OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Osceola County commissioners voted 'no' Monday night on whether to use $100 million tourism tax dollars to build a spring training facility for the Washington Nationals baseball team.
A number of county leaders had criticized the proposal, calling it a bad deal.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to turn down the proposed facility.
The Washington Nationals released a statement Monday night: "While the Washington Nationals are sorry that we couldn’t come to an agreement with Osceola County, we recognize this was just one option toward finding the right site, deal and partner to build our one-of-a-kind, family-friendly Spring Training and fan experience facility. We would like to thank Osceola County for approaching us about this project and for their professionalism and good spirit throughout the negotiations. We will continue to talk with other interested counties in Florida and Arizona and believe that the appropriate combination of site and investment will pay dividends for the right community long into the future."
According to the Washington Post, the Nationals withheld $3.5 million in rent from
Washington, D.C., after taxpayers in that city built a stadium for the team.
The team claimed the state-of-the-art stadium was still incomplete, and also demanded $100,000 a day in damages.
Brian Wong, hotel
owner and chair of the county's Tourism Development Council, said he was concerned about the deal, which he estimated would have cost $220 million over 30 years.
"The Nationals are astute business people, so if they're not willing to put any of their own money into it, why should Osceola taxpayers pay 100 percent of the construction," said Wong.
With only 15 games a year, Wong estimated the cost of each game at nearly $500,000.
Because spring training happens during the busy tourism season, it's money Wong believes would be better spent marketing Osceola as a tourist destination during the off-season.
"It's a very expensive investment by taxpayers. The returns are not guaranteed," said Wong.
WFTV found out that suggestions have been made that there might be another option later to make improvements to the county's current facility at a much smaller cost.