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Space Coast Stadium could be hosting its final Nationals camp this spring.
Ownership has never hid its desire to relocate to another base, preferably Fort Myers on the other side of the state, but possibly Kissimmee in central Florida or perhaps even all the way to Arizona. And with construction bonds for Space Coast Stadium due to be paid off in April, the Nationals will no longer be financially bound to the locale the franchise has called its spring home since 2003.
There are, however, significant road blocks still standing in the way of a new spring training venue in 2014. Fort Myers has shown an unwillingness to pay for upgrades to the City of Palms Park facility the Nationals would like to inherit, dragging out negotiations. Viera, meanwhile, is making a new push to keep the Nationals right where they are and perhaps even bring another major-league franchise to the area to share Space Coast Stadium.
"We may not be successful, but we have to try," Andy Anderson, chairman of the Brevard County Commission, told Florida Today in an article published yesterday.
Anderson, according to the article, will be in Washington Jan. 25 to meet with Nationals executives and make his pitch, which includes the use of taxes to upgrade stadium facilities, the addition of more practice fields that could house another team and even an offer of free or low-cost air transportation that would allow the Nationals to fly across the state for Grapefruit League games instead of being relegated to bus rides that can take three-plus hours each way.
It's an aggressive -- but perhaps too-late -- push by Viera to keep the Nationals, who revealed their intentions two years ago to find a new spring home, one that would be closer to many more Grapefruit League sites and significantly cut down on travel.
"We have no problem with Viera as a town, or even the stadium," one Nationals executive said. "They've been great to us. But it's just too far away from everyone else."
The closest camp to Viera at the moment is the Astros' facility in Kissimmee, which is 55 miles from Space Coast Stadium. The only other facilities within 100 miles of Viera are the Braves' complex in Lake Buena Vista and the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie.
The situation would be significantly more favorable in Fort Myers, which already houses the Red Sox and Twins and has another currently vacant facility in City of Palms Park, which Boston abandoned last spring. The Rays train only 28 miles away in Port Charlotte, while the Orioles (Sarasota) and Pirates (Bradenton) are each fewer than 90 miles away.
Though the Fort Myers site is the Nationals' preferred venue, a relocation deal is far from complete. The Nationals have been engaged in talks with the Lee County Commission since last spring, but the commission has told the club it cannot afford the approximately $40 million to $50 million price tag for renovating the ballpark and surrounding area.
The Nationals have considered the possibility of relocating to Kissimmee, which would likely necessitate the construction of a new facility that could be shared with the Astros, but concrete details of such a plan have never materialized.
A move all the way to Arizona remains highly unlikely, with the Nationals preferring not to distance themselves so much from their fan base and with no municipalities in the Cactus League currently claiming to have the financial resources to build a new complex there.