Washington Nationals Looking To Move Spring Training To Ft. Myers As Soon As 2015

By James Williams
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals are a hot ticket in the Nation’s Capital, and now they want fans to come visit them at spring training.

The team is not happy with their Space Coast Stadium facility located well off the beaten path in Viera, Florida. The Nationals have focused on the moving to Ft. Myers and playing their games in City of Palms Park if all goes well as soon as 2015. The park has been empty since the World Champion Boston Red Sox moved across town to their new facility Jet Blue Park, which looks like a small Fenway Park.

The Nationals, the city and the county are working on how to pay for between a $40 and $50 million renovation to City of Palms Park that would make it a showcase facility for the team. Talks have been going on for almost a year as the complex details get worked out.

There is a plan B that would have the team in Dunedin, in the Tampa Bay area. At present the Toronto Blue Jays are training there, but reports have them joining the Houston Astros in a new complex being built in Palm Beach Gardens. But at this moment the Nationals’ focus is on a deal in Ft. Myers.

The problem the Nationals face at their complex in Viera is that there really aren’t any teams close to them. They must take an hour bus trip to face the Atlanta Braves in Orlando. Going east down the coast to Port St. Lucie the home of the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals is also an hour drive or more depending on traffic.

That is not a problem on Florida’s Gulf coast where most of the MLB teams train. As I mentioned Ft. Myers is home to the Red Sox and in the county there is also the Minnesota Twins just about 20 minutes from City of Palms Park.

Just a short 40-minute trip up the coast and you find the Tampa Bay Rays‘ home in Port Charlotte. A 90-minute bus ride from Ft. Myers would allow the Nationals to play the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, the New York Yankees in Tampa, the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, and the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

So you have around ten teams within a two-hour drive of your training complex and five within an  hour. It is easy to see why the Nationals like the idea of City of Palms Park as the spring training home.

There are a number of cheap flights from Washington directly to Ft. Myers and plenty of affordable beach front lodging for fans on Florida’s Gulf coast. Nationals fans could catch them in the afternoon and watch the Red Sox and the Rays at night.

Look, the Nationals moving their spring training site to Ft. Myers would be great for the team and for the fans; now let’s see if we will be watching the Nationals play their crosstown rivals the Red Sox come the first week of March 2015 at City of Palms Park.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award winning producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc and add him to your Google circles.

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