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Astros make progress on new spring site

HOUSTON -- The Astros and Nationals took another big step toward securing a Spring Training site Monday, when the West Palm Beach, Fla., mayor, Jeri Muoio, announced the city would negotiate a possible land swap with the county for a new complex to be built.

In a joint statement, the Astros and Nationals said the following: "The Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros are grateful to the city of West Palm Beach for their willingness to open negotiations with Palm Beach County to secure a Spring Training facility site. Certainly, Mayor Muoio's statement today sets us on a path to a successful conclusion, and we remain very optimistic."

Palm Beach County gave the go-ahead in October to allocate $108 million from the county's hotel tax to finance the project as long as the teams could find a location for the complex within 90 days, a window which expires Jan. 21. The Astros and Nationals are looking to build a $135 million shared facility on 160 acres between Haverhill Road and Military Trail, about two miles west of I-95.

West Palm Beach wants 1.4 acres of land the county owns in downtown in exchange for the 160 acres on Haverhill.

"We have the mayor's support now, and we still have a little bit of work to get it done," Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe said. "We have to get all the details worked out. I think we can work out the terms of the land swap and some other issues that need to be resolved, and I think it will be done. We're a lot closer."

A development group that had expressed interest in doing a mixed commercial and residential project on the site has pulled out, opening the door for the teams to make their proposal to the city commission. Kibbe said the teams are hoping to break ground in March, with the goal of having the facility ready in two years.

The teams have hired architect Mo Stein of HKS to design the facility. That's the same company that designed the state-of-the-art Salt River Fields at Talking Stick facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Astros' lease at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., expires at the end of next spring, which means Houston likely has just two springs remaining in Central Florida before moving to Palm Beach County with the Nationals.

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