Even with plans for a land-use change for a baseball site still up in the air, it looks like the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals will be making West Palm Beach their permanent spring training home for at least the next three decades following the 2016 season.
Gov. Rick Scott said in a press release the two major league ball clubs, "have chosen to stay in Florida for the next 30 years." Indications are that West Palm Beach will host the two teams when their respective leases expire next season.
For now, the plan remains to have the teams train at a new stadium that is planned to be built on 160 acres south of 45th Street. The Florida Legislature still must approve a land-use change for the stadium, but the press release from the governor's office at the vey least shows he's on board with making it happen, and will sign the bill should it be approved.
"Florida is proud to be the home of fifteen spring training teams, and we are excited to announce that the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros have chosen to stay in Florida for the next 30 years," Scott said in a statement. "Spring Training has helped to bring Florida families together, create jobs in our communities, and drive tourists to our state. Florida is undoubtedly the best state for baseball, and we look forward to many more years of Spring Training attracting visitors and creating opportunities for Florida families."
The statement itself doesn't make any official announcement of the teams moving to West Palm Beach (though it does show Rick Scott really likes to use the word "Florida."). But a statement released by the Astros mentions the city by name.
The Astros, who currently train in Osceola County, released a statement from team owner Jim Crane, alluding to a possible deal struck.
"This would not be possible without the City of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, State leaders and the Governor working together," Crane says. "We're very excited to remain in Florida for spring training and we're looking forward to partnering with the Nationals, as well as the Cardinals, Marlins and Mets, to provide fans with the best spring training venue in the Country."
Likewise, Mark D. Lerner, Vice Chairman & Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals, who currently train in Viera, applauded Scott's efforts, though he did not mention West Palm Beach.
The Economic Council of Palm Beach County thanked the governor's hard work to keep spring training in Florida. "If not for the vision and the hard work of Governor Rick Scott, Major League teams may be leaving the Sunshine State for Arizona," Martel says. "We are very proud that we have a Governor that has shown the leadership and boldness to keep all 15 teams in Florida, which will increase tourism and inject more jobs into our economy."
So it would appear that -- despite the official announcement -- nothing is official. We should get more clarity on all of this later in the week when Scott hosts a special baseball dinner in West Palm Beach on Friday. Major League Baseball's new commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to attend, along with more than 400 others, including executives and players from teams in the Grapefruit League -- the teams that train in Florida.
For now, we await for the law makers decision to approve the site for the stadium, which looks like it might be a go, if Scott's announcement is any indication.
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