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CHICAGO — The Nationals' long-standing attempt to find a new spring training home took another hit Monday night when a plan to construct a $98 million facility in Kissimmee, Fla., was struck down by Osceola County commissioners.
In a 4-1 vote, the commissioners resoundingly rejected the Nationals' latest ballpark proposal, leaving the club to start over again in its attempt to relocate spring training headquarters from Space Coast Stadium in Viera.
"While the Washington Nationals are sorry that we couldn't come to an agreement with Osceola County, we recognize this was just one option toward finding the right site, deal and partner to build our one-of-a-kind, family-friendly Spring Training and fan experience facility," the Nationals said in a statement released Tuesday night. "We would like to thank Osceola County for approaching us about this project and for their professionalism and good spirit throughout the negotiations. We will continue to talk with other interested counties in Florida and Arizona and believe that the appropriate combination of site and investment will pay dividends for the right community long into the future."
The Nationals revealed their intention to leave Viera two years ago, citing their long travel times to other Grapefruit League facilities. No other club trains within one hour of Space Coast Stadium, and only three clubs are based within 100 miles of Viera.
The Nationals' lease with Brevard County runs through 2016, but the price to break that lease at this point would be minimal. Brevard County has made proposals to try to keep the club in Viera, offering to expand the complex in hopes of luring another team to the area, but the Nationals haven't been interested in staying at Space Coast Stadium, where they have trained since 2003.
The club's first preferred relocation site was in Fort Myers, on Florida's Gulf Coast, but a proposal to renovate City of Palms Park was struck down earlier this year. The Nationals then shifted their attention to Kissimmee, which has housed the Astros at Osceola County Stadium since 1985 but is expected to lose Houston to a new two-team complex (with the Blue Jays) in the Palm Beach area.
The Nationals' proposal involved constructing a new, $98 million facility across the street from Osceola County Stadium, the funds coming from a 30-year tourist tax. The county commissioners, though, voted 3-2 against the proposal last month, then voted 4-1 against a revised proposal on Monday night, claiming the cost of the project would far outweigh any potential benefits.
"If the deal stinks today, it's going to stink tomorrow," Commissioner John Quinones said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.