Washington Nationals will leave Brevard, take spring training to Osceola

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VIERA, Fla. —

The Washington Nationals baseball team will be leaving Brevard County and moving to Osceola County for spring training.

While the team won't say when it is leaving, Channel 9's Christopher Heath learned that state money designed to keep teams in Florida is now being used to pit counties against each other.

"Business was great. This was one of the best Marches we've had," said Samir Patel, talking about the business his Holiday Inn did during spring training in Brevard County this year.

Patel's hotel is less than a mile from the Nationals' park in Viera. The tourist tax he collects helps keep baseball in Brevard County, but the baseball is coming to an end.

"My discussions with the Nationals are finished, that's for sure," said Brevard County Commissioner Andy Anderson.

Anderson made the announcement Wednesday. He said the Nationals will only commit to one more season in Brevard County and then they will be gone, leaving behind a stadium that the county has pumped more than $5 million into since 2005.

"At some point it's a diminished return on investment," said Anderson.

While touring through central Florida this spring, Gov. Rick Scott announced up to $20 million in matching funds to improve spring training facilities.

The money spearheaded by the governor was designed to keep Florida teams from moving west to Arizona. But teams don't actually have to move to get the cash. So instead of Florida versus Arizona, it is Florida versus Florida.

"It's going to become the haves and have-nots," said Anderson.

Counties like Osceola, with greater tourist tax dollars, can easily match the $20 million for state funding, putting teams in charge of where they play, how little they pay and how long they stay.

That leaves people like Patel with a great view of an empty stadium.

"If the Nationals leave, it's going to be a big impact on us," said Patel.

The county said its minor league team, the Manatees, will remain at the stadium.

They are hoping to convince another team that left for Arizona to return to Florida.