West Palm Beach to play ball with county on spring training land swap

Roger Dean stadium in Palm Beach
Roger Dean stadium in Palm Beach

West Palm Beach’s mayor on Monday announced that the city will negotiate a possible land swap with Palm Beach County for a new baseball spring training complex.

Mayor Jeri Muoio’s announcement, at a press conference outside West Palm Beach’s City Hall, reverses the city’s previous stance. The city had steadfastly maintained it would not trade land with the county for the $135 million baseball project, according to the Palm Beach Post.

It’s a major step forward in the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros’ joint effort to build a shared complex on 160 acres south of 45th Street, between Haverhill Road and Military Trail. The teams want to break ground this spring.

But the county has to own the land first, and that can only happen if the land swap is ultimately approved, the Palm Beach Post reported. For the 160 acres, the county would give the city nearly two acres of county-owned land downtown near the train station.

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The County Commission on Oct. 21 agreed to allocate $108 million in revenue from the county’s hotel tax to help finance a spring training baseball facility on the condition the teams find a location for the project within the next 90 days. Last month, the commission voted to seek negotiations with West Palm Beach on the land swap.

The county is trying to lure additional teams to the area to prevent the four existing teams along the east coast from leaving. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals train at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. The New York Mets train in Port St. Lucie. The Nationals train in Viera.

West Palm Beach last hosted spring training in 1997 at West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium, home to the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos. In 1998, the Braves moved to Orlando and the Expos moved to Roger Dean Stadium. [Palm Beach Post] — Ina Cordle