Astros hope to have new spring training home soon

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Houston Astros owner Jim Crane hopes to have a deal for a new spring training home for his ballclub within six months.

”Our timetable is, we’ve got to have something probably agreed to and documented hopefully by the end of the summer, because the timetable would be to build it and then be here in 2017,” Crane said Sunday before the Astros played the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter.

The Astros are looking to replace their current home in Kissimmee with a site on the east coast of Florida. Kissimmee is near Orlando in the center of the state.

Osceola County Stadium was considered state of the art when the Astros moved there in 1985, but Crane said the complex is ”probably the worst” in the Grapefruit League now.

The Washington Nationals, a likely partner who currently trains in Viera, and the Astros have been looking at sites in Palm Beach County, Martin County and Port St. Lucie.

”There’s a couple decent sites,” Crane said. ”I think it’s just, approve the location, go ahead and verify the funding, and then go for it.”

Crane pledged that much of the money to fund the complex construction will come from a local bed tax.

”If you live here, it’s not coming out of your pocket,” Crain said. ”I think people need to understand that. We’re not coming in here trying to take a bunch of money. We’re just trying to bring some more people down here.”

The Astros could even put some of their own money into the deal.

”We’ve always said we are not afraid to pitch a little in if we can get something done,” Crane said.

Crane listed a number of reasons for looking in Palm Beach County, including an abundance of restaurants, proximity to an airport and hotels.

Palm Beach County has an interest in luring at least one more club south: If Washington moves from Viera – which appears imminent – to a location away from the east coast, it would trigger a clause in St. Louis’ contract that allows the club to leave Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter if the number of teams that train on the Atlantic side of the state drops below four.

The Cardinals share their complex with the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets train in Port St. Lucie – about a half-hour north.

Moving to Palm Beach County would shorten Houston’s spring road trips. Currently, the Astros’ only opponent within 45 minutes is the Atlanta Braves in Orlando. The Nationals shortest commute is about an hour.

”I think to keep baseball moving forward here on the east coast you need some more teams down here – there’s no secret to that,” Crane said. ”These guys do not want to get on a bus like we did this morning and waste half a day driving around.”