Palm Beach County to Atlanta Braves: No bed tax money available for spring training complex

The new spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals is quickly taking shape in West Palm Beach, as you can see in the video below.

But plans by the Atlanta Braves to move to John Prince Park in suburban Lake Worth are going at a much slower pace.

 

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker met with two top Braves officials in her office this past Monday but she said there wasn’t much progress.

Atlanta Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz
Atlanta Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz

In fact, she said the team officials still haven’t presented her with a written proposal of how they plan to pay for the $100 million facility they want to build in no the south end of John Prince.

Baker also said she told the Braves not to expect the county to contribute revenue from a local hotel tax.

The County Commission did pledge so-called “bed tax” money last year for the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the $144 million complex south of 45th Street where the Astros and Nationals will play starting in January.

But Baker said she told Braves chairman Terry McGuirk and vice chairman John Schuerholz earlier this week, “There are no bed tax dollars. It is not there.’’

She said the Braves indicated hope that Lake Worth and other towns near John Prince Park might contribute revenue to the project.

Baker said she has no plans to discuss the Braves during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

“There’s nothing to discuss,’’ she said. “They’re telling me they’re on a time crunch. I told them I still need a written proposal.’’

Now pitching for the Atlanta Braves: Collier County

Update: Collier County commissioners did not embrace the proposal this morning and asked the Braves to meet with county staff about other potential locations in the county.

Five residents spoke to commissioners, all against the proposal.

 

Original post:

Collier County commissioners will hear a proposal this morning to build a spring training complex for the Atlanta Braves east of Naples on Florida’s southwest coast.

The proposal, being pitched by a private development group, would compete against interest by some Palm Beach County officials to build the Braves a facility in John Prince Park west of Lake Worth.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker, who met with Braves officials on Friday, said she was still waiting for a formal proposal from the team.

The Naples Daily News said Collier County could spend up to $135 million in tourist tax money to build, finance and maintain the project over 30 years.

The Collier County Commission is scheduled to discuss the Braves at 10 a.m. this morning. The meeting can be seen live on the county’s website.

“We believe that relocating our spring training operations to a new facility in Naples and Collier County would be mutually beneficial to our organization and the citizens of Naples and Collier County,” Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz wrote Jan. 4 in a letter that was included in the private group’s proposal.

Schuerholz has a home in Naples.

 

Atlanta Braves double-header: Supporters and opponents to face off at two public meetings today

BRAVES FANSSupporters of a proposal to bring the Atlanta Braves to John Prince Park are planning to attend two public meetings today where opponents plan to ask government leaders to reject the idea.

Residents around Lake Osborne plan to speak to the Palm Beach County Commission today about their concerns.

A flyer that started circulating Monday urged supports to attend the same meeting as well as a Lake Worth City Commission meeting tonight to voice their support.

The Braves plan is not on the regular County Commission agenda today. But it will be brought up by residents during Matters by the Public, which starts at 2 p.m.

The Lake Worth City Commission will consider a resolution supporting the project.

 

 

A few bumps in the road for mobile billboard protesting Atlanta Braves complex in John Prince Park

Protesting with a 12-ft.-plus-high billboard in John Prince Park has its challenges.

Opponents of an idea to build a spring training complex for the Atlanta Braves in the public park west of Lake Worth hired a company to pull the billboard with a truck.

Driver Shamir Pinchinat takes a break at a stop sign near John Prince Park
Driver Shamir Pinchinat takes a break at a stop sign near John Prince Park

The billboard – it urges residents to attend a County Commission meeting on Tuesday to voice their concerns about the baseball proposal – was supposed to make its rounds around the park from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Friday through Monday, starting Friday.

But the billboard arrived six hours late from Miami because the truck that was pulling it broke down Friday on Interstate 95.

Once it arrived at the park, around 5 p.m. Friday, the truck had to change one of the routes. Turns out the billboard was too high to fit under the Six Avenue South bridge that passes above Lake Osborne Drive – an 11-ft. clearance.

Then on Saturday, park rangers chased the truck off of the roads within the park, citing policy and safety issues.

Billboard makes its way north on Lake Osborne Drive on Saturday.
Billboard makes its way north on Lake Osborne Drive on Saturday.

The truck driver, Shamir Pinchinat, took it all in stride. He and his co-driver, Thierry Bruno, were polite and cordial with rangers. They improvised and drove on roads around the park.

“We’ve gotten a lot of thumbs-up from people and cars honking in support,’’ Pinchinat said, talking to a reporter while the truck idled at a stop sign on Snowden Drive, just east of the park.

The truck will make some rounds in downtown West Palm Beach on Tuesday morning, just before the County Commission meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

The baseball proposal is not on the commission’s agenda. And County Administrator Verdenia Baker said she does not plan to bring it up during her comments.

But several Lake Osborne residents plan to voice their concerns at 2 p.m., during the Matters by the Public section of the meeting. They live close to the park and they fear it will be destroyed if the Braves build a complex there.

The county had planned to start $2 million in improvements at the park, including a new dog park and gazebos. A ground-breaking ceremony was scheduled for Wednesday.

But the ceremony was canceled and the improvements postponed until the commission decides on whether to pursue luring the Braves to the park.

A majority of commissioners have told The Post that they support exploring the idea. But when commissioner Shelley Vana brought it up last week at a workshop, the commissioners said they wanted to wait until the Braves submit a formal proposal.

Baker said in a text message Saturday that she has not received a proposal yet.

Atlanta Braves like south end of John Prince Park for spring training complex

If the Atlanta Braves get permission to move to Palm Beach County, their top choice for building a spring training complex is on the south end of John Prince Park just west of Lake Worth.

Yellow highlighter marks rough boundaries of area in the sound end of John Prince Park where Atlanta Braves want to to build a spring training complex.
Yellow highlighter marks rough boundaries of area in the sound end of John Prince Park where Atlanta Braves want to to build a spring training complex.

The $100 million baseball complex would be east of the county-owned park’s Congress Avenue entrance, north of the Lantana airport and south of Sixth Avenue South. It would not encroach on Lake Osborne, which meanders north to south on the east side of the park.

The Braves have not publicly said how many acres are needed, but sources said it would be far less than the 135 acres sought by the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros when they briefly considered the south end of the park for a two-team facility.

This idea is no longer in play, but it was an initial design by the Astros and Nationals for a stadium on the north end of the park looking out to the lake.
This idea is no longer in play, but it was an initial design by the Astros and Nationals for a stadium on the north end of the park looking out to the lake.

The Nationals and Astros ultimately rejected John Prince Park – they’re now building a complex in West Palm Beach — because of time-consuming permitting issues associated with encroachments into canals and the lake. Those encroachments would not exist under the Braves’ preliminary plan, sources said.

The Braves are not considering the north end of the park because it would disrupt too many public amenities. The Nationals and Astros also briefly considered 84 acres at the north end, a site that would have included a stadium looking out toward Lake Osborne.

The Palm Beach County Commission might discuss the idea of bringing the Braves to Lake Worth during their next meeting on April 5.