Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor was in the area Wednesday, so she stopped by to check on the construction work at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Wearing high heels, Taylor stepped gingerly on a patch of broken concrete and looked east through a haze of dirt kicked up by bulldozers and construction equipment rolling by.
She liked what she saw in the distance – red cranes at the spot of home plate, a concrete wall in right field and rebar-studded concrete in the spot of the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse.
“They are really making progress. I think it’s going to happen,’’ she said, referring to the January 2017 deadline to complete the $144 million complex south of 45th Street.
“The progress they’ve made make me think it’ll be done by December.’’
The visit was the third by Taylor since construction started in November; the site is in her district. The Nationals and Houston Astros face a tight deadline with little margin for error.
When Taylor and the rest of her colleagues on the County Commission gave final approval to the project last fall, they demanded assurances from the team that the work would be done on time.
There were plenty of signs of progress during a brief tour Taylor took with two reporters.
South of where she stood, the crews met a milestone Wednesday when they started carving out the first of six Nationals practice fields. The fields will be built in counterclockwise direction, ending with the six Astros practice fields in the north end of the 160-acre site.
And just east of 12-acre lake, all of the trash mounds have been removed from the Nationals’ side. Some trash mounds were transferred to the north end of the site, on the Astros’ side, but they will be carted off to the county landfill later this spring.
The teams also are about to pour concrete for the slabs at the base of the grand staircase at the main entrance on the west side of the stadium.
Concrete will be poured at the Astros clubhouse in three weeks. Slabs for the Nationals club house were pored Dec. 28.
The Nationals are finishing up their final spring in Viera while the Astros are finishing up their final spring in Kissimmee.
Their main challenges over the next 10 months is weather in West Palm Beach. Significant rain storms or even a hurricane this summer could jeopardize the construction schedule.
“We have a great relationship with Kissimmee,’’ Kibbe said.
“We fully intend to be in West Palm Beach in January. But if something changes, I’m sure we’d be able to sit down with them and talk about (an extension) but that’s not necessary at this time.’’
Taylor said she was thrilled to have visited the site without any damage to her car.
“The last time I was here,” she said, “I had two flat tires.”