By Chelsea Janes, October 20 at 7:37 PM
The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros found the site they wanted for their new spring training home, drew up plans for how they’d use it, and made sure it passed inspections. They helped negotiate a deal between the City of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County to get the land under the county’s control, and worked out a funding deal in which the Palm Beach County would fund $135 million of the project that would eventually make it the spring training site of the Astros and Nationals for at least three decades. The teams agreed to pay any excess costs.
Tuesday, the teams scratched the final items off their long list of formalities when the Palm Beach County Commission unanimously approved the sale of construction bonds to fund the county’s $135 million contribution to the facility, scheduled for a tentative groundbreaking in early November.
Mark D. Lerner, vice chairman and one of the principal owners of the Nationals, called Tuesday’s approvals “the final hurdle” in a statement issued through a team spokeswoman Tuesday afternoon:
“The Washington Nationals are extremely pleased to be partnering with Palm Beach County and the Houston Astros on their new spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. Today, we cleared the final hurdle of the funding process when the Palm Beach County Commission unanimously approved the sale of the construction bonds required to fund part of the $148 million dollar facility. Now, we can move forward with construction – which we expect to begin in the next two weeks. The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is scheduled to open in January 2017 and will be the Nationals home for spring training for many years to come.”
That 2017 opening has been the target for the past year or so, when the 160-acre former landfill became the targeted site, and then as would-be roadblock after would-be roadblock was navigated without trouble. When the Nationals move, they will be within an hour’s drive of the Marlins, Cardinals, Mets and Astros. In their current spring training home, Viera, they are within an hour’s drive of one team — two if traffic is particularly friendly.