As a run-up to Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, new baseball exhibit opens today at history museum

Debi Murray shows off a mannequin wearing a uniform loaned by All Star second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. The uniform is on display at a new baseball exhibit that opened today at the Palm Beach County History Museum. Murray is chief archivist of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Debi Murray shows off a mannequin wearing a uniform loaned by All Star second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. The uniform is on display at a new baseball exhibit that opened today at the Palm Beach County History Museum. Murray is chief archivist of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

A new baseball exhibit opens today at the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum in downtown West Palm Beach.

The exhibit — “For the Love of the Game: Baseball in the Palm Beaches” — offers an impressive microcosm of how baseball and the local area have influenced each other since the 1897 when Henry Flagler built a baseball diamond to entertain his hotel guests on Palm Beach.

It covers the area’s 120 history with baseball, including the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the new spring training home of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.

The exhibit, which runs through next July, was planned to open today as a run-up to the new spring training facility south of 45th Street and west of Interstate 95.

Many artifacts were loaned by local residents.

 

Let there be light! Towers rise at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

Until last week, the construction site at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches didn’t offer any hints that it would one day be home to a Major League Baseball spring training facility.

That changed Thursday when crew installed light towers on one of the Washington Nationals’ six practice fields.

Light poles went up Thursday on one of the Washington Nationals' six practice fields at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Light poles went up Thursday on one of the Washington Nationals’ six practice fields at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. (Photo courtesy of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and McNicholas and Associates.)

Now, “Driving by it, it stands out as ‘That’s a baseball field,”’ said Brady Ballard, general manager of the ballpark.

The Nationals and Houston Astros will share the $144 million facility starting in January just south of 45th Street between Haverhill Road and Military Trail.

“We all know it’s a tight schedule but we are on schedule,” Ballard said.

Each team will get six practice fields. Of the 12 fields, two will be up to Major League Baseball standards, including light poles.

The light poles at the main stadium haven’t gone up yet. In fact, the main stadium doesn’t quite look like a baseball facility yet, at least not from your car window on Military Trail or Haverhill Road. But that will change in the coming months.

In about two weeks, crews will start to install grass on some of the practice fields.

On Friday, the teams loaned some of their construction crews to help make improvements at a nearby church just north of the baseball facility.

 

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.’’

New web site goes online for the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has launched a new web page.

Screen shot of the landing page for the new web site for The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Screen shot of the landing page for the new web site for The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Like the actual ballpark south of 45th Street in West Palm Beach, the web page is still being developed.

But the initial landing page, which went online Friday, offers a few general details for now, including links to the official web pages of the teams that will share the 160-acre complex, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

Brady Ballard, the general manager of the ballpark, said the future website will include lots of images, links and information along with “key details of the ballpark experience, ticket information, team schedules and a calendar of non-spring training events.”

“More details to come as we build the site.”

The ballpark itself is supposed to open by January 2017.

 

 

From one old landfill to another, sabal palm trees uprooted by baseball project find new home

From one old landfill to another, more than 50 sabal palm trees are finding a new home after being uprooted by the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.

Crews remove a sabal palm from the baseball construction site. (Photo by McNicholas & Associates)
Crews remove a sabal palm from the baseball construction site. (Photo by McNicholas & Associates)

As part of the construction process at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, work crews are relocating 53 sabal palms to Dyer Park, a former landfill owned by Palm Beach County.

The healthy trees had stood at an old West Palm Beach landfill south of 45th Street. But they’re being moved to make room for a 160-acre spring training complex. They’re being moved this week via trucks.

Workers started removing the trees Friday. They’ll finish moving them by the end of this week, according to McNicholas & Associates, the public relation firm for the spring training complex.

Sabal palm is replanted at Dyer Park. (Photo by McNicholas & Associates)
Sabal palm is replanted at Dyer Park. (Photo by McNicholas & Associates)

The trees are being moved from the current site in order to make sure they are not damaged during construction.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches will have thousands of new palm trees, hardwood and shade trees when it opens in January.

“The layout of the stadium and the surrounding fields will include an inviting natural environment for fans attending Astros and Nationals games along with non-Spring Training activities,” the firm said in a press release.

If you would like more information on the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches or to be placed on a future ticket-interest contact list, send an email to info@ballparkpalmbeaches.com.

 

 

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.

Will new West Palm Beach baseball complex be home to World Series winner next spring?

If the experts at one national sports magazine are correct, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches will host the World Series winner when the new West Palm Beach spring training complex opens in January.

Sports Illustrated predicts the Houston Astros to win the World Series this year.ASTROS SI COVER

Before you start buying champagne, take note that a year ago this time, Sports Illustrated predicted the Cleveland Indians would win the 2015 World Series.

The Indians finished 81-80 and missed the playoffs. The Kansas City Royals, who won the World Series, weren’t even picked by the magazine to make the playoffs.

Perhaps the Astros are destined to become the latest victims of the Sports Illustrated jinx, the urban legend in which sports figures who appeared on the front of the magazine have come down with injuries, lost big games or suffered some other unfortunate misfortune.

The Astros and Washington Nationals will share the $144 million complex south of 45th Street next year.

Construction is still ongoing and there’s lots to be done over the next 10 months but officials with both teams say they will play their first games there starting in late February.

The Astros’ final game at Osceola Stadium in Kissimmee, Houston’s spring home since 1985, ended without a pitch being thrown. It was rained out Saturday.

The Nationals’ were also rained out of their final game at Space Coast Stadium, the franchise’s spring home since 2003, in Viera on Monday.

VIDEO: See how the new West Palm Beach spring training complex is taking shape

Want to take a quick ride with construction crews building the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, where the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros will play starting in January?

Click this short video to see what it looked like as of a week ago.

 

 

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.

 

Construction update at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

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.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor visited the construction site Wednesday of the new West Palm Beach spring training complex. The $144 million project is in her district.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor visited the construction site Wednesday of the new West Palm Beach spring training complex. The $144 million project is in her district.

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.

Home plate is to the left of the red crane. On the right, workers sit on what will be the Washington Nationals clubhouse.
Home plate is to the left of the red crane. On the right, workers sit on what will be the Washington Nationals clubhouse.

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.

Workers on a wall of the Washington Nationals clubhouse
Workers on a wall of the Washington Nationals clubhouse

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.

By the end of April, structural steel will start to rise at the main stadium.
031716-ballpark-construction-2
“We are not behind no any of the critical dates,’’ said Giles Kibbe, general counsel for the Astros.

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.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor
Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor

“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.”