Despite the financial constraints, Lee County officials remain optimistic they can still entice the Nationals, who are interested in upgrades to City of Palms Park. Interim county manager Doug Meurer said he contacted Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner after county commissioners approved the Twins’ upgrades Nov. 6, and Lerner remained interested in City of Palms Park.
Meurer said he hopes to hold a meeting soon, possibly in January, with county commissioners and other local officials to discuss what the county can do to lure the Nationals to the west side of the state.
Because of a confidentiality agreement between the county and the team, Meurer said he couldn’t reveal an estimated cost of the Nationals’ renovation requests. But he said needed improvements included upgrades to the rehab facilities, larger training areas, additional practice fields, stadium seat replacement, suite renovations and upgrades to the stadium’s electronic scoreboards. The site’s minor league training facility is more than a mile down the road.
A Nationals spokesman declined to comment.
“We have shown the Nats as much love as we can,” said Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, who added that he has seen the Nationals’ rendering for an upgraded stadium that would cost between $40 million and $50 million. “The county and the city have very limited financial resources at this time to bring the stadium to the state the Nats need and require commensurate with the other professional baseball teams. We have articulated that to them from the get-go.”
The Expos began training at Space Coast Stadium in 2003, and the Nationals remained there when they moved to Washington in 2005. The team’s deal with Brevard County, a lease the Lerner family took over in 2006, runs until 2017. If the Nationals were to break the agreement, they would be obligated to reimburse the county for remaining construction bond payments on the stadium until another team takes it over, according to the contract, along with other potential damages. Brevard County pays about $765,000 per year in bond payments, the final one coming in spring 2013, according to county budget documents.