Mark Lerner on the possibility of the Nationals staying in Viera: 'Nothing they can do about fixing the geography problem'

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VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals’ principal owner Mark Lerner arrived in Viera on Wednesday and made his first appearance at the team’s workout on Thursday morning.

Lerner spent about 10 minutes chatting with reporters about a host of topics, and all of what he said can be found here, in a Q & A that touched on payroll, ticket sales, long-term contracts for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, and the possibility of getting an All-Star game — among other things. 

But one thing that seems particularly relevant right now, given that the Nationals are here, are his comments on the organization’s search to find a new home for their spring training complex. 

The Nationals are keeping their options open at this point, but they’ve yet to find the right agreement anywhere in Florida that suits them both in location and facility, and has the finances to lure them. 

“We’ve still got a number of options and we continue to negotiate with the different cities and we’ll see what happens,” Lerner said.

The Nationals’ lease with Brevard County can be bought out for about $800,000 once the bonds on Space Coast Stadium are paid off this April. In an ideal world, that would allow the Nationals to situate themselves in a new facility as early as 2014, but given that their search is still ongoing, Lerner said that now seems unlikely.

“I would doubt it,” he said, asked if moving by next year was still a viable possibility. “Just with the timing, it would just be too tight. I would think next year we’ll still be in Viera. You just never know what’s going to happen though.”

“The timing was a little bad with the economy and everything else. Florida has their economic troubles. But it’s something we have to fix. We can’t continue to drive 100-plus miles to our closest game — and we will get it fixed. It’s just dedication to get the right kind of situation for us. It’ll happen.”

As for the possibility of working something out to remain in Viera, Lerner reiterated what has always been the Nationals’ issue with this area: location.

“We have an obligation here,” he said. “We’re honoring it, but there’s nothing I can do and nothing they can do about fixing the geography problem, unfortunately.

“We’ve said many times they’ve been great hosts to us and we love the people in the area but it’s just something that we can’t fix, most likely, with out moving. But we’ll continue to look at all the options and we’ll see what shakes out for us.”

 

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About the Author
Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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