Osceola Commissioners discuss spring training facility for Washington Nationals



Osceola County commissioners are meeting Monday evening to consider using $90 million in tourism development taxes to build a new state-of-the-art spring training facility for the Washington Nationals.

The stadium would be built at the corner of U.S. 192 and Boggy Creek Road, across the street from where the Houston Astros currently hold spring training.

The Astros are now reportedly committed to moving their spring training to Palm Beach Gardens. But county officials said the Nationals could not use their stadium because the team's lease does not expire until 2016.

The Nationals' move would leave a stadium Brevard County invested millions in empty.

The Nationals gave their best sales pitch for a $10 million spring training facility paid for entirely with tourist and state tax dollars.

"I want to take all of those ideas I've been building since I was a kid to build a great ball park," said Mark Lerner, vie-chairman and principal owner of the Washington Nationals.

Lerner said the facility would bring thousands of fans to the county each spring. He said their spring training attendance in Viera in Brevard County was up 200 percent last spring.

"We have a very young team on the way to greatness," said Lerner.

Ninety million dollars would come from the tourism development tax, with the remaining $10 million coming from the state.

An economic study estimates the stadium would generate $55 million in spending in the county each year and $96 million a year if the second phase for a second team is built.

Some business and tourism leaders in Osceola County are concerned that commissioners are being rushed into the deal.

"This is an enormously expensive project for Osceola County. We're putting all the money in the project. We have to see how much money is going to be needed for this out of our tax," said Mark Miller, owner of the Arabian Nights Dinner Attraction.

The contract for the project was released Thursday night.

For months, no information about the project was revealed publically due to a confidentiality agreement with the Nationals.