Plans to build a new spring training ballpark in Palm Beach County seem to be on life support putting the future of southeast Florida baseball in doubt.
According to the Palm Beach Post, the Palm Beach Gardens City Council last week stopped all work on the site where a new spring training stadium for the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays was supposed to be built under pressure from neighboring residents who don't want the development in their back yard.
While the possibility exists that another site in Palm Beach County could be found and leaders of the city of Boca Raton have kicked around the idea of trying to build a park in their community, the Astros are said to be frustrated to the point that they're shifting their attention to looking at spring training sites in Arizona.
With the Washington Nationals set to exit the east coast and the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals holding options on their spring training leases if one more team leaves the area, the collapse of the deal could mean the Redbirds would be forced to leave the excellent situation they have at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter out of practicality.
If the Mets leave the area, the Cardinals would only have their stadium co-tennants, the Miami Marlins, without making a day trip out of a practice game. Baseball was once plentiful in the southeast with the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, former Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles all used to call the area their spring home. The clubs that didn't relocate to Arizona have consolidated in the Tampa Bay area or up Interstate 4 near Orlando.
I'm not sure why the local leaders can't find a suitable spot for a spring training ballpark. According to a South University study published in 2011, each MLB club in Florida created $47 million of activity for the local climate The Palm Beach Gardens ballpark was to cost $100 million, which means the initial investment could theoretically be recovered in one year if two teams played in it.
The Palm Beach clubs could have an even greater impact because, if they were located within 10 minutes of each other as planned, the clubs would never have to leave the immediate area to find competition. That means fans would be less likely to split their Florida vacations between Palm Beach and the gulf coast, spending more money at southeast Florida hotels, restaurants and attractions.