Spring Training Baseball
The City of Palm Beach Gardens is currently considering a proposal for a dual-Major League Baseball Spring Training facility. This proposal is in the early conceptual stages and much due diligence remains to be completed. We have added questions and responses to those questions based upon questions received from the community since the October 16th Open House. click here for open house exhibits
Q. Why do we need another spring training ballpark in northern Palm Beach County?
A. Major League Baseball (MLB) teams need to have their spring training facilities located within a reasonable driving distance of each other and must have enough other teams in their spring training league to be able to play a full and varied schedule. Recently, the Washington Nationals announced they were leaving Viera. This drops the number of teams in our Grapefruit League down far enough that the Florida Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals could opt out of their contracts at Roger Dean Stadium, located in Jupiter, Florida, leaving Palm Beach County with no MLB spring training.
Q. What would the impact be if the Marlins and the Cardinals left Palm Beach County?
A. If the Marlins and Cardinals are able to opt out of their contracts, they could do so as early as 2017, causing hundreds of local jobs to be lost. According to the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, our County would also lose an estimated $56 million in revenues.
Q. What would the economic impact be of building a new dual-team spring training park in Palm Beach Gardens?
A. At least one study estimates that a new two-team park would generate an estimated positive economic impact of more than $80 million to $100 million a year, and construction of the spring training park would employ approximately 1,254 people. Once the park is open, it’s estimated that an additional 1,007 to 1,422 full-time jobs would be created; some of these would be direct full-time jobs at the stadium while others would be indirect jobs at local restaurants, hotels, retail outlets, real estate, etc. Other studies by the State of Florida and Palm Beach County indicate that two additional teams with the Cardinals and the Marlins would account for a community-wide economic benefit of more than $105 million per year. Bringing new teams to Palm Beach County also means that the Marlins and Cardinals would NOT be able to exercise an out clause in their contracts allowing them to leave, which would result in a $56 million loss in economic impact.
Palm Beach County- Economic Impact of Baseball in Palm Beach County (April 2006)
Florida Sports Foundation & The Bonn Research and Marketing Group- 2009 MLB Florida Spring Training Economic Impact Study (2009)
Tourism Economics- The Economic Impact of a New Houston Astros Spring Traininig Facility in Palm Beach Gardens, FL (December 2012)
University of Michigan- The Economic Value of Spring Training and St. Lucie County (February 2013)
Q. Where might the new park be located?
A. The new park might be located in the City of Palm Beach Gardens, between Central Boulevard and I-95, to the north of 117th Court on approximately 117 acres. A large portion of this property was already set aside for the North County District Park, which was planned to be an athletic facility. The stadium, which is much smaller than a Major League stadium and comparable to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, would be in the far northeast corner next to I-95. It would be located nearly a third of a mile from the closest home. It would also be buffered by parking, an existing school and fields, as well as the existing City Tennis Center. The conceptual new park would be located within walking distance of nearby hotels, restaurants, and shopping.
Q. Are there other benefits?
A. Yes, several! According to the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, adding two additional MLB teams solidifies our County as a sports tourism destination; and the addition of field space will greatly enhance our County’s ability to compete with other regions for lucrative national and international sporting events and tournaments. Plus, much-needed field space created as a part of this plan would be available for local youth and league play. Currently, there is a much greater demand for playing fields than the City and North County can accommodate. In addition, tax payer dollars will not be needed to pay debt service on the proposed North County District Park, instead this spring training facility will be self-sustaining.
Q. What will be built?
A. The proposed project is still in the conceptual planning stage. If financially feasible, the project would include a dual-team stadium, numerous practice fields that can also be used by the public, mostly grass parking areas, and a new access road. The City would connect and improve 117th Court North and Shady Lakes Drive to tree-lined divided four-lane roads with traffic calming. Also, plans to these roads have been in the City’s Thoroughfare Plan and adopted within the City’s Comprehensive Plan as a key linkage roadway. This plan was based on needs by the schools and by law enforcement and fire safety.
Q. Will the existing paved trail from Shady Lakes to 117th Court North be removed?
A. IT WILL NOT BE REMOVED, but rather, it would be fully enhanced to make it wider and safer for children, pedestrians, and joggers. Conceptually, the trail could be eight-(8) feet wide with more landscaping and smoother pavement than what currently exists. This path would be safer for children, cyclists, and residents who use it for walking and jogging.
Q. I’ve heard that the City Park located next to the Tennis Center will be torn down, is that true?
A. The City Tennis Center will not only stay, but there are plans to expand it. Additional courts and parking are part of that plan. The City is looking at options to relocate the playground equipment, basketball courts, racquetball courts, and the two hard-surfaced tennis courts. At the request of residents, the City is studying how to relocate them within the same vicinity which will be more convenient for residents than the existing location. The City is also exploring opportunities for more family-friendly activities on the proposed stadium site that would benefit nearby residents all year long.
Q. Won’t this increase traffic in our neighborhood?
A. Yes, it will increase traffic during game days, but it is important to note that spring training lasts only six (6) weeks. Also, much needed road improvements to 117th Court, Shady Lakes Drive, and intersections at 117th Court and Central Boulevard and at Shady Lakes Drive and PGA Boulevard will allow traffic to flow more smoothly. Conceptual traffic-calming solutions, landscape buffers, and a new designated access road north of 117th Court will also benefit the neighborhood. All of these measures will add more connectivity, which is in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, to benefit the local schools and the local traffic flow. During event days, traffic enforcement officers will be manually changing lights and directing traffic in order for residents to be able to move freely with limited interruptions.
1925 Original Road Deed for Shady Lakes Boulevard
Q. Will this impact the schools along 117th Court?
A. Actually, the schools need the connection of 117th and Shady Lakes, as the existing conditions and lack of connection creates significant congestion and back-ups during school drop-off and pick-up. The improved road connectivity will allow traffic to flow much more smoothly than it does today. The needs of the schools will play an important part in the planning of the traffic flow for the ballpark. The main access to the park will be off Central, along the planned new access road which would be north of 117th Street and would directly connect to the park. An additional benefit are proposed grass parking areas opposite the schools which could provide for much-needed overflow parking for school events and pick-up and drop-off.
Q. Would the stadium’s location present any concerns for resident and student safety?
A. According to two (2) years of crime statistics for all of Abacoa and specifically, Roger Dean Stadium, during the period of time during which spring training takes place, only three (3) crimes were reported.
Q. Will there be access off of I-95?
A. There is a future interchange designated at I-95 and Central Boulevard, but there is no timeline associated with the construction and funding of the improvements at this time. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently performing a traffic study to assess the need for the interchange.
Q. What actions are being taken to ensure that local residents have their concerns addressed?
A. The City is committed to working with nearby residents to address traffic or other concerns they may have. We are still early in the conceptual planning process and intend to continue to provide the public with information on this proposal throughout the process. The City held an initial open house on October 16, 2013, and listened and responded to three hours of productive resident feedback at the November 7, 2013, City Council meeting. Much more public input will be needed IF this project moves forward, and the City will continue to update these questions and answers based upon email received from residents.
Q. Who is going to pay for this new park?
A. No ad valorem tax dollars will be used to build or operate the park. The park could be paid for through the existing tourist development fee charged to visitors who rent hotel rooms, condos, or homes in Palm Beach County for six months or less. Palm Beach County’s debt obligations for Roger Dean Stadium will be paid off in 2017, freeing up that half-cent of the tourism development fee which could be used for the new park. That half-cent is intended to support tourism-related infrastructure projects such as this proposed new ballpark. The City will also be eligible to receive up to $50 million in state incentive funding set aside specifically for the development of MLB spring training opportunities.
Q. Will my property taxes be paying for this park?
A. No ad valorem (property taxes) would be used. The money to build this park will come from the State and the County Bed Tax which is generated by tourism and stadium operating revenues. A county study and a state study suggest that the addition of two Major League Baseball teams, for a total of four, would bring our area more than $105 million of economic benefit.
Q. Who will run the park?
A. City staff is currently exploring several alternatives involving the City of Palm Beach Gardens, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, the teams, or a combination of all three. We do know that it is important for the Palm Beach County Sports Commission to have the access and ability to attract youth and collegiate sports tournaments to the County. The two MLB teams will manage their spring training activities and, potentially, their associated minor league teams.
Q. What other Palm Beach Gardens’ sites were considered?
A.“Gentle Ben”: The 334-acre parcel, also known as the “Gentle Ben” site, located at the southeast corner of PGA Boulevard and the Beeline Highway, was ruled out as a possible location. One of the main reasons it was not pursued was due to the fact that a Perpetual Conservation and Flowage Easement exists on the site in favor of the South Florida Water Management District. This means that the primary function of this entire parcel involves flood control, water management, conservation, and environmental restoration; and therefore, cannot be developed into a spring training stadium.
“Briger”: The 682-acre parcel, also known as the “Briger Scripps Phase II” site, located south of Donald Ross Road, north of Hood Road and east and west of I-95, was ruled out as a possible location in the early stages of the project’s development. The Briger site is currently entitled for bioscience, research and development, office, residential and retail. The site is not entitled for a MLB facility. Based on these approvals, plans have been submitted to the City from Kolter to develop portions of the site, consistent with the Development of Regional Impact (DRI) and Master Site Plan. Based on these entitlements, the site would not be feasible from financial standpoint due to the cost per acre.
“Vavrus Tract”: The 4,760-acre parcel, now known as the “Avenir Proposal”, located north of Northlake Boulevard, south of the Beeline highway, one mile east of Seminole Pratt-Whitney Road, was also ruled out as a possible location in the early stages of the project’s development. The Vavrus Tract was considered to be too far west by Major League Baseball teams, and it is not near major transportation arteries such as Turnpike and I-95, and is located outside the City’s urban growth boundary. The site is currently entitled for 406 residential units. A development application has been submitted for a large development including 7,600 residential units, a University, and over 1.7 Million square feet of non-residential uses.
Q. What are the next steps?
A. This conceptual proposal currently has Letters of Intent from two MLB teams which are being kept confidential at this time under Section 288.075, Florida Statutes; contracts have NOT yet been negotiated. We are still in the early planning stages, and no firm timeline has been established, but the process includes the need for City approvals, County approvals, and an application to the State Department of Economic Opportunity for the MLB spring training incentive funds.
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