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The Nationals want to move to Fort Myers, but apparently don’t want to pay for it

Nov 29, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

City of Palms Park

We mentioned this over the weekend in that post about the misgivings local officials have about helping the Red Sox build their new spring training facility, but James Wagner of the Washington Post has a more in-depth story about the Nationals flirtation with Fort Myers.

The upshot: the Nationals approached Hammond Lee County officials about moving to City of Palms park — the Red Sox old spring training home — over the summer, but talks haven’t gone anywhere. This passage says why:

… having committed more than $80 million in a bond issue for a new Red Sox stadium and having approved $42.5 million in upgrades to the Minnesota Twins’ facility, Hammond Stadium, the county is limited in what it can offer the Nationals. Despite the financial constraints, Lee County officials remain optimistic they can still entice the Nationals …

There are a lot of ideas in there about how the government can “lure” the Nationals with $1 rent and diverting some local taxes to eventually pay for renovations. It’s a familiar story.  Nowhere, however, is there mention of what the Nats might pony up themselves.  I guess it’s assumed that a team paying anything for its own facility is crazy talk.

Why the county, which is going broke appeasing the Red Sox and the Twins, should be in the business of “offering” or “enticing” a baseball team owned by an insanely rich person is beyond me. The total renovations required for City of Palms park — which served quite well as the southern home for Red Sox Nation for several years — are about $40-50 million.  That’s less than half of what they’re paying Jayson Werth. It’s about one percent of owner Ted Lerner’s net worth. I bet the Nats could swing it if they wanted to.

Professional sports: the only business in which it is assumed on an a priori basis that the government, not the business owner, will build the factory.

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