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Florida legislature to spend $3.3 million a year to try to keep spring training in Florida

Apr 23, 2013, 11:32 AM EDT

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In Florida, the spring training parks are spread out from one another, making travel a drag. The Florida legislature passed a budget yesterday which provides $3.3 million a year for spring training complex upgrades and construction. Including:

This incentive is aimed at helping pay for a proposed stadium that would be used by the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays in Palm Beach Gardens. The Astros currently train in Kissimmee while the Blue Jays train in Dunedin.

Houston is interesting. Moving from the NL Central to the AL West means that all of their division rivals train in Arizona now. You have to wonder if they wouldn’t want to eventually move to the Cactus League in order to take advantage of all the people who travel to see Texas, Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle.

The Jays have been in Dunedin since the beginning and Canada-to-Florida tourism is a pretty major thing. One wonders if they’d actually try to leave the state, incentives or no incentives. Right now Cleveland and Cincinnati are the farthest north/east teams which travel to Arizona each winter and they’ve historically been at the bottom of Cactus League attendance.

(thanks to Nathan R. for the heads up)

  1. The Common Man - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    This is probably overthinking, but I wonder whether there’s a potential competitive advantage to training in one state while all your division opponents are in another, especially with the unbalanced schedule. I think I remember Curt Schilling refused to pitch against division rivals in Spring Training because he didn’t want them getting extra looks at him.

  2. js20011041 - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    It’s nice to know where the priorities in this state are. Let’s provide money to keep teams here for a month of baseball. Meanwhile, let’s also try to pass a bill that ends the pension plan for public workers and ends death benefits for the families of fire fighters and police officers killed in the line of duty. Thanks republicans.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      Js, I’m as liberal as they come but even government has to spend money to make money. I’d be willing to bet when it’s all said and done, the state of Florida makes more than 3.3 million each spring training and that money is what goes to our fire fighters and cops, and public works

      • manchestermiracle - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:43 PM

        jimmy: Government is not a business. A business’ sole purpose for existence is to make money. It is a myth that any government should be run like a business. Government’s only adherence to business policy should be to insure they are not paying out more than they are taking in. In that regard most current governments fail spectacularly, especially the U.S. federal version.

        Any government subsidization of private industry is a classic example of monetary redistribution, i.e., virtually the entire tax code. A loan I could understand, with re-payment guarantees so the taxpayer doesn’t get the shaft, but when those in the private sector have already paid off elected officials via donations (along with lobbying) the taxpayer usually ends up providing the seed money that allows private industry to profit enormously. See: Any large U.S. banking concern.

        Some isolated examples of the taxpayer getting back any investment provided to private enterprises do occur, but they are few and far between. To provide tax money to build a stadium so coddled MLB players don’t have the “drag” of traveling around Florida in the springtime (something vacations pay to do) smacks of misuse of public funds. One can only hope Florida voters take note (and insure their chads aren’t left hanging).

      • jimmymarlinsfan - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        I agree whole heartedly with your first two paragraphs but as a native Floridian who was a history major, I can tell you unequivocally that if the state of Florida doesn’t invest heavily into encouraging tourism, the state is doomed financially.

        After all, Florida has been a state for a very long time but it wasn’t until after the 20’s that anyone did anything with the state meaning that the state has only been a state worth seeing for a hundred years roughly. If Florida continues to be a state worth seeing, it will need to continue to invest in things like spring training which will encourage tourism and stir the economy

    • kalinedrive - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      Pension plans have to go away for everyone. I’m a liberal Democrat, a highly paid professional, and I support private retirement accounts. Pensions are just too expensive, most public workers are no more valuable than a private employee, and they’re just going to have to plan and pay for their own future. Salaries are a fixed cost per year, and can be budgeted. We cannot take on open-ended benefit plans for all of these people.

      • js20011041 - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:17 PM

        Florida’s pension plan is the most well funded in the country. That’s in a recession and with the state dipping their hands into it whenever they need money. The idea that people can retire on a 401k is a myth. YOU are a highly paid professional. YOU can afford to put enough money aside to save enough to retire on. The vast majority of us cannot.

        Aside from that, you cannot compare private and public workers. The goals are completely different. Government workers do not exist to make money. Fire fighters don’t exist to make money. They provide essential services to the public. So do police officers and teachers.

      • manchestermiracle - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        kaline: I disagree that pensions “have to go away for everyone.” Many pensions were begun as incentives in the hiring process. Obviously many became onerous down the line due to poor planning/budgeting, but that is on the employer. Many unions have accepted reductions in pay as well as pension benefits in order to keep poorly-run companies afloat (usually while the executives are getting bloated salaries and idiotically large bonuses). A great many companies still provide some sort of retirement benefit and the vast majority are quite sustainable.

        One pension system that was doing just fine is the U.S. Postal Service version. At least until Congress stuck its nose into it and insisted that the USPS fund its retirement fund ahead of time for the next 75 years. Now the USPS is bleeding money and is not allowed to borrow from anyone but the U.S. Treasury. Which, by the way, won’t approve any further loans. This is a classic example of why government shouldn’t ever be run as a business.

      • kalinedrive - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        “Many pensions were begun as incentives in the hiring process.”

        Of course, that is pretty obvious. But it is much more fiscally responsible to increase the basic compensation package of salary and benefits such as insurance, paid time off, and 401(k) matching contributions, which can be immediately quantified, instead of extending an ongoing obligation for an unknown duration. People are living longer. Social Security eligibility is being pushed back to later ages. We are talking about tax dollars, not a private enterprise offering these benefits, which makes it even more important to control the expenses.

        “Government workers do not exist to make money. Fire fighters don’t exist to make money. They provide essential services to the public. So do police officers and teachers.”

        Everyone likes to point at firefighters and policemen, and not at the general office grunts and secretaries who sit in cubicles and work on computers, which is the vast majority of public employees. A secretary working for a government department is no more valuable than a secretary working for a private business. They absolutely do not deserve a lifetime commitment of benefits for working 20 years in an office.

        I wish everyone could be supported in their retirement. The math just doesn’t add up. I’ve been making $80K – $110K per year for a dozen years, and I don’t have anywhere near the amount I should have in 401(k) or IRA accounts. But that doesn’t mean the federal government should pay me more when I retire. It’s my problem. I already know I’ll be living on the cheap when I’m old, because I’m living large now. My wife died at 47, and I’m glad we took the nice vacations when we did. When I’m 70 I probably won’t want to or be able to do some of the things we did in our prime.

        But if I spend my money extravagantly now, should I expect the government to provide for me in 30 years? If we’re ever going to control government spending, shouldn’t undeserved perks be a part of it? I mean, in addition to slashing the defense budget, which should be the first thing we do, no matter what the fear mongers say.

      • elpendejo59 - Apr 23, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        jashton’s point is spot on. I live near Roger Dean Stadium as well and also make the trip up I-95 to Tradition Field to see some Mets games as well. Often, I go to the games alone, since they are during the day and most friends can’t take the time off work. I spend a lot of time chatting it up with Cardinals and Mets fans. You’d be surprised just how many rent a house or condo for the entire duration of Spring Training. Some of the local extended stay “suite” type hotels also offer a spring training rate, which I can speak from experience that many people take advantage of. These same folks are hitting up the local restaurants and golf courses when they aren’t at the ballpark.

      • elpendejo59 - Apr 23, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        I clicked on indaburg’s comment below to type the initial reply and somehow ended up here. Edit function.

      • js20011041 - Apr 23, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        Kaline, you’re only helping my argument. You’ve been making $80 to $110k for a dozen years and you haven’t been able to put enough into your retirement account. How is someone supposed to save enough when they’re making half that, if not less? You’re pointing out secretaries, but their pensions by no means will be extravagant. We’re talking about people receiving 25 to 30k a year as a pension. That’s not really enough to live on. The reason I bring up firefighters, police officers, and teachers is because any changes to the pension plan effects them. We’re not talking about making changes to the pension just for secretaries and janitors. I’m a firefighter. My job has no comp in the private sector. You can’t run an essential service like a business, because like it or not, you get what you pay for. If you want to pay firefighters and cops like shit, well that’s what you’ll get. If a private business goes cheap and doesn’t pay it’s employees well, it’s product suffers. That company loses out on the best and brightest. Most people, I’m sure, want effective fire protection. They want quality EMS and police protection. The problem is, they dont want to pay for it. I love my job, but part of the reason I chose this career was for the certainty provided by a real pension. It certainly wasn’t because I enjoy working nights, weekends, and holidays.

      • kalinedrive - Apr 23, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        js, if I’m helping your argument by stating that I’m not saving enough, then your argument is apparently that we (taxpayers) should provide guaranteed benefits for life, and that is simply unworkable. You are suggesting that because lower-paid people won’t be able to save enough, we should give them a guaranteed retirement. We cannot afford to do that!

        I mean, I’m all for social safety nets and assistance for the poor, and I’ve made rational yet passionate cases for it in other forums, using specific numbers from the federal budget. It is unconscionable to me that people will complain about someone receiving food stamps, which is a miniscule amount of the budget, and insist that the defense budget is necessary.

        But helping the poor is not the same as guaranteeing they won’t be poor, or saying that their 20 years of work is worth a lifetime of benefits. You know a lot of people “retire” from their government job with a locked in pension and go start another career, sometimes back in the same public sector? Why is their office job (again, not talking about firefighters) worth more than anyone else’s office job? You don’t need the best and brightest to shuffle papers and do data entry and drive a school bus.

        Firefighters have their own union. They negotiate their deals. Average government employees don’t. They shouldn’t get guaranteed money for life just for doing an average job. No, most major companies do not offer pensions any more. That’s a fact of life.

        Will there be more poor elderly people because of it? Undoubtedly. But if you’re going to try to convince most ordinary taxpayers that they should foot the bill for a lifetime pension, you’re going to have a tough job selling that. It is time to change the game.

      • malbrecht4 - Apr 23, 2013 at 7:53 PM

        You gave yourself away when you typed “these people”. You are not a liberal democrat.

      • js20011041 - Apr 23, 2013 at 8:08 PM

        Kaline, you’re kind of missing my point. Part of my point is that, using you as an example, even making 100k a year, it’s difficult to put enough money aside to have enough to retire. It’s even more difficult to do so when you’re making half that. Many people that are now reaching retirement age are finding that they simply do not have enough money in their 401k. Part of that is because they chose not to save enough. But the other part of that is people simply don’t make enough money to both pay the bills and ensure a future retirement. This is the myth of the 401k. I believe the average 401k at retirement is less than 200k. Even if you had $1 million, which is a pretty staggering amount considering, you would still only be living off $50k a year for twenty years.

        I’m not saying that everyone should be entitled to a goverment pension. But there is plenty of wealth in this country for everyone to retire comfortably. The problem is that the majority of the wealth is concentrated with a minority of the people. Instead of bitching about government workers and their pensions, I think it would serve a lot of people better to ask their employers why they don’t have pensions. Why are the people running the large corporations in this country bringing home hundreds of times the annual salary of their average employee, but then crying poor when it comes to pensions?

      • kalinedrive - Apr 24, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        malbrecht4, you really had to stretch for that one. I had to read back through my replies to find what you were talking about, and it was in the original reply, several paragraphs before all of my argument, and the actual phrase was “We cannot take on open-ended benefit plans for all of these people”, referring to the quantity, not the type of people. I wasn’t classifying anyone, other than as public sector employees expecting pensions. “We cannot take on open-ended benefit plans for this many people” would have meant the same thing, and there is no bigotry involved.

        I am indeed a liberal Democrat, and I’m also a fairly honest person, and I will ask you not to jump to such ridiculous conclusions because of some “gotcha” game looking for code words.

    • indaburg - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      Do you have any idea how much these tourists spend in our state? I’m with kaline. I’m fairly “liberal” political ly but this is a good investment into Florida’s primary industry, tourism.

      • js20011041 - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        How many people come to this state strictly for spring training? Other than players, team employees, and writers, I would guess that it’s a fairly small number. For most of these people, the baseball is nice, but I would imagine that the trip to Florida would happen regardless. It’s like arguing that adding a professional sports team brings money into an area. It doesn’t. It’s just shuffling the money around to sports instead of other forms of entertainment.

      • jashton11 - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        I think you’d be surprised, js. I used to live 5 minutes away from Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. There are lots of Cardinals fans who show up there every March. I’m sure some of them are transplants or snowbirds, but my sense was that many more of them are huge baseball fans who came to the state primarily to see their team. Of course, getting to hit the beaches later probably doesn’t hurt in attracting them to the area.

    • pipkin42 - Apr 23, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      Don’t forget refusing to spray for mosquitoes!

  3. philliesblow - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    It would be a shame if Houston left Florida. The Kissimmee Astros is one of the great juvenile chuckle names in sports, rivaling NASCAR driver Dick Trickle.

  4. jashton11 - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    “Houston is interesting. Moving from the NL Central to the AL West means that all of their division rivals train in Arizona now. You have to wonder if they wouldn’t want to eventually move to the Cactus League in order to take advantage of all the people who travel to see Texas, Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle.”

    Good point, but from what I’ve read down here, Jim Crane may be the bigger motivating factor in a move to northern Palm Beach County. Crane has a home in the area, and he owns the Floridian Golf Club a little farther north on the Martin-St. Lucie county line.

    I’m not thrilled with the idea of public money paying for this, but I’ve got to admit that I’m excited about two more teams potentially coming to the area. Between a new PB Gardens stadium and Roger Dean in Jupiter, I’d be in Spring Training heaven.

  5. historiophiliac - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    It’s like they want to start specializing in pee testing.

  6. 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    I’m as opposed to this kind of thing as anyone, but $3 million isn’t that much money (as these things go). Still, $3 million isn’t that much for the teams, either.

    And I think it’s reasonable to believe that from the state’s perspective, keeping spring training in the state is a worthwhile investment. That doesn’t apply to individual cities, like Ft. Myers, spending WAY too much to keep the Red Sox there, but to the state as a whole. (At some point, the costs outweigh the benefits. It’s a matter of debating when that occurs.)

  7. GoneYickitty - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Goodyear, where the Indians and Reds have their complex, is also way the hell out there relative to the other Cactus League parks. I have a feeling that has more to do with the lower attendance than does the origin of the teams that play there. That’s the one complex that isn’t exactly in town but that will change as Buckeye and Goodyear continue to grow.

  8. tcostant - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    How do the Nationals get involved in this deal? They have to travel over an hour to every road game.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      Haven’t the Nationals wasted enough taxpayer money? Ted Lerner and his heirs can build their own damn stadium for a change.

      Ted alone has a net worth of $4 billion. Jet Blue Park — the Red Sox’ ripoff of Lee County, Florida — cost $88 million to spend. That’s two percent. Two percent of net network is about $200. (I’m underwater on my mortgage.) If the Nats don’t like Space Coast Stadium, build a different one.

      Drops mic.

      • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        Oh, and I have to travel 50 minutes to get to work every damn day, too.

  9. hasbeen5 - Apr 23, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Why is the new capitol building photoshopped out of that picture?

  10. whitdog23 - Apr 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    why would I want to see division rivals?? I’d travel to see MY team. why would I want to see teams I’m going to see during regular season

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