Though the Washington Nationals ownership has openly talked about a move from Viera, Brevard County officials say they'll make a play to keep the team at Space Coast Stadium with a new package of incentives that includes air-travel subsidies and complex upgrades.
In 2012 the Nats entered into talks to move spring operations to City of Palms Park, a move pushed by Lee County but one that didn't include any money for ballpark and complex upgrades. The lack of county money available for upgrades to the former spring home of the Boston Red Sox didn't inspire much of a firm response from the Nats. In addition, in recent months there's been talk of a new spring-training complex in Kissimmee and the possible expansion of the Mets' training facility in St. Lucie. Additionally, there was talk at the Winter Meetings about the possibility of the Toronto Blue Jays seeking changes to their spring-training situation as well. With Houston Astros owner Jim Crane personally touring spring-training facilities as well, there are potentially three teams looking for a new or renovated facility.
Which is why Brevard County Commission Chairman Andy Anderson is floating what could be a potentially ambitious effort to keep the Nats at Space Coast Stadium and the Carl Barger complex. With the bonds on Space Coast Stadium slated to be paid off this year -- a move that frees the Nats from their lease but also frees up county funds for ballpark improvements -- Anderson is looking at ways to keep the Nats in town and address some of their stated concerns about Space Coast Stadium. One part of the solution would be geared toward complex improvements, including upgraded clubhouses and workout facilities. Another part of the solution would involve getting the Nats low-cost or free airline travel to the Gulf Coast teams. One complaint from the Nats front office is the relatively remote nature of Viera when compared to other spring-training facilities. Now, every team wants to keep spring-training games as close to possible to the home base, but finding an air solution out of nearby Melbourne International Airport could ease travel issues for the Nats.
Whether or not Anderson can sweeten the pot enough for the Nats to stay remains to be seen, but he does have some money to offer in terms of ballpark and tourism revenues. The bigger issue will be whether Brevard County citizens and businesses want to step forward to keep the Nats: to be honest, no tenant of Space Coast Stadium has made a serious commitment to the ballpark and community until now, and it's not as though the folks in Viera are busting the doors to see the Nats in action.