recent progress in Palm Beach County has brought more optimism than ever. Earlier this month, the Nationals secured another incremental triumph, as the mayor of West Palm Beach, home to the most viable site in Palm Beach County, declared the city was open to negotiating with the county about a needed land swap.
The sense of optimism was tempered some this week when, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, the proposed spring training site will require state approval to mitigate water pollution concerns. Drinking water protections stand in the way of the proposed $135-million spring training facility on 160 acres in West Palm Beach to be shared by the Nationals and Astros. From the Sun-Sentinel:
Moving forward requires the Florida Legislature to shrink a protective zone along the M canal, which borders the southern end of the proposed stadium and community park. The canal delivers water from the Grassy Waters Preserve to the lakes that the city taps for its water supply.
Shrinking the buffer zone alongside the portion of the canal that touches the proposed stadium site would allow room for creating grass parking lots that could double as community soccer fields outside of baseball season. …
The stadium and training facilities would be built on 160 acres at the southeast corner of 45th Street and Haverhill Road. The land was a long-time yard waste dump for the city. The city is asking state lawmakers to shrink that buffer zone along the canal, making it 50 feet wide instead of 450 feet wide.
The dramatic changes to the state’s water laws for this site need special approval. The West Palm Beach City Commission held a special session on Monday to pass a measure, 4-2, urging the Florida legislature to make a change to land regulations ahead of the Feb. 1 deadline to get the bill filed. Team officials said the parking lot area created by a law change is essential to the spring training complex.
The teams hoped to begin construction this spring with a projected completion in 2017 but the needed legislative approval may slow that time frame. State lawmakers don’t meet until March.
Other than that major hurdle, the teams and municipalities have several pieces in place for the site. In October, the county approved $108 million in public funds for what the teams identify as a $135 million-dollar project, pending the availability of an acceptable site. The county and city are still negotiating a land swap: the 160-acre spot in West Palm Beach– known as the Haverhill Site — for nearly two acres of prime downtown land owned by the county.