Taxpayers and spring training, a poor investment
The final curtain will be coming down on spring training in a few days and for Kissimmee and Viera, Florida, when the 2016 spring training portion of the Major League Baseball season ends, it will be the final spring training in those towns as the Houston Astros franchise will vacate Kissimmee and the Washington Nationals franchise will depart Viera. Both are heading down to West Palm Beach area where the two teams will share a new multimillion dollar facility beginning in 2017.
For Florida there will be no economic gain just a shifting of money and the money that is being used to build the West Palm Beach ballpark will come from a hotel-motel bed tax. So, even though the two teams will pay a sizeable sum of cash more than a million dollars annually each over a 30-year lease, the move for taxpayers isn’t really much of a bargain but for the two baseball team owners, they could rake in more cash in more affluent Palm Beach County than in the Orlando area as in the Astros case or the Space Coast area for the Nationals owners’ case. Spring training is supposed to be a financial bonanza for local communities and states but that doesn’t necessary appear to be the case. When Arizona went after Major League Baseball owners to move their operations to the state and Arizona was quite successful in getting team owners to leave Florida, there was a fund designed to pay off spring training facilities. The problem now is that fund has dried up and Arizona is scrambling to pay down the debt at the complexes. Arizona’s next challenge could be keeping the Milwaukee Brewers franchise in the state as Brewers ownership can get out of a lease with Maryvale in April. Both Florida and Arizona claim spring training brings in big money but the only thing certain is baseball owners will be looking for the best possible taxpayer’s supported deal in either state and are willing to leave behind empty complexes.
Republished with permission Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.