Nats’ spring training plans hit “roadblocks,” aka “nobody will open their damn wallets”

There’s a long post on today’s Washington Post site about the poor Washington Nationals, whose plans for having Osceola County spend $98 million on building them a new spring-training facility in Kissimmee fell apart last summer over Osceola County not wanting to give them $98 million, and who ever since have been striking out at finding someone else to throw money at them:

Deals for a more ideal location, empty City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, have now fallen apart twice, including a recent proposal that involved a private developer who county officials thought would help make the project possible…

The Fort Myers site re-emerged as an option in August when a private development company, Rockford Construction, joined talks at officials’ requests. County officials hoped that a public-private partnership as part of a mixed-use project that featured the stadium as a centerpiece could be the solution to their financial concerns. But the project hit a major snag last week when officials told Rockford that they didn’t find the developer’s funding proposal feasible.

According to a Jan. 29 letter from Fort Myers City Manager William Mitchell to Paul Roberts, a principal at Rockford, the developer proposed that the city essentially finance the entire cost of the $45 million in refurbishments. By adding that to the existing debt, the city’s total debt on the project would be between $53 million and $56 million, according to the letter.

Now, writes the Post, the Nationals have “few known options.” Aside from, hmm, let’s see, staying at their existing spring training site that’s only 21 years old, or, if being a long bus ride from other teams’ facilities is such a huge deal-breaker, maybe building a new spring training site with some of their own money. But those aren’t “solutions” in the mind of team execs, so far be it from the Post to mention them, either.

6 comments on “Nats’ spring training plans hit “roadblocks,” aka “nobody will open their damn wallets”

  1. Neil, you might want to check in on the Astros and Blue Jays’ spring training plans for 2017. The current tennants of Osceola County Stadium were supposed to go to West Palm Beach but then the locals noticed that two baseball teams were coming to dinner and didn’t appreciate the plan. It’s a local election year and so the plans are now on-hold

    It will take about two years to build the new dual spring training site, so time is starting to get short. Don’t know how the Astros lack of plans would have changed the Nats future plans if the Nats had agreed to move to Kissimmee??

  2. The Nats do have a couple options, there is money available in the Tampa area and the Palm Beach area needs them to stay on the Atlantic coast or they will lose the Marlins, Cardinals, and Mets who all have out clauses if there are only three teams left on the coast. Of course the Nats ownership operates under an extreme sense of entitlement and they are going to make every effort to squeeze out a free ballpark from one of the counties down there.

    When they do get a deal proposed it’ll be fun sending notes down to the locals about how the Lerner family refused to pay rent at the new ballpark in DC for the first year and actually billed the city for the team uniforms claiming that they were part of the maintenance cost for the building.

  3. Commenting here because comments are closed on the older Nats posts:
    1) Great Op-ed piece, it’s a shame that the Post killed it, but they are very pro-public funding for stadiums, their soccer blogger practically demands public funding for the United on a daily basis. One point you missed was the MASN deal, Anthony Williams signed away the team’s TV rights while at the same time as he gave away the $667 million ballpark, several council members called attention to the TV rights issue but Williams got the deal pushed through anyway.

    2) After the request for the new roof rumor is that the Nats are going to ask for 4,000 more seats to be built in left field. Meanwhile the team is holding their annual convention outside of the city and filing protests against bars trying to open in the ballpark area.

  4. The Nats have hired Congressional page chaser Mark Foley to help them land a ballpark in Palm Beach. Probably he has a lot of dirt on local politicians.

  5. Palm Beach County has identified ten sites for the Nats and Astros, all they need is to make up for a $50 million shortfall in funding. Options are to raise taxes or ask the teams to chip in, wonder which one of those they’ll pick.

  6. The Nats and Astros met with Palm Beach County last week and the results were discussed on a PBC meeting yesterday. The numbers are real fuzzy, there is a $30-50 million funding gap, but the expected cost is $100-140 million, how can the range of the gap be less than the range of the expected cost? The city is exploring tax increases to pay for the ballpark, meanwhile they still need to fund improvements to their existing stadium. One option discussed is to have the teams pay 5-10% but based on their response to Osceola, the Nats have no interest in paying for anything other than the owner’s suite. Another issue is that the county will need the state to decrease the time period for the state contributions from 50 to 25 years, which I’m not sure if they even qualify since the state funds are not supposed to be used to poach a team from another county.

    One thing that PBC does have going for it is that they’d have four teams in two ballparks as opposed to Fort Myers where they have two teams in three ballparks.