- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

The mayor of West Palm Beach announced Monday that the city will negotiate a land swap with greater Palm Beach County that could allow the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros to begin planning the construction of a long-awaited spring training facility in Florida.

Mayor Jeri Muoio said she would be open to an agreement that would give the county control of a 160-acre property near Haverhill Road that had been previously used as a dump site. It was earmarked for residential development, but the amount of cleanup necessary to support such a project remained uncertain.

In exchange, the city would gain a tract of land currently controlled by the county located in downtown West Palm Beach.

“We have an unexpected window of opportunity,” Muoio said in a statement. “We already know the county remains interested in our site. We know the teams like the Haverhill site. I remain committed to ensuring the interests of our residents are protected, but I am equally excited about the benefits that would come with having spring training in our city.”

The Nationals have held spring training in Viera since moving to Washington prior to the 2005 season. Space Coast Stadium, completed in 1994, is aging, and the nearest spring training facilities are more than an hour away by road.

Eight of the 15 teams who hold their spring training in Florida are clustered on Florida’s Gulf Coast, with five of those teams within an hour of Tampa.

Both the Nationals and the Astros, who are eager to leave Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, have leases that expire prior to the 2017 season. The organizations have worked together to find a suitable site for a new complex and hired HKS Sports and Entertainment as the architect in the summer of 2013.

“The Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros are grateful to the City of West Palm Beach for their willingness to open negotiations with Palm Beach County to secure a Spring Training facility site,” read a statement released jointly by the teams. “Certainly, Mayor Muoio’s statement today sets us on a path to a successful conclusion, and we remain very optimistic.”

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