WPB baseball site to feature field dimensions from Houston, Washington


Stadium moving forward

After a site battle that started with the Washington Nationals and the Toronto Blue Jays contemplating Palm Beach Gardens, the Nationals and Houston Astros are seeking West Palm Beach’s blessing for a government-subsidized $135 million stadium complex. For more coverage, go to MyPalmBeachPost.com/springtraining

The $135 million spring training complex south of 45th Street will include an authentic touch of the major leagues.

Three of the 12 practice fields will be built with outfield dimensions matching Minute Maid Park in Houston and Nationals Park in Washington to help Astros and Nationals players get re-acquainted with their regular-season ballparks.

“It’s really for the outfielders. We’ve got to get these guys to adjust and get accustomed to taking balls and caroms off the walls,’’ said Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe.

The unique practice fields are part of a detailed site plan that representatives for the Astros and Nationals will unveil for first time at a public meeting on Tuesday.

The dimensions at the main stadium will not replicate either team’s regular-season ballpark. The Nationals and Astros each will host about 16 Grapefruit League games at the main stadium every spring starting in 2017.

The three practice fields — one with the Minute Maid Park dimensions and two with the Nationals Park dimensions — will not host Grapefruit League games, but they will be used for spring drills.

The fields also could be used for practice games, known as “intrasquad games,” in which, for example, one team of Astros players plays another team of Astros players. Intrasquad games are usually played in the days before the start of the Grapefruit League season.

“We want the outfielders and hitters to get used to the distances,’’ said Art Fuccillo, a general partner for the Nationals.

The teams submitted the site plan to the city in April. The city’s advisory Planning Board will consider the plan, along with comments from city staff, at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The City Commission will consider the same plan on Aug. 31.

At Palm Beach County’s other spring training complex, none of the practice fields at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter have the same dimensions as the home ballparks of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.

Houston’s six practice fields will be on the north end of the 160-acre complex between Haverhill Road and Military Trail. The field with the Minute Maid Park dimensions is on the far north end of the complex.

Washington’s six practice fields are at the south end, with the two Nationals Park replicas just east of a man-made lake.

The unique practice fields will not look exactly like Minute Maid Park or Nationals Park, but they will have the same outfield dimensions. The Astros’ West Palm Beach practice field will include the new dimensions planned for Minute Maid Park, which is undergoing a $16 million renovation before the 2016 season.

The highlight of that plan calls for the removal of Tal’s Hill, a 90-foot-wide mound of grass named after Astros team president Tal Smith. The hill has a 30-degree incline that forces outfielders in center field to ran uphill to chase balls. Many have sustained injuries running up the hill since the park opened in 2000.

There will be no hill of any kind in the outfields of the Astros’ West Palm Beach practice fields.

The outfield at Nationals Park is not as unorthodox as at Minute Maid Park, but they are still unique, with one part of the left-field wall slightly deeper than other parts of the left-field wall.

The teams will have four practice fields each, clustered in a cloverleaf pattern just east of Military Trail. Each team will have two other fields side-by-side to the west of the cloverleafs, including the replica fields.

The main stadium will have the following distances from home plate: 335 feet to left field, 370 to 385 feet along left-center, 408 feet to the deepest part of center field, and 396 to 335 feet in right field.

The stadium’s main entrance will include concrete steps rising 16 feet to the concourse level, where fans would descend into the seating bowl of 6,500 seats. Grass berms around the outfield will accommodate another 2,000 people, giving the stadium a capacity of 8,500.

It has yet to be determined whether minor league teams will play in the stadium during summer.

Also to be considered during the city’s review of the site plans: A parking garage under the stadium concourse for players and team executives, elevated berms with shade trees winding between practice fields allowing fans to sit on grassy slopes and watch workouts and net walls up to 100 feet high along Military Trail to protect passing motorists from practice-field home runs.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what they bring to us. It’s going to be exciting for the community,’’ said Gregg Weiss, vice chairman of the planning board.

The teams hope to break ground this fall. The project will mark the return of spring training to the city for the first time since 1997.

“It will be fun to be able to go from downtown and catch a game on your lunch break,’’ Weiss said.



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