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Lee County to pitch Nats again on City of Palms Park

Washington NationalsThough there are no funds for renovations, Lee County will once again pitch the Washington Nationals on a move to City of Palms Park after Osceola County rejected a new Kissimmee spring-training complex.

There’s nothing new in the Lee County/Fort Myers approach to luring the Nationals; with tourism funds devoted to the new Boston Red Sox spring facility and upcoming renovations to Hammond Stadium, there are simply no funds for any renovations to the former spring home of the Boston Red Sox — a fact elected officials say they’ll make clear to the Nats. Whether this will fly remains to be seen: the Nats had identified some $36.6 million in upgrades in past negotiations, and the reasons why the Red Sox moved — small footprint, separate training facilities, limited expansion possibilities — are still there now. Plus, there’s doubt whether Fort Myers can support three teams during spring training.

One possible option: open the area outside the ballpark to development, with the development of a TIF district to fund both the development and ballpark upgrades. The city has been discussing this possibility with an outside construction firm. From the News-Press:

County Manager Roger Desjarlais stressed that Lee County can’t afford the $36.6 million in upgrades to City of Palms Park the Nationals wanted when talks stalled earlier this year.

But after a phone conversation with team representatives earlier this afternoon, he said, the team wants to make another pitch.

“Everybody is interested in reopening the conversation, about moving the team moving to Fort Myers, but to talk about money and how much or where it’s coming from is premature,” Desjarlais said.

There are other options for the Nats, who have informed Brevard County they intend on moving spring training away from Space Coast Stadium. The New York Mets have been discussing adding a second team to the Port St. Lucie spring training complex, and the Houston Astros still have not formally closed a deal to bring a second team to a proposed Palm Beach Gardens complex, though numerous sources in baseball have pegged the Toronto Blue Jays as being involved in the project.

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