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How long will Nats train in Viera?

Space Coast Stadium

With Spring Training 2012 fast approaching, we have the usual discussion about how long the Washington Nationals will train at Space Coast Stadium. With the team openly looking for a new home and a lease with an out in 2013, that end may be on the horizon.

It’s no surprise the Washington Nationals are looking at alternatives to Space Coast Stadium: team officials have met with reps from various Florida and Arizona cities about a move as soon as 2014, when the bonds on Space Coast Stadium are paid off and the team can buy out of the rest of the lease, which ends in 2017. It’s a matter of location: with teams moving out of the Treasure Coast area, there’s much more travel involved for the Nats, with the closest competitors located in the Orlando area and Port St. Lucie.

Plus, Space Coast Stadium is starting to show its age. The basics, including ballpark amenities and the adjoining Carl Barger training complex, are all there, but the ballpark in particular is a little run-down. The suites could use a facelift, as could the outfield-berm features. In their lease, the Nats can request annual improvements to the ballpark, but the county is not obligated to fulfill them: this year, for example, the team requested some $700,000 in improvements (including new speakers and a clubhouse kitchen, things that are legitimate long-term investments), but the county decided just to do less than $300,000 in very, very basic maintenance moves — plastering and painting.

We don’t see either side as working particularly hard to keep the Nats in Viera. Maybe it’s because Brevard County officials have already determined spring training isn’t essential to the future of the facility — after all, the bonds will be paid off early — and maybe it’s because the Nats know the ballpark’s location is its greatest problem, not the actual condition, but this is a marriage that seems destined to end sooner than later.

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