Nov 9, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT
The Nationals’ long and winding path toward relocating their spring training home began moving in a straight and expedited direction Monday when club executives joined MLB commissioner Rod Manfred and members of the Astros’ front office for a groundbreaking ceremony of a new two-team facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The $144 million complex, approved by county and state officials over the last several months, is slated to open in spring 2017.
Located on the site of a former landfill about eight miles northwest of Palm Beach International Airport, the new facility — tentatively named the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches — is being funded by both the Nationals and Astros, a county hotel tax and state money.
“In today’s economic environment, it’s so difficult to get a project like this done, so congratulations to all of you,” Manfred said during the ceremony, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Crews will face a condensed timeline to build the facility, which includes a 6,500-seat ballpark, clubhouses for the Nationals, Astros and a visiting team, 12 practice fields and parking lots. Before that can begin, though, roughly 100,000 cubic yards of garbage must be removed from the former landfill.
Despite all that work, Nationals officials have been confident all along the complex will be ready to open in 2017, leaving the club to spend only one more spring in Viera.
Thus will conclude the franchise’s lengthy search for a new spring training home. The organization has been based in Viera since 2003, when the Expos were owned by MLB and agreed to swap facilities with the Marlins, moving two hours north from the sparkling new Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. The Lerner family, which purchased the Nationals from MLB in 2006, spent some of its own money on upgrades at Space Coast Stadium (which opened in 1994) but soon after began looking to relocate elsewhere in Florida.
The issue wasn’t so much the facility itself but Viera’s remote location in the Grapefruit League. No other MLB club trains within a 1-hour drive from Space Coast Stadium. In West Palm Beach, the Nationals will share a facility with the Astros, be only 15 minutes from Jupiter (where the Marlins and Cardinals play) and only 45 minutes from Mets camp in Port St. Lucie.
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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