The Osceola County Tourism Board has signed off on a $98-million plan for a new Nationals spring ballpark in Kissimmee, but the proposal is sure to face close scrutiny from the full county Board of Commissioners.
The board has a budget: $88 million from the tourism board ($50 million on hand, $38 million to be borrowed) and $10 million from the state. The $10 million figure reported by the board is interesting: it’s the amount the state will pay a Florida city to retain spring training for a single team, not a duo. And while the plan includes training facilities for a second team, presentations to the board was made solely by the Nats and the marketing materials focus solely on a Washington Nationals training facility. The Toronto Blue Jays, who have expressed dissatisfaction with their training setup in Dunedin, have been linked both with this facility and a new training camp pushed by the Houston Astros in Palm Beach Gardens.
The study claimed the Nationals moving to a new stadium in Kissimmee for six weeks of the year would provide $54 million in direct economic impact, as well as the creation of 1,900 direct and indirect jobs.
The Nationals ownership claims the facility will include a first in Major League Baseball: a 360-degree raised deck encircling the 8,500 seat stadium. Plans also call for the construction of 10 practice fields, all of which will overlook a 190-acre lake. Harford, who also sits on the TDC board, voted yes “because Osceola County needs to be more than it is.”
But two tourist board members expressed deep concerns about the math. Because the new baseball facility will be paid for by a tax on hotels, county taxpayers would be on the hook if tourism slows. Board member Brian Wong voted against the project.
The full Osceola County Board of Commissioners is expected to review and vote on the plan Monday.