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West Palm Beach deals another blow to new spring training complex

Houston Astros spring trainingWest Palm Beach city commissioners approved a three-month exclusive negotiating period to investors seeking a mixed-use development on a 160-acre site eyed by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals for a new spring-training facility.

The move was not unexpected, as city officials have been warning for weeks about the fact they’d prefer the site stay on city tax rolls as part of a mixed-use development with housing, residential and parks. Boca Raton developer Parkside Commons has pitched the city on such a plan, and the decision last night gives Parkside Commons three months to present a firm development plan, complete with financing.

Ironically, the city originally was in favor of a new Nats and Astros spring-training facility at the site, proposing Palm Beach County trade two acres of prime downtown land in exchange for the 160 acres, located south of 45th Street between Haverhill Road and Military Trail. When Palm Beach County officials rejected the trade, city officials decided to seek out other development options for the property.

So what comes next? Palm Beach County, the Nats and the Astros can still come up with a proposal for a spring-training facility and present it to the city. But with Parkside Commons holding exclusive negotiating rights for three months, the earliest the proposal could be heard is the middle of January. That’s later than Nats and Astros officials would like to see a decision; Astros owner Jim Crane earlier this year talked about a decision before the end of the year so a 2017 opening date could be reached.

And there is much at stake here. If the Nationals leave the east coast of Florida (the team currently trains at Viera’s Space Coast Stadium), clauses in the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins leases at Roger Dean Stadium allow them to leave for a new home. So if a new complex doesn’t happen, it could lead to the loss of spring training on the Treasure Coast.

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