Nationals' Move To Ft. Myers In Flux, As City Runs Into Funding, Developer Issues
Ft. Myers officials' plans to "renovate City of Palms Park and bring" the Nationals to town for Spring Training are "in limbo after the developer in talks with the city backed out of footing the bill," according to Jackie Winchester of the Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS. City Mayor Randy Henderson yesterday said that he is "no longer optimistic the Nationals will move to Fort Myers, and the city will continue to look at how the stadium can best be used." City Manager William Mitchell informed the developer that the city "can’t meet the costs the developer proposed the city pay to renovate the stadium." The Nationals "were seeking" $36M in upgrades to the ballpark, which Lee County took ownership of in '03, but the county "couldn't meet those demands." Henderson said that he is "hopeful" another MLB team "could fill the park given that a number of teams will be looking to leave their current spring training homes in the coming years." Mitchell said that the city owes $13M on the ballpark and "taking on the stadium renovation would have increased the city’s debt" to $53-56M. He also said that the ability to "attract the Nationals, or any other team, hinges on the capability to improve the park." Mitchell added that it is "'really tough to identify how it would be possible' to finance a fix so a team would be willing to use it" (Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS, 1/30).