In what we’re considering now as a rather crude negotiating maneuver, team officials say they’ll look at a Houston Astros Arizona move if a suitable training site in Palm Beach County fails to materialize.
The threat wasn’t very specific: team lawyer Giles Kibbe says he plans on visiting Arizona in the next few weeks and will probably meet with folks pitching a Phoenix-area home for the Astros. From the Houston Chronicle:
“Absolutely, yeah,” Kibbe said. “I’m probably going over there (to Arizona) in two weeks. I’m going over there to do a few things, but that will be one of them.
“I’ve been over there several times. Before we started serious discussions with Palm Beach Gardens, I had been looking at sites in Arizona, and talking to a lot of different people there. It’s time to renew those discussions.”
The Astros, who currently spend spring training in Kissimmee, Fla., have long hoped to be able to move to a new stadium in Palm Beach Gardens. They would share that proposed stadium with the Blue Jays, but the plan has been met with local opposition.
Well…yeah. Kinda. The proposed Palm Beach Gardens site has been met with opposition to that particular site (it’s close to a school and protected wetlands), and Palm Beach Gardens already pulled the plug on that site as a result of the opposition, which made it clear they didn’t oppose the notion of a Astros complex in the city — just that particular site. Palm Beach County officials, meanwhile have made it clear they have identified three alternative sites in the area (“I know the three sites,” Kibbe told the Chronicle. “There has not been [any movement]. Not on our end. Not on our end. I don’t know if the county’s done anything. I have no idea.”), and a Boca Raton developer says he can deliver on a 100-acre site for a complex.
So why bring up a Houston Astros Arizona move if the county is actively seeking a site for the Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays and things are progressing? Crude leverage. By evoking the spectre of a team move, the Astros are seeking to put pressure on Palm Beach County officials to come up with a site. Funding is already partially in the bad, and we’re not talking about any sort of deadline: the Astros are looking at a 2017 opening, which means a site needs to be chosen and a lease agreed to before the end of 2014, a deadline Kibbe freely acknowledges. By bringing up Arizona, all the Astros are doing is confuse fans and throwing some FUD into the process.