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County rethinks site of Spring Training facility

Astros plan to keep complex, which would be shared with Blue Jays, on East Coast

HOUSTON -- The Astros' planned move of their Spring Training facility to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., which they would share with the Toronto Blue Jays, is being reconsidered after the city agreed to allow Palm Beach County officials to investigate whether another location would better suit the city, county and teams.

Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe, who has been Astros owner Jim Crane's point man in the effort to move the team's Spring Training facility from Kissimmee, Fla., said the project was still moving forward but that the city wanted to give the county an opportunity to find out if another location would work out just as well. The focus, Kibbe said, was still on having Spring Training baseball on Florida's East Coast.

"This is a good opportunity to help the city and the county be perfectly sure that a new two-team facility will go in the right location," he said. "The Astros believe that the current location is perfect for this project, but we'll keep an open mind.

"We appreciate the county's interest in getting more involved. Spring Training on the East Coast of Florida depends on this project. This is a lot bigger than the Astros and Palm Beach Gardens."

The Astros have been working for months on the deal with the city, and the state of Florida had approved funds to keep the team in-state. The Blue Jays signed a letter of intent for the project, Crane said in October.

The facility, with its current proposed location along Interstate 95 near PGA Boulevard, would put five teams on Florida's East Coast for the spring. The Cardinals share a facility with the Marlins in nearby Jupiter, and the Mets are just up the interstate in Port St. Lucie.

Residents of the area under consideration for the Astros' facility have voiced concerns at town hall meetings about the increased traffic the project would bring.

"As we have continually stated, the City of Palm Beach Gardens currently does not have a financial commitment from the two Major League baseball teams," Palm Beach Gardens city manager Ron Ferris said in a statement. "After months of community feedback and public presentations, we are requesting that Palm Beach County staff explore alternative sites in locations outside of the City of Palm Beach Gardens."

Palm Beach Gardens agreed to conduct analysis, research and community outreach for a second possible Spring Training facility location at the request of the business development board of Palm Beach County.

In April, the Florida legislature approved $50 million in incentives for the Astros and the Blue Jays to build a new Spring Training complex. The Astros have trained in Kissimmee since 1985 after moving from Cocoa Beach, Fla.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.