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Could This Be The Nats’ Last Spring in Viera?
Spring training is under way for the Nationals, with pitchers and catchers reporting this weekend. But will this be the team’s last Grapefruit League season at Space Coast Stadium in Viera?
According to several media reports, the Nationals are looking at some new options as they move closer to contention in the National League East. According to Florida Today, the team’s chief complaint about its current location is a lack of nearby opponents. The only other teams currently training on Florida’s East Coast are the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, 72 miles from Viera, and the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, 110 miles away. In fact, the closest competition for the Nats is is the Astros’ camp in Kissimmee, which is still an hour’s drive.
According to the News-Press (Fort Myers, Fla.), the most serious overture is coming from Lee County, where the Boston Red Sox have left their longtime home in Fort Myers, City of Palms Park, for a new stadium nearby. Under that scenario, the Nats would be virtual next-door neighbors with the Red Sox and Minnesota Twins, and less than an hour from the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles also train on the popular “Sun Coast” of Florida.
Another scenario, according to Florida Today, has the Nats moving south to St. Luicie County, which is discussing expanding the Mets’ training facility to accommodate another team. That would put them closer to the Mets, Cardinals, Marlins and the teams in Southwest Florida, but farther from the concentration of teams in the Tampa and Sarasota area.
Spring training is big business in Florida, and with the competition for tourist dollars at a premium in a struggling economy, the negotiations are sure to be serious. General Manager Mike Rizzo will be looking out for his team’s best interests, not only in terms of location, but also stadium amenities and other perks that each location can provide. In the long run, it’s probably best for the team to look for a new spring training home, one where travel won’t be a major concern and fans will have a nice ballpark to enjoy the spring games.