An economic development measure that designates sales tax money to keep spring training teams in Florida could provide the spark to bring another two-team baseball stadium to Palm Beach County.
The bill passed unanimously by the House on Friday and on its way to the governor means as much as $50 million for a two-team facility like the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals share in Jupiter. A deal to bring the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays to a stadium just four miles away has reached the stage that county and Palm Beach Gardens officials are meeting about the project.
Lobbyist Brian Ballard, who represents the interests of the Astros and Blue Jays, said the bill is not written specifically for one team. But he was working to get it passed along with the budget.
“I know that this bill will make it possible for those clubs to come to South Florida to Palm Beach Gardens,” he said.
The state has 15 teams, equal to Arizona’s Cactus League. But many teams have already left. And the east coast of Florida could be stripped of teams if one more leaves.
The Marlins and Cardinals can leave Roger Dean Stadium if there are fewer than four teams playing along the Interstate 95 corridor between Viera, where the Washington Nationals play, and Fort Lauderdale. And the Nationals’ contract is up for renewal in 2017.
The governor wanted $5 million designated each year, but the bill earmarks $3.3 million. The money would be awarded through an application process.