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Fort Myers: We have little chance to land Nats

Washington NationalsA proposed renovation of City of Palms Park for the Washington Nationals is dead, according to Mayor Randy Henderson, and Fort Myers officials says it will seek alternative uses for the former Boston Red Sox spring-training home.

The issue: A planned partnership with a private developer, Rockford Development (in conjunction with a local partner, Paul Roberts), fell apart after Rockwell pulled back from the vague promise of private investment and instead sought public money for the $36.6-million renovation of the ballpark. After committing to JetBlue Park construction and a Hammond Stadium renovation, there’s little left in the public coffers at either the city or county level — which is why Fort Myers was eager to work with a private developer on the project. From Florida Today:

“We’ll continue down this road to identify opportunities to get a professional baseball team in here for spring training,” Henderson said, and the stadium could also be used for any number of tournaments, including the College World Series….

Rockford wanted to replace the neighborhood around the park with a mixed-use development of restaurants and housing and had alluded to raising financing for improvements to the baseball park, according to Mitchell’s letter.

But Mitchell told Roberts the city doesn’t have the “financial capability to absorb the improvement costs of the City of Palms Park,” and he wouldn’t be able to recommend Roberts’ proposal to City Council.

(Disclaimer: there’s zero chance Fort Myers will land the College World Series.)

Truth is, the Nats weren’t all that enthused about this plan to begin with: during the same time Fort Myers and Lee County were pitching the woo at Nats management, the team ownership was aggressively pursuing a new Kissimmee spring-training complex. That effort eventually failed, leaving the future of Washington Nationals spring training in limbo. Brevard County continues to offer the Nats an upgraded Space Coast Stadium on the public dime, but the Nats front office hasn’t taken the bait, and we suspect the team continues to scout out possible sites in the greater Tampa area.

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