$98M Nationals stadium a 'hard sell' for county commissioner - FOX 35 News Orlando

$98M Nationals stadium a 'hard sell' for Osceola County commissioner

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. described the Washington Nationals architectural plans and renderings for a $98 million state-of-the-art spring training facility in Kissimmee as "beautiful."

But because the massive new spring training stadium would require a substantial financial commitment from the county, it could face an uphill battle for approval from the commission.

"I'm anxious to see the tourist community's reaction to this proposal first," Hawkins said. "If they are not positive, it would be a hard sell."

On Tuesday, top brass from Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals presented their proposal for a brand new dual stadium to each of Osceola County's five commissioners.  The Nationals recently told officials in Brevard County, where they currently play in Viera, the team does not intend to renew it's lease at Space Coast Stadium.

On Wednesday, Osceola County's Tourist Development Council will get its chance to see the proposal for the 6,500-seat facility. The Nationals are proposing to build the sprawling two-team facility, complete with extra fields for games and workouts, on vacant land across the street from the Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee. 

Hawkins Jr. says the crown jewel is the clubhouse, which in renderings he looked at appeared "simply beautiful" to him.

If Osceola County decides to build the facility for the reigning National League East champions, it will require a substantial amount of borrowing.  Hawkins Jr. believes the county will need to issue a $50 million bond.  And although the state of Florida will contribute $10.2 million per team through recently approved spring training incentives, the money is not provided up front, and land for the new stadium still needs $20 million worth of site work.

It's also unclear which baseball team would share the shiny new baseball facility with the Washington Nationals.  It's been widely rumored the Houston Astros may leave Kissimmee.

Also concerning to the commissioner was the absence of plans for a private developer to build a hotel on the stadium's property.  As it stands, the team would have to drive 45 minutes to the nearest hotel.

"There wasn't a real commitment to build a hotel," said Hawkins Jr.

The Washington Nationals vice president also promised he would pump "a lot of money" into the community, but he wouldn't commit to a specific amount, says Hawkins Jr.

Hawkins said a study authored by Experience Kissimmee claimed a brand new spring training facility in Kissimmee would create more than 1,600 jobs and provide $72 million of economic impact to the surrounding area.

The Osceola County Commission is expected to discuss the proposal at a scheduled meeting on Monday.

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