Astros one step closer to moving spring facility south

Palm Beach County approves financing plan for new complex

HOUSTON -- The Astros cleared a major hurdle in relocating their Spring Training operations to Palm Beach County, Fla., on Tuesday when county commissioners voted to approve a financing plan for a new facility the club will share with the Nationals. The teams have 90 days to find a location for the complex.

County commissioners voted, 5-2, to allocate $108 million in hotel tax revenue for the facility, which will cost $135 million to build. The Astros have two years remaining on their lease at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., and are aiming to hold their first Spring Training in south Florida by 2017.

"We still have a little bit of work to do to find the right location, but the funding for it has been approved," Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe said.

Kibbe said the Astros are considering a list of four or five potential sites.

"We have several locations that we're looking at," Kibbe said. "We just need to figure out which one is the best location for everyone involved: the teams, the county and the communities. But there are multiple sites to look at, and I'll get to work on that evaluation and hopefully get this moving forward as quickly as possible. Today was important in that the financing has been approved and we're ready to go."

By moving to south Florida, the Astros and Nationals would give the area five teams during Spring Training. The Cardinals and Marlins share a site in Jupiter, which is in northern Palm Beach County, and the Mets are in Port St. Lucie, which is 33 miles north of Jupiter.

The Astros have held Spring Training at Osceola County Stadium since 1985 and will likely have only two years remaining there before moving south. The Nationals have held Spring Training at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., since 2005.

"The timing of it depends on what happens, as far as how quickly we move forward with the location and when the construction will start," Kibbe said. "It's a little up in the air as to when the facility would open. If we find a suitable location, we'll start moving as quick as we can. I'm just not sure when construction will start. Our plan is to try to get the new facility open in January of 2017."

Meanwhile, Kibbe was scheduled to testify in a downtown Houston courtroom on Tuesday morning in the Comcast SportsNet Houston bankruptcy case. The Astros and Rockets want the network reorganized and sold to AT&T DirecTV, which would rebrand it as Root Sports Houston. Comcast opposes the plan.

"We hope the bankruptcy judge will confirm our plans tomorrow evening after the trial is completed, and we hope to launch a new network on Oct. 29 with the Rockets game," Kibbe said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.