Mets Spring Training: Second Major League Baseball team could cost St. Lucie County $60 million

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — County officials released a study late Thursday that estimated it will cost $60 million in improvements to Tradition Field to lure a second Major League Baseball team to Port St. Lucie.

Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in early 2012 that adding a second team might cost between $10 and $15 million, far lower than the $60 million estimate released Thursday. Dzadovsky said the county is simply doing due diligence as opposed to already having its mind made up on bringing a second team to the stadium.

But Dzadovsky said he believes adding a second team would be a good investment based on the study, which was paid for by St. Lucie County and done by the University of Michigan. He also is concerned about the possibility teams could continue to go from Florida's east coast to Florida's west coast and Arizona.

The study suggests the county conservatively would get an additional $28.6 million annual economic boost from having a second team.

The study stated the New York Mets, which trains in Port St. Lucie at Tradition Field, already have a $35.6 million annual economic impact.

The study specifically looked at the impact from out-of-town visitors.

The county paid $28,000 for the study, county spokesman Erick Gill said in an email to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, and the money came from taxes on hotel stays.

"It's probably an incredibly prudent investment if we should take it on," Dzadovsky said. He said waiting much longer would continue to build the price.

St. Lucie County has worked with Mets officials and private consultants to consider adding a second team to the community in part to stop a migration of teams from Florida's east coast.

"If Florida does not adjust policies and practices to meet the needs of MLB teams, the long-term viability of spring training on Florida's east coast will be compromised," the report states.

Dzadovsky said any investment must come from tourism revenue, though the state would have to change its laws to allow the county to increase its tourism development tax, which is levied on hotel stays.

"There is no revenue stream from the county's general fund, there's just not," Dzadovsky said. "So it'd have to be tied into tourism, certainly a percentage of sales tax."

The New York Mets have a strong connection to the University of Michigan.

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon's alma mater is Michigan, and the university's baseball team will play against the Mets on Sunday.

"St. Lucie County chose the University of Michigan because it has staff that has experience in this particular field of study," Gill wrote.

Dzadovsky said he did not know of the connections between the Mets and Michigan.

"Michigan is a prestigious school, and they would have to stand on their own merits, as this report will," Dzadovsky said. "I assure you there will be some scrutiny of these numbers, and our people will be looking at these as well."

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