The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals still want to share a new spring training stadium in West Palm Beach, but other cities in Florida and Arizona are trying to court the two teams.
“I know that different municipalities have been reaching out to both teams, but it’s still the preference of the Nationals and Astros to make this happen in West Palm Beach,’’ Giles Kibbe, general counsel for the Astros, told The Palm Beach Post on Monday.
Without naming specific cities, Kibbe said several are talking about either a single-team or a two-team facility. “I get calls from both Florida and Arizona, but our preference is very clear about getting a deal done in West Palm Beach,’’ Kibbe said.
The Astros and Nationals are revising their financing plan for a stadium on 160 acres of city-owned land at Haverhill Road and 45th Street. It could be late September before county and city officials consider the new plan.
“It’s still our goal to get this thing done and do it right before of the end of this year. We’ve got to have that,’’ said Kibbe, who met Friday with County Mayor Priscilla Taylor and Nationals lobbyist Mark Foley.
Taylor had said she hoped to have the teams meet with county officials this week, but that doesn’t seem likely.
“We understand that a new proposal will be forthcoming shortly to the Board,’’ County Administrator Bob Weisman said Monday in an email to county commissioners.
“We have fully cooperated with the teams’ schedule in determining when this issue will get a public airing at a Board meeting. They have not yet chosen to proceed.’’
Reached later Monday, Weisman said the timing of the new proposal is up to the teams.
“It’s their plan. It’s their project. It’s their timing. I don’t anticipate much happening here in the next couple of weeks,’’ Weisman told The Post.
In his email to commissioners, Weisman said the county’s only contribution to the project could be tourism tax revenue of $2.6 million to $3 million a year. That money – which would have to be considered by the advisory Tourist Development Council and approved by the County Commission – would pay for a construction bond issue of less than half the cost of the facility.
“The balance of funding would need to come from the State, the teams and any contribution by the City,’’ Weisman said in his email.
Taylor has said the facility could cost up to $140 million.
Another issue is the 160-acre site and whether the city will give it to the county or the teams for free. The Post on Sunday reported that the city earlier this summer proposed swapping the land to the county in exchange for 2 ½ acres of prime downtown county-owned land – a deal the county rejected.
“From the beginning, staff has maintained that we will not do a swap of land or pay West Palm Beach for the current proposed site at Haverhill Road and 45th Street,’’ Weisman said in the email.
Kibbe wouldn’t speculate on whether the land issue could ultimately kill the deal.
“We’re still pushing. Everybody is working to try to find out one way or another whether we are going to make it happen,’’ he said.