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Florida governor proposes funding for spring facilities

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Florida governor Rick Scott used the Tigertown complex as the backdrop to announce a proposal to help cities in his state fund projects for Spring Training facilities to keep teams in the Grapefruit League.

The proposal seeks to establish a $5 million annual fund from which the state would work to match local government funding. The money would be tied specifically to Spring Training facilities.

"It's my job as governor to make sure Florida remains the No. 1 destination for Spring Training," Scott said in a statement.

Since 1998, six clubs have moved their Spring Training facilities to Arizona: White Sox ('98), Royals (2003), Rangers ('03), Dodgers ('09), Reds ('09) and Indians ('09).

The governor spent the day touring the Tigers' Spring Training facilities, meeting players and joining the grounds crew for pregame field work. The Tigers and Lakeland boast the longest-running relationship between a Major League team and its Spring Training home, having hosted the team since 1946. The club first began training in Lakeland in 1934, with a three-year interruption during World War II.

The city of Lakeland is working on a renovation plan for Joker Marchant Stadium that would add seating in some areas and update seating in others, while also renovating practice fields and other facilities.

"For 77 years, the Tigers organization has enjoyed an outstanding relationship with the City of Lakeland, calling Joker Marchant Stadium and the complex their winter home," team president/CEO Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. "We are excited and appreciative that the great state of Florida is doing all it can to continue this partnership for many years to come."

Florida's plan comes as the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues maintain an even split of Major League teams, 15 in each state. The odd total leads to split-squad games and off-days for every team over the course of the schedule. With each Spring Training agreement that nears expiration for a team, speculation begins anew that Florida or Arizona will try to lure a team from the other state and bring its team total to an even number.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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