It’s back to the drawing board for proposed upgrades to Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, as Palm Beach County officials balk at the cost.
That the Cardinals and Marlins have been seeking upgrades to the Jupiter ballpark and training complex is no secret. First, the teams want new, expanded clubhouses for both MLB and MiLB operations. Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium is a busy ballpark: besides hosting the Cardinals and the Marlins for spring training, two High-A Florida State League teams–the Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads–play regular-season games there, while the complex also hosts Gulf Coast League action. The plan would tear down the existing clubhouses to make room for a 360-degree concourse and additional outfield seating, with new clubhouses built beyond the new concourse. Also proposed: a new scoreboard to replace the old one that would be dismantled to make way for the new outfield concourse, an expanded press box and a relocation of the bullpens. And, of course, the teams want an expanded merchandise store as well as some other minor ballpark upgrades. The cost of the project: $111 million, which would be partly funded by the county’s tourism (hotel/motel) tax and augmented by a state fund designed to help communities retain spring training. The Cards and the Marlins would then commit to continuing spring training at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex through 2048.
But that commitment would basically tap the tourism tax dry, and Palm Beach County officials want to see other projects in the county covered by the tax as well. So commissioners asked the Tourist Development Commission to reopen negotiations with the Cardinals and Marlins, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
“I don’t want to be viewed as the Grinch who stole baseball,” said Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth. But he worried there might not be any funding available should constituents seek to build a cultural venue in the southern part of the county, which he represents.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay sounded a similar theme on behalf of her constituents, who live in the county’s prominent equestrian area. To the north, she said, Marion County is aggressively seeking to establish its own reputation as an equestrian center. She expressed reservations about having little or no money available to counter another county’s initiative. “I’m really nervous about spending every last penny we have for the next dozen years on beaches and baseball,” she said.
The commissioners voted 6-1 to ask county administrator Verdenia Baker to reopen talks with the ball teams, whose representatives left the meeting without comment. The commissioners, who declined to publicly declare what changes they wanted to see in the agreement, asked her to return with revisions on Dec. 17 after consulting with staff members.
Under the proposed renovations, the clubhouse in the background of this photo would be torn down, with new clubhouses moved farther away from the ballpark bowl.