Potential Sites Still Sought for Spring Training Facility

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Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Palm Beach Post (Florida)
Baseball 'net' includes St. Lucie;
By Tony Doris Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Palm Beach County will cast "a pretty wide net" in its search for a spring training site for the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays -- including asking St. Lucie County if it might have room for two more baseball teams.

County Administrator Bob Weisman and top aides met Tuesday with County Commissioner Hal Valeche to bat around ideas for a good stadium site after Palm Beach Gardens, the teams' favored location, dropped its yearlong effort to contend .

After the hourlong meeting, Weisman said the county will do research and talk to officials in St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties to see whether they're interested in hosting the teams. While he invited calls and expressions of interest, he said it was more likely that public park land would be used rather than that officials would spend for a large private tract.

"I don't think there's going to be money to pay for large pieces of land here," he said.

The fact that neighborhood opposition led Palm Beach Gardens to drop out from the Astros-Blue Jays project during the past month could have a chilling effect on finding a site elsewhere, he added.

"I don't expect the doors to be knocked down for this," Weisman said.

Even when the Roger Dean Stadium site was selected years ago, political support was not unanimous, he noted. Sports boosters liked the idea, for example, but hoteliers didn't think it would generate enough room stays, he said.

Valeche said he hoped to meet with St. Lucie officials within the next week.

Asked whether St. Lucie had the money for another baseball complex -- the New York Mets have a stadium in St. Lucie West, just north of the Tradition development -- Valeche said every government has spending constraints.

"That will be an issue with them or us," he said.

"The overall goal is, to keep baseball here in Southeast Florida, we've got to find the best solution. And that involves casting a pretty wide net."

The president of St. Lucie's Economic Development Council, Pete Tesch, called the invitation welcome news.

"The EDC would be happy to have a dialogue with our public sector partners, namely the county commission, city of Port St. Lucie and city of Fort Pierce, to gauge their interest in that opportunity," he said.

Erick Gill, St. Lucie County's spokesman, said the county last year had a consultant work with the Mets to study what it would cost to bring a second team.

"The cost came back really high" and the proposal "didn't really go anywhere" after that, Gill said. The price came in at about $16 million, he said.

"We certainly want to keep baseball here on the east coast (of Florida), so we're open to suggestions and to working with whatever teams are willing to work with us and make it fit," he said.

Though Palm Beach County owned much of the land in the Palm Beach Gardens site near Central Boulevard, the county's involvement was limited to talking with the city about that site and about how tourist development tax dollars are used to pay off bonds for the county's Roger Dean Stadium.

There is no immediate threat that the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals might leave Roger Dean, "but it is generally accepted that the departure of neighboring teams like the Mets from St. Lucie, or the inability to add future teams in the area, could lead to their departure due to a lack of local competition," Weisman said in a statement after the meeting with Valeche.

"Staff will continue to involve ourselves with this, making contact with relevant parties and considering alternatives."

[email protected] Twitter: @TonyDorisPBP

January 8, 2014


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