Thursday, August 5, 2010

Are Nats trying to leave Viera?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals' lease at Space Coast Stadium runs through 2017.
PHOENIX -- When the Lerner family bought the Nationals in 2006, it inherited the franchise's lease with Brevard County (Fla.), which required the club to hold spring training at Space Coast Stadium in Viera through 2017 or else reimburse construction-bond payments to the county that would total in the millions.

It wasn't an ideal situation, housing spring training in a remote complex along Florida's east coast that isn't within an hour drive of any other facility in the Grapefruit League. But the Lerners seemed to accept they were tied to Viera for another decade-plus and even pumped in some of their own money to supplement a county-issued, $2.8 million renovation of Space Coast Stadium in 2007.

Now, though, it appears the Nationals are willing to break the lease and make the penalty payments if they can find another Florida facility to their liking.

According to a report today on the website of local newspaper Florida Today, Nats president Stan Kasten recently spoke to an official from Osceola County about the possibility of a new facility in Kissimmee, which currently houses the Astros' complex.

This news comes several months after Nationals officials, including principal owner Mark Lerner, toured the facility in Fort Myers that is due to be vacated by the Red Sox at the conclusion of spring training next year.

Kasten declined to comment on the Florida Today story.

It's highly unlikely any relocation would happen by next spring, but the Nationals certainly appear open, if not eager, to leaving Viera for another Florida location.

Osceola County sits in the middle of the state and houses Orlando's southern suburbs. Both the Astros (who have trained in Kissimmee since 1985) and Braves (who have trained at nearby Walt Disney World since 1997) hold their spring training camps in the county and are located closer to other Grapefruit League sites to the west (including the Tigers in Lakeland and the Yankees in Tampa) than Viera.

The Nationals franchise has trained at Space Coast Stadium since 2003, when the then-MLB-owned Expos were forced to move from Jupiter to Viera after new Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria insisted on having his club train in South Florida. Space Coast Stadium opened in 1994 and housed the Marlins its first nine springs.


Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

StanK must own undeveloped land near Kissimmee that would benefit from having another major league team train there. It's typical StanK: playing both ends against the middle. I'm sure when anybody finds this snake under his usual rock, he'll say something like: "We LOVE Viera," just like he praised Soriano while never offering him any contract. And just like he'll do with Dunn later this year. Pure pond scum.

Doc said...

Loria's infamous legacy lives on with the Nats; its like the swimming pool at Arizons's stadium! And the Nats end up with an impractical facility in a part of Florida that is foreign to MLB.

Loria's Marlin's FO staff, is either lucky or good, but in either case, both would be in spite of his meddling.

Anonymous said...

As long as they stay in Florida, I'm fine with it. Bob and Rob mentioned this yesterday during the telecast. I like Viera/Melbourne but in the few short years the Nats have been there too many teams (Orioles, Dodgers, Indians) have moved away -- last year they pretty much played the same five teams over and over (Mets, Astros, Tigers, Marlins, Braves). They should probably go to the Gulf coast where there are more teams to play with less travel.

JayB said...

This is going to happen for lots of reasons. It is too far from anything and the opportunity to milk desperate FL communities who have lost teams is too tempting for Stan and Lerner (who of course made billions in these types of deals.

The better solution is to move to AZ. That is where the long term future of Spring Training is for all teams. AZ has tons of teams just 30 mins away and much better weather. So if this is about improving the team and players training Nats should be looking at AZ not FL.

On a personal note, having been to Viera many times to see the Nats in Feb and March....I highly recommend any Spring Training visit even in Viera which is nowhere near anything interesting at the end of a several hour visit to minor league camp and a day game at the stadium.

Steve M. said...

Being in Orlando would be wonderful as I stay there and commute daily to Viera

Dave said...

Also mentioned on last nights telecast was that the Lerners were touring new spring training facilities while in AZ for the current series with the D-Backs.

Steve M. said...

In other great news in JZim's AAA debut he pitched 3 no-hit innings in the Syracuse Chiefs 8-2 win over Rochester.

Anonymous said...

Don't tell Phil Dunn that the Lerners spent $2.8 million renovation of their own money for Space Coast Stadium in 2007.

Stew Magnuson said...

Viera isn't near anything interesting? The Kennedy Space Center isn't interesting?
I guess it depends on the definition of "near" and "interesting."
Looks like about a 40-50 mile drive from Kissimmee to Viera. Doesn't seem like that big of a change to me. But I come from the wide open spaces out west.

Anonymous said...

"The better solution is to move to AZ."

Moving to AZ is a terrible idea. If you want an empty spring training facility by moving the headquarters across the country, and lose the revenue (and fan support) generated by spring training, then that's your ticket. As far as Arizona being the 'future'; every east coast based team is in Florida, and I fail to see how moving the spring training home 2500 miles away from the fan base and the team operations is going to help player development.

I'm not keen on sharing a facility with the Astros (or anyone). The Astros current facility is way less fan friendly than the Nats', and part of the fun of spring training is the proximity of the players to the fans. But as long as they stay in Fla., ok.

HabsProf said...

Bud Selig should be immediately enshrined in the Hall of Shame for what he allowed Loria to do to the Expos. He stripped the club of everything, including a box of Vlad Guerrero autographed baseballs.

Perhaps most damning - after walking off with the entire front office staff and the scouting staff, he then walked off with all copies of the team's scouting reports ON THEIR OWN PLAYERS. New Expos management came in and had NO information on the players in their minor league system.

The rape of the Expos and of the Expos's fans, was beyond belief.

phil dunn said...

With the Os gone from Lauderdale and the Dodgers gone from Vero Beach, there aren't many teams left on the east coast of FL. Essentially, it has become the wasteland of the Grapefruit League. The closest facility on the FL east coast is now Port St. Lucie, where the Mets train. Then, there's the Card and Marlins at Jupiter and I think that is it.

phil dunn said...

Anonymous at 3:12 said:
Don't tell Phil Dunn that the Lerners spent $2.8 million renovation of their own money for Space Coast Stadium in 2007.

If you read Mark's wording, the total renovation project cost was $2.8 million, of which most was paid by a bond issuance by the county. The Lerners probably threw in $100. If you don't think the Lerners are cheap, you are very naive.

Anonymous said...

If you don't think the Nat's owners are cheap, just ask Adam Dunn.

Jim Webster said...

After 4 years of spending March in Brevard County I'd miss the Atlantic beaches, some good seafood restaurants along A1A and some friendly ushers at Space Coast Stadium. But I wouldn't miss the lousy parking, with the washboard road to dirt lots. Astros place in Kissimmee far more accommodating, but landlocked. Just say I'm glad to have resisted the temptation to buy a condo in Brevard in what still seems a buyers' market.

expos/nats fan said...

Loria is a snake, he completely dismantled the expos organization from top to bottom in every area and all that with the help of Selig.You can thank Loria that after 6 years of baseball in washington we still don't have a team that's competitive.

Richard said...

FWIW, the Atlantic coast around Viera/Melbourne/Eau Gallie is beautiful. It's also struggling a bit re the economy. Anyway, it's not too far from Orlando and other areas, either, as has been mentioned. And, after some recent movement westward, I believe the 30 Major League teams are about evenly split between Florida and Arizona.

Sec3MySofa said...

I can't speak to the team's commute to games, but I've always liked the Melbourne/Space Coast area, myself.

On a related front, newpost notwithstanding (and yes, this is in NJ too--sue me.)

So, just thinking out loud, back of a napkin, top of my head, blue sky, running it up the flagpole, tell me what you think: if they had a Nationals (NB NOT Expos) fantasy camp some January, what retired players would you like to see there, assuming arguendo you'd pay to attend such a thing?

Carlos Baerga--Gotta be there. Vinny, absolutely. Patterson? Maybe. Nook. Wil Cordero? IDK.
No way Frank comes, I'm thinking.

The thought comes to mind because I heard the O's have bailed on their Fantasy Camp, again, for 2011.

OH NO--the capcha word was CLINT

Anonymous said...

Viera has come a long way since the Nats came to town. The first year for the Nats, Viera wasn't built. There was a sign where the high school is now. But the area has built up a bit, and I'm more or less oaky with it. [I've been there a number of springs. Actually I've been to most of the parks in Florida over the years. I always take off a week in March for spring training.] But, if they move -- the Orlando area is surely good because of the air hub. However, Tampa-St. Pete has the highest density of teams, I think. Please please please not Arizona.

Anonymous said...

The Dodgers moved out of Vero about the same time the Indians moved out of Winter Haven (I think, or Lakeland, wherever they were). The problem these days is you do have decent spring training density about an hour/hour and a half east and south of Tampa. Then you have the four orphans on the east coast. It's a tough situation.

Moving to AZ is a horrible idea. The teams out there now are enjoying their new facilities, and they're all close to together with what, 10-12 teams right in the Phoenix area? But, you lose a lot by not being in Florida most of the retirees from the Mid-Atlantic and New England still tend to go - and where younger folks vacation.

Plus, one of the problem with the spring training facilites in Arizona is, after April kicks in, your extended spring training crew and later, the Rookie League teams all really suffer playing out in the heat. Florida is hot in the summer but not much hotter than the DC area. Certainly not 110 like in Phoenix today.

Having a spring facility is a lot more than just a place to practice from mid-February until the end of March. Extended spring training, Rookie League. maybe a fall developmental setup - those facilities need to be good from February until September and maybe longer.

Anonymous said...

Here are some reasons to reconsider:
1) Viera is the closest spring training facility to DC. I drove it in 12 hours last spring.
2) There ARE things to do in Viera/Brevard. Kennedy Space Center, easy access to clean beaches (and to Orlando theme parks),and cool non-DC trips like shark-fishing and air-boat rides with natural gators at your feet.
3) TRAFFIC- Orlando is not far behind DC. It's a nightmare. What sounds like "proximity" is actually hours of gridlock.
4) Orlando itself- Orlando restaurants and hotels are packed and more expensive. The shine would wear off quickly. The crime rate in Orlando is similar to other cities. Brevards' crime rate is extremely low.
As always, these decisions are made financially. Fair enough. I probably would not make my ritual trip if it were to Orlando. I've taken to Viera, and so have many other DC natives/fans.

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