In a sign that keeping the Washington Nationals in Viera may end up being a bigger challenge than anticipated, the Brevard County Tourist Development Council's Marketing Committee voted to divert ballpark spending to general Space Coast tourism marketing.
Some Brevard County elected officials want to keep the Washington Nationals tranining at Space Coast Stadium even though the team will be able to walk away from the lease after ballpark bonds are paid off. This is expected to happen later this year. The solution floated last week includes putting more money into the ballpark, perhaps expanding to accommodate a second team, and arranging for air travel to the Gulf Coast, eliminating those five-hour bus trips.
However, a key to doing this was maintaining existing spending on the ballpark and rolling it into renovations. That effort is off to a rocky start after the·Brevard County Tourist Development Council's Marketing Committee voted to stop spending $750,000 in hotel-tax proceeds annually on the ballpark -- after all, the debt is paid off -- and instead spend it on general marketing efforts for the Space Coast. Now, this is not a done deal, as it must still be approved by the·Tourist Development Council and the Brevard County Commission. But it does set the stage for what's sure to be an intense discussion of how much the county should work to keep a team whose owners have clearly stated they want to move.
And it's not as though the Nats don't have options. There is potentially a move to City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, a move complicated by the fact that Lee County and Fort Myers are tapped out and can't afford the upgrades requested by the Nats after spending well over $100 million on a new Boston Red Sox faciliy and Hammond Stadium upgrades Right now city and county are turning over cushions to shake out potential money for a renovation. There is also potentially a move to Kissimmee to share a new spring-training facility with the Houston Astros, but that development isn't even at the preliminary discussion phase. There's the chance of moving to an expanded training camp in St. Lucie to be shared with the New York Mets. And there's been rumblings about a potential Palm Beach County facility, fueled by talks with Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.·