Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Florida Announces New Spring Training Home for Nats, Astros...and Hopes They Won't Break Lease

Governor Rick Scott's office issued a press release Wednesday announcing the "Nationals and the Astros Will Keep Spring Training in Florida" for the next 30 years. However, the headline doesn't necessarily tell the whole story.

The deal still hinges on Florida's legislature approving a land-swap in Palm Beach County and $50 million in state subsidies over the next two decades. The entire two-team complex is expected to cost $135 million, with taxpayers covering the majority of it.

But despite the governor's proclaimed 30-year extension, 10 Investigates also revealed how the passing of last year's stadium subsidy bill, HB 7095, makes it easier for Major League Baseball teams to break their spring training leases by limiting the damages they'd have to pay to stray.

Governor Scott has maintained he supports incentives because they're necessary, but had no response to 10 Investigates' questions about teams' reliance on taxpayer subsidies.

Here is release:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott today announced that the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros, whose leases come up for renewal next year, have chosen to stay in Florida. As part of this agreement, the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros will remain in Florida for the next 30 years and Florida will continue to retain its 15 spring training teams in the Grapefruit League. 
Governor Scott said, “Florida is proud to be the home of fifteen spring training teams, and we are excited to announce that the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros have chosen to stay in Florida for the next 30 years. Spring Training has helped to bring Florida families together, create jobs in our communities, and drive tourists to our state. Florida is undoubtedly the best state for baseball, and we look forward to many more years of Spring Training attracting visitors and creating opportunities for Florida families.”

In 2013 Governor Scott worked with the Legislature to create a program that provides more than $3 million annually to be used only for Spring Training facilities. These funds partner with local governments to provide a predictable funding stream to protect baseball in Florida, and help communities obtain long term leases with baseball franchises.

Mark D. Lerner, Vice Chairman & Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals, said, “We, at the Washington Nationals, appreciate Governor Scott’s commitment to keeping all fifteen major league baseball spring training venues in the Sunshine State ensuring that Florida remains the premier spring training destination.”

Jim Crane, Houston Astros Owner, said, “This would not be possible without the City of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, State leaders and the Governor working together. We're very excited to remain in Florida for spring training and we're looking forward to partnering with the Nationals, as well as the Cardinals, Marlins and Mets, to provide fans with the best spring training venue in the Country."

Danny Martell, Economic Council of Palm Beach County, said “If not for the vision and the hard work of Governor Rick Scott, Major League teams may be leaving the Sunshine State for Arizona. We are very proud that we have a Governor that has shown the leadership and boldness to keep all 15 teams in Florida, which will increase tourism and inject more jobs into our economy.”

Major League Baseball, and Florida Spring Training, has played an important role in attracting visitors to Florida for more than 125 years. The sports industry brings over $43 billion to Florida annually and accounts for 13.3 million visitors to the state each year.

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