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Proposed Nationals training facility could pull from Osceola general fund, delay projects

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Critics in Osceola County are raising major concerns about plans to build a new spring training facility for the Washington Nationals.

One local leader is calling it "the worst financial deal he's witnessed."

Eyewitness News obtained access to a letter in which Chamber of Commerce president Dave Nolan
Said he has big concerns about the project.

The proposed stadium would be a state-of-the-art spring training facility that officials from the Nationals say would be second-to-none.

Critics are worried the deal is one-sided and puts the squeeze on taxpayers.

"I can't agree with them having all the control but no investment of their own on the site, or project overall," Hawkins said.

A chamber analysis estimates the county's cost would be much higher than the $98 million from the tourism dollars to build the stadium.

It also estimates operating loses would be $2.3 million a year.

Debt service would add up to $124 million over 30 years.

According to the letter, Nolan is concerned the county would need to spend $29 million of its general fund dollars to prepare the site, which would delay infrastructure projects like widening Poinciana Boulevard.

"The number of traffic fatalities on that road, those are concerning," Nolan said. "We've all agreed that that needs to be widened and expanded for the safety and enjoyment of all our citizens."

Spring training is only 45 days a year. Critics are concerned about what the demand will be during the other 320 days of the year.

"Baseball everyone loves, but we can't make this into a romantic decision. It's about business, and the business question is 45 days, how much can you really enjoy?" Nolan said.

The county manager who worked to attract the Nationals was not available for an interview.