It looks like the Toronto Blue Jays are heading to the east coast for Spring Training. If they do they might be replaced by the Washington Nationals, who are looking for a new home closer to other teams.
According to the websites TCPalm.com and mlb.com, the Blue Jays and Astros are 95 per cent to join forces in moving to a yet-to-be-constructed site in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., as early as 2016.
This will happen with the benefit of $100 million in taxpayer money — half that from the state and the other half from local levels, paid out over 38 years, starting in 2015.
“The Blue Jays have committed and signed a letter of intent, so we’re ready to move forward,” Astros owner Jim Crane told mlb.com. “That thing should be buttoned up hopefully by the end of October. We’ll get that stadium built and it will be a fabulous new facility in Palm Beach Gardens.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals are up the coast a couple of hours north in Viera, near Cocoa Beach. They are at present the team with the longest commute to games. At this point they want a new home and the team has been talking to Ft. Myers about the old City of Palms Park that the Boston Red Sox vacated to go to their new stadium Jet Blue Park a few miles to the south.
So, right now if the Jays make the move then Dunedin would be wise to make a full on press to land the Nationals. Because the city of Dunedin would be losing a team they could get state money to help make some upgrades to the facilities and create a sweet deal for Washington.
The fate of Spring Training in Florida rides on the new cluster concept that began in Arizona. Keeping teams close to each other cutting down travel and allowing for tourists to see a number of teams play.
The incentive here for the state government to hand over that much money to privately owned teams is that Florida relies heavily on tourism. Also, there is an escape clause in its contracts with the Mets and Cardinals, that if there are three or fewer teams left on the east coast then they can opt out and move to Arizona. So by adding the Astros and Jays, it solidifies that MLB count at six.
Keeping Florida spring training strong is a priority for Gov. Rick Scott, who has the ability to veto any such deal. The government decision is expected by the end of next week.
“Two of the franchises that are looking to do a stadium made a proposal that additional funds were necessary,” Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne) told TCPalm.com at the joint House-Senate Finance and Tax conference committee. “I think (it’s a done deal). I got that impression.”
A number of Nationals fans are hoping that the team lands in Dunedin because their rivals the Phillies are in Clearwater, and the Baltimore Orioles are close by in Sarasota.