* As Frank Sinatra used to sing “there used to be a ball park here …” Now, West Palm Beach, previous spring home of the Montreal Expos and the Atlanta Braves until 20 years ago at long-since gone Municipal Stadium, officials are looking to bring the Houston Nationals and the Houston Astros to town.
By Danny Gallagher
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Some 20 years after the Montreal Expos and Atlanta Braves departed their joint spring training home in West Palm Beach, it’s possible two other teams could hook up to start in 2017.
But the Washington Nationals, formerly the Expos, and Houston Astros are cutting a fine line.
“It’s very short and they know it,’’ Palm Beach County administrator Bob Weisman told me in an interview.
Weisman said the two teams hope to start construction in June, pending further approvals. But whether the proposed 8,000-seat park is ready for February, 2017 is open for betting and 2018 probably sounds more realistic.
If the park is not ready for 2017, the Nationals would continue to play out of their poor digs in Viera and the Astros would stay in Kississmee. Both parks are not up to standard, compared to other ritzy sites in Florida and Arizona. The Blue Jays’ facilities in Dunedin are a bit pathetic as they already know. The Jays are searching for a new spring-training home so they are looking at sites in both Florida and Arizona.
At one time, the Astros and Jays had been fairly close to gaining approval for a stadium in Palm Beach Gardens but that all fell by the wayside. Now it seems fairly certain the Nationals and Astros will indeed suit up at a site here about five miles northwest of old Municipal Stadium at the corner of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. and Hank Aaron Way. That old stadium property is currently taken up by a Home Depot.
The Expos moved their spring-training site to nearby Jupiter in time for the 1998 season in unison with the St. Louis Cardinals. But when JeffreyLoria obtained control of the Marlins years ago, he somehow worked out a deal that would allow his team to taker over Jupiter, forcing the Expos to go to Veira.
The deal for the Nationals and Astros is quite impressive. Too bad Montreal couldn’t get a similar type deal to get a new park in Montreal if and when MLB returns there. So here’s the deal for the stadium that will cost about $135-million, as Weisman points out.
“Palm Beach County will pay about $80 million, the state will pay $50 million and the teams will pay the rest,’’ Weisman said.
Earlier this week, an environmental study suggested that shrinking a protective buffer along the M-Canal, a move needed to complete the 45th St. stadium, should not offer any new trouble for the city’s water supply.