Though Lee County has little to offer in terms of ballpark and complex upgrades, officials there say they’re still hopeful they can attract the Washington Nationals as a new tenant for City of Palms Park.
The former spring home of the Boston Red Sox sits empty, and the Nats front office has openly expressed an interest in leaving Space Coast Stadium. You would think it a natural match. But an exclusive negotiating period ended without anything close to an agreement on a lease, as the county can’t afford most of the things on the Nats’ wish list — a new practice field, clubhouse upgrades, better access to the ballpark from downtown Fort Myers.
Lee County doesn’t have much money after building JetBlue Park and agreeing to upgrades to Hammond Stadium; the tourism-tax well is pretty much tapped dry. So, judging by this article, the negotiating strategy is clear: Tell the Nats how much they are wanted. Fort Myers Mayor Randall Henderson will commit to four season-ticket buys and will rent a suite on his own! The county also wants to bypass the Nationals design team and meet directly with team executives to tell them how much the team is wanted.
There’s nothing wrong with this strategy: if the money is not there, the money is not there. And it’s not as though Florida communities are getting in line to woo the Nationals. But the problems with City of Palms Park experienced by the Red Sox would still be there for the Nationals, and there’s some concern as to whether the area would be saturated with spring training with the Nats joining the Red Sox and Twins in the city and the Rays in the area. Whether there’s enough fans and sponsorship dollars to go around is debatable.