Spring Training Park Costs Rise to $150M

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Palm Beach Post (Florida)


WEST PALM BEACH -- The final construction tab for The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the new spring training home of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, could go as high as $153 million, an Astros official said.

"I think it's clear that it's going to be in the $150 million range," said Giles Kibbe, the Astros' general counsel. "I am guessing it will be $150 million or $152 or $153 million. I am hoping $152 million at the highest."

Even with the rising cost, the price of the two-team stadium in West Palm Beach pales in comparison to some of the more costly efforts in Arizona. For instance, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which opened in 2011 as the spring home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, cost $226 million.

The local project's initial cost estimate was $100 million when it was first pitched as a two-team facility in Palm Beach Gardens in 2013. Those estimates rose as negotiations continued, to $110 million in 2014, $144 million in 2015 and $148 million in 2016.

No matter what the final cost, Palm Beach County's contribution, $113 million in tourism tax revenue to help finance construction bonds, will not change. Neither will the state of Florida's allocation of $50 million. The county money will be meted out over decades to retire principal and interest on bonds issued to cover construction.

All overruns beyond the $135 million price approved in 2015 will be paid for by the teams.

"There were clearly some adds that we didn't have in the original budget," Kibbe said. "It's all on the teams and it is going to be itemized."

The teams will figure out the final tab later this year, after they finish their first spring training season at the 160-acre facility on Military Trail south of 45th Street. Spring training starts Feb. 14 for the Nationals and Feb. 15 for the Astros.

The overruns do not include the teams' annual lease payments to the county, an average of $2.4 million a year for 30 years. That's the highest team contribution to any spring training complex in Florida or Arizona, according to the Astros and Nationals.

The earliest cost overrun the teams found was the expense of clearing the former landfill. That wound up costing at least $20 million. For some perspective, the total construction cost in 1997 for Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, also a two-team facility, was $28 million.

Before The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the most recent spring training facility to open was Sloan Park, a single-team complex home to the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., in 2014. It cost $84 million.

Some of the Cactus League construction costs are paid for through a hotel tax and car rental surcharges distributed by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority. But considerable money comes from other sources, too.

For example, the city of Glendale paid $200 million to build Camelback Ranch, home of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, according to the Arizona Republic. The city expects to get some of that money back from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority.

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February 1, 2017


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