Astros nearing Spring Training move from Kissimmee
Club also making effort to build Triple-A stadium in nearby Houston area
HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane said Monday the club's efforts to finalize a move of its Spring Training facility to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., from its longtime home in Kissimmee are "95 percent" completed, and they simply need a final vote by the city to approve the money.
The Astros have been working for months on the deal with the city and the state of Florida, which Crane says has already approved funds to keep the team in-state. The Toronto Blue Jays, who will share the facility with the Astros, recently signed a letter of intent, Crane said. The earliest the Astros could open their new spring facility is 2016.
"The Blue Jays have committed and signed a letter of intent, so we're ready to move forward," Crane said. "That thing should be buttoned up hopefully by the end of October. We'll get that stadium built and it will be a fabulous new facility in Palm Beach Gardens."
The facility, which would be located along Interstate 95 near PGA Boulevard, would put five teams on Florida's east coast for the spring. The Cardinals and Marlins share a facility in nearby Jupiter, and the Mets are just up the interstate in Port St. Lucie.
Crane said architects are already working on a design, which would have to be approved by both teams.
"These new facilities have gotten pretty sophisticated, so we're going to make sure we've got everything they need there," Crane said. "We'll get [manager] Bo [Porter] and [general manger] Jeff [Luhnow] involved in that design. We've also looked at other ones in Arizona and Florida, so we've studied all the good ones. We'll kind of emulate those models."
In April, the Florida legislature approved $50 million in incentives for the Astros and Blue Jays to build a new Spring Training complex. The South Florida Business Journal reported then the money would be paid out over the course of 37 1/2 years.
The Astros have trained in Kissimmee since 1985 after moving from Cocoa Beach, Fla.
"The money's available, both teams are committed and we've just got to get it inked up," Crane said.
Meanwhile, Crane said efforts to get the Astros' Triple-A club put in the Houston area are moving forward as well.
The Astros are eyeing part of a 2,000-acre piece of property north of the The Woodlands, Texas -- about 41 miles north of downtown Houston -- that was recently purchased by Johnson Development. Crane said that deal is set to close at the end the month.
"As soon as they get closed, we hope to sit down and try to bang out a deal where we would have some property to build a facility there and eventually put a Triple-A team in there," Crane said. "It could take some time. The earliest is '16, maybe '17.
"It's going to take a while to get all the permits and everything in place. We're certainly interested in doing it. We think it makes long-term sense for the team to have the Triple-A affiliate reasonably close and in a vibrant area that's really growing."
The Astros, who have a player development contract with Triple-A Oklahoma City through 2014, would have to purchase a Triple-A club and move it into that area once a Houston-area facility is ready.
"We've looked at a few and are working on that, but it's a little premature at this point," Crane said. "It's kind of the chicken and the egg, but we're moving quickly to do something there."