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Nationals and Astros reach naming rights deal for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

(John Bazemore/Associated Press)

The Washington Nationals, long engrossed in a off-and-on hunt for a naming rights deal for Nationals Park, took less than a year to agree to such an arrangement for their new spring training home. The Nationals and their fellow tenants, the Houston Astros, reached a 12-year deal to sell the naming rights to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to FITTEAM, a fitness beverage company located in nearby Palm Beach Gardens. The terms of the deal — both in terms of revenue and how it will be split — were not disclosed. The teams will unveil the new stadium name — FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches — at a joint event at the facility next week.

The teams expressed interest in a naming-rights sponsor as soon as the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches was completed, just ahead of spring training 2017. While the rushed construction necessitated repairs in recent months, and although Hunt Contracting is embroiled in lawsuits about the project according to reports by the Palm Beach Post, the facility was fully functional for the official opening of camp this week.

The Nationals and Astros paid about one-third of the initial $135 million cost of the facility, as well as construction overages, which people familiar with the situation estimated at about $15 million last spring. Exactly how much they will receive from the naming rights deal annually remains unclear, though the Detroit Tigers sold their facility’s naming rights to Publix for a deal worth $3 million over 15 years, according to reports. The New York Mets recently agreed to a 10-year deal to rename their spring training home First Data Field, though the financial terms of that deal have not been disclosed, either.

“We are excited to be partnering with a local brand that shares our commitment to the West Palm Beach community,” Alan H. Gottlieb, the Nationals’ chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Nationals spring training begins

Nationals manager Dave Martinez watches pitchers run sprints during a voluntary workout for the team the day before mandatory practice for pitchers and catchers begins at the team training facility in West Palm Beach. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Whatever the terms, they will not exactly provide a windfall to the Nationals, who have been hoping to get one for quite some time, whether from selling their D.C. naming rights and/or settling their dispute with the Baltimore Orioles over revenue from Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. Earlier this offseason, neither situation seemed near a resolution.

But any revenue will help, particularly as the Nationals are preparing their biggest-spending season to date. They crossed the competitive balance tax threshold for the first time in team history last season and finished with a payroll around $200 million — the fifth-highest in baseball, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Though many players — Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Madson, Shawn Kelley and others — are entering the last year of their deals, at least some portion of the payroll shed when those players go elsewhere will likely be dedicated to bidding on the most heralded free agent class in history next winter.

The Nationals and Astros become the eighth and ninth of 13 Grapefruit League teams to sell the naming rights to their spring training venue.

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