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Palm Beach Post (Florida)


In a move that's nearly two years late, city officials have issued the final certificate of occupancy for the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

The certificate was supposed to be issued when the $153 million complex opened in February 2017. But a series of construction problems, including shoddy work from contractors scrambling to finish the mammoth project under a tight deadline, delayed the final issuance until Friday.

The facility, west of Interstate 95 and south of 45th Street, has hosted two spring training seasons under temporary certificates of occupancy. Most of the problems that delayed the final CO were in areas that did not pose a danger to the public.

Some of those construction problems are still playing out at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, where general contractor Hunt Construction Group is fighting with subcontractors over payment and work issues in at least four different lawsuits.

While the ballpark has gotten generally positive reviews from fans and players, the problems created tension behind the scenes between the teams, the contractor and the county.

"We expected Hunt to be entirely completed with this project by now. You are not. Complete the project as contracted for. We have incurred enormous costs as a direct result," Marc Taylor, the project manager for the teams, told Hunt in a Sept. 15, 2017, letter.

Work on the site, a former landfill off Haverhill Road, started in November 2015 after the teams secured $113 million in county tourist tax revenue and $50 million from the state. The teams are picking up about a third of the total costs along with all cost overruns.

The teams still have four outstanding permits, which did not affect the final CO, said Robert Brown, the city's building official. One of those permits is for repairs to equipment that operates an outdoor hydrotherapy pool in the Nationals' clubhouse. The equipment is in a pit that flooded with water in July because of a faulty valve.

Repairs to other areas have been completed, including leaks in the roof and windows.

In December 2016, about two months before the first game, both teams briefly considered delaying the ballpark's opening until 2018 after city building inspectors flagged the concrete stadium seating bowl for failing to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act specifications. Crews used saws to cut out the defective steps before pouring new cement.

Still, the Nationals and Astros are happy to see it nearly finished.

"We greatly appreciate the officials and staff of both Palm Beach County and the city of West Palm Beach in helping bring this project to completion. It is great to be part of this community and we look forward to welcoming baseball fans to FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in a few short months for our third spring training season in West Palm," said Brady Ballard, general manager for the ballpark.

[email protected] Twitter: @jcapozzipbpost

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October 3, 2018


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