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Astros to hold groundbreaking at new Spring Training facility

Owners, general managers of Houston, Washington set to attend on Nov. 9

HOUSTON -- After three years of planning and negotiations, the Astros and Nationals will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking at their $135 million Spring Training facility at 10:30 a.m. ET on Nov. 9 in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to be on hand.

Astros owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow will attend the groundbreaking for the park, along with Nationals owner Mark Lerner, general manager Mike Rizzo and local city and county officials. The site is not far from where the annual baseball General Managers Meetings will begin Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. The facility will be called Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, with naming rights to come.

"It's been great to finally get in the ground over there," said Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe, who has been spearheading the project for Houston. "It took three years working on this project. There were a lot of obstacles in the way and there was a lot of hard work, but we've got it and we're breaking ground and it's very exciting."

Kibbe said the teams hope to be in the facility by the first week of 2017. He said remediation work will begin later this week and will last through most of November and December. That leaves 14 months for workers to clear the site and build the 6,500-seat stadium and 12 practice fields.

The 160-acre site sits between Haverhill Road and Military Trail, about two miles west of I-95.

"It was previously a landfill for yard debris, mostly from hurricanes and things like that," Kibbe said. "We have a lot of stuff that we have to remove -- tires and big pieces of metal on the property we have to get rid of as well. In order to get ready for construction, there's going to be a lot of clearing, grating, trucking of materials."

The Astros have called Kissimmee their spring home since moving from Cocoa Beach, Fla., in 1985 and will have one more year at Osceola County Stadium in 2016. The arrival of the Astros and Nationals -- who currently train in Viera, Fla., on Florida's east coast -- 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, and the Mets are in Port St. Lucie, which is about 32 miles north of Jupiter.

When 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 for 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.

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