Though I won’t be making the trip north from Jupiter to Viera’s Space Coast Stadium on Friday when the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Washington Nationals, the park and its lease have been on my mind.
As I have mentioned a number of times, baseball on the Atlantic coast of Florida is approaching extinction. After departures of the Dodgers, Orioles and Yankees, only St. Louis, Florida, the Mets and Washington remain.
Expanding the aperture to include Orlando pulls Atlanta and Houston into the mix, but it also means a drive of almost three hours from the Cardinals home in Jupiter.
That is an additional hour over the trip to Viera, already considered too far for minor leaguers to travel. Lost camp time is at least as important to opposing clubs as the additional transportation, meals and lodging expense.
This past weekend, I read an article about the situation in Viera entitled “Baseball’s uncertain future on Space Coast.” From it, I picked up several interesting tidbits.
Last year, the Nationals officially informed Brevard County officials of their interest in relocating prior to the conclusion of their 2017 lease expiration. Possible destinations include Orlando, the Gulf Coast or perhaps Arizona.
The Nats were reportedly wooed by Mesa, Arizona officials as a fall-back had the Cubs not agreed to stay. Shortly after, the funding for the Cubs’ new park was approved by voters. Chicago was using Naples, Fla. as leverage.
Fort Myers apparently has been pushing for Washington to move to Florida’s West Coast.
Though the Astros are committed to Kissimmee through 2016, they and the Nats have also been in discussions with Osceola County. A new complex that could house both teams is under construction near DisneyWorld.
With little to no hope of these towns luring new teams to the vacated East Coast locations, the Cardinals are running out of opponents to face. No matter how good their next lease offer might be, the distance factor could cloud their future in Jupiter beyond 2017.
The Cardinals and Marlins are angling to use a potential Washington move as leverage with their Palm Beach County landlord. The forecast for East Coast Florida baseball remains uncertain.