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Astros' new Spring Training home gets green light

Palm Beach County gives final approval for club to proceed with shared facility

HOUSTON -- The Astros received final approval from Palm Beach County, Fla., on Tuesday to proceed with their plans to build a new Spring Training facility to be shared with the Nationals, with hopes of opening it in two years.

With the funding having already been approved, county commissioners voted 6-1 to OK a land swap with West Palm Beach, Fla., clearing the way for a $135 million facility -- to be built on 160 acres between Haverhill Road and Military Trail, about two miles west of I-95 -- the teams will share for 30 years.

"This is final approval, so this is it," said Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe, who's spearheaded the project for the club. "We now have full approval from both the city and the county on both funding the site and everything that needed to go with it. This is the culmination of everything we've been doing the last three years. It's a great day for us."

The teams still have to work through some minor technical issues, such as land-use agreements and a legislative amendment, but Kibbe said all that is expected to go through without any problems. The city and the county want the state legislature to reduce an easement on the site to 50 feet from 450 feet, an issue that won't be able to be signed off on by the governor until the end of the legislative session in May.

"It's going to be a long process in getting it final, but it shouldn't be a problem," Kibbe said.

Kibbe said the Astros hope to be able to move into the new facility by January 2017, leaving them with two more years at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. The Astros have called Kissimmee their spring home since moving from Cocoa Beach, Fla., in 1985.

When the Astros and Nationals -- who currently train in Viera, Fla., on Florida's east coast -- move south, it will give the area five teams. The Marlins and Cardinals share a facility in Jupiter, which is about 19 miles north of West Palm Beach. The Mets are in Port St. Lucie, which is about 32 miles north of Jupiter.

When owner Jim Crane purchased the Astros more than three years ago, he immediately began exploring a new Spring Training home. Osceola County Stadium was upgraded in 2003, but its lack of proximity to major hotels means long commutes from players, staff and fans.

Osceola County nearly had a deal in 2013 to bring the Nationals aboard to share the site with the Astros, but it fell through.

"They've been great partners in the past and they're really good guys," Kibbe said. "We have a good relationship with them and will continue to do that. They've handled this very well over the past couple of years. They understand our position and they're working hard to make sure they have Spring Training there after 2017."

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