Florida Gov. Pitches $5M Additional Annual Funding For MLB Spring Training Facilities
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday announced plans to earmark an additional $5M per year in state funding for Spring Training stadiums, saying it is part of an effort to "make sure Florida remains the No. 1 destination for spring training," according to Thomas Himes of the Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS. Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann said of luring a team to City of Palms Park, "I don’t know whether that $5 million will ever materialize, but if it becomes available certainly we will want to pursue it." Himes noted Lee County’s efforts to move the Nationals into City of Palms Park "reached an impasse" after the team wanted $36.6M in improvements. Officials "exhausted local funding for baseball" by building a new stadium for the Red Sox in '11 for about $80M and agreeing to $42.5M more in stadium expansions for the Twins last year. Most of Lee County’s tourist tax spending for baseball "is guaranteed to repay debt on those projects." The governor's office in a statement said that it would pay out up to $20M "per stadium project," but local governments "would have to match the state dollar for dollar." Meanwhile, one-third of the state’s 15 teams "have leases up for renewal during the next four years." Florida Sports Foundation President John Webb said, "Arizona has talked to each of the teams" (Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS, 2/27). Lee County Sports Authority Exec Dir Jeff Mielke said that it is "unlikely the state funds could be used to lure a team that already trains in Florida." Instead, Mielke said that he "believes the money could likely be used only to retain a team in its current community or to lure a team that currently trains in Arizona" (NAPLES DAILY NEWS, 2/28).
GRAPEFRUIT VS. CACTUS: MLB.com's Jason Beck noted six MLB teams since '98 have "moved their Spring Training facilities to Arizona: White Sox ('98), Royals (2003), Rangers ('03), Dodgers ('09), Reds ('09) and Indians ('09)." Florida and Arizona are home to 15 teams apiece, and with "each Spring Training agreement that nears expiration for a team, speculation begins anew that Florida or Arizona will try to lure a team from the other state and bring its team total to an even number" (MLB.com, 2/27).