Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks was famous for saying “let’s play two.” And in Palm Beach County baseball fans can soon say “let’s watch two”— watch spring training games at two separate sites that is.
Construction has begun on a new stadium complex that will sit on 160 acres on Haverhill Road south of 45th Street in West Palm Beach. The $135 million complex is scheduled to be ready for the opening of spring training in 2017 and will host the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals already hold their spring training at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
Most local real estate professionals express strong support for the project, although the question remains whether the economic impact will be strong enough to justify the $135 million that the county is devoting to the project.
“This is absolutely fantastic for the area,” Rebel Cook, president of Rebel Cook Real Estate, which is brokering the sale of warehouse condos across the street from the stadium, told The Real Deal. “Forty-fifth Street is a main corridor, just west of I-95 and also close to the Turnpike.” That area and the neighborhoods south of it have been down on their heels for the last 15 years.
As for the stadium, it is being financed largely with bonds backed by $108 million of county taxes on hotels and motels (bed taxes) slated for the next 30 years. The teams will pay $68.8 million combined in average lease payments of $2.4 million a year that will help service the debt.
The stadium will generate total economic impact of more than $158 million for West Palm Beach, according to Tourism Economics, a subsidiary of economic research firm Oxford Economics. It estimates the project will generate $58 million in total personal income and more than 1,200 annualized full-time equivalent jobs. The project will proved $6 million in state and local taxes, the economists calculate.
“This is helping a distressed area become way better,” Bill Reichel, president of West Palm-based commercial real estate services firm Reichel Realty, told TRD. “It will drive traffic, which will help retail, which will help housing.” He noted that the Jupiter baseball complex has added vibrancy to its Abacoa neighborhood. And even the skeptics acknowledge that the new stadium will at least draw fans from the Washington, D.C. area, though attracting fans from Houston may be a tougher sell, given the long distance.
Reichel is particularly enthusiastic over the impact on jobs. “It’s going to help everyone from ticket takers, to hot dog vendors to people in the construction trades,” he said.