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Spring training in St. Lucie County draws hundreds, creates housing issues

New York Mets begin spring training at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie
Posted at 7:05 PM, Feb 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-15 19:05:44-05

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Major League Baseball is back, as pitchers and catchers report to spring training sites throughout the area. While it brings in plenty of tourist dollars, it also brings plenty of people, who all need to stay somewhere.

WPTV looked at how America’s pastime impacts South Florida’s difficult housing market.

Wednesday was the first day of spring training at Clover Park.

“I love it here, the guys are friendly. I’ve got great pictures of me with them,” Sue Falk of Pennsylvania said.

“Fans get to meet the players. Players get to meet the fans," George LaBoy of Port St. Lucie said.

The players are excited to be back in Port St. Lucie for the 2023 season.

“We’re very routine based. Feels great. All is right with the world,” first baseman Pete Alonso said.

Many at the park are locals but others have traveled from out of town, looking for a place to stay.

“There’s a glut in the market for short-term rentals, except for those six weeks,” said Rick Rose with South Florida Vacation Rentals.

Rose said the end of February and March, spring training season, is peak time for his business.

Realtor Holly Meyer Lucas said each spring training team brings about 400 people to our area who also need to find a place in a limited time frame.

“So you have a complete clash of people needing housing for different reasons,” said Meyer Lucas.

In St. Lucie County, the Mets spring home, the available supply of townhouses and single family homes has tripled from 2021 to 2022.

Lucas said landlords have to make a tough call this time of year.

“As a landlord, if you’re agreeing to rent to someone during that time-frame, you’re cannibalizing season by renting to a baseball family,” Lucas said.

Once spring training is done, there’s still a full minor league baseball season with the St. Lucie Mets and those ballplayers run into the same issues that a lot of locals have, finding affordable housing.

A recent study by Florida Atlantic University showed rents in St. Lucie County averaging about $2,200 a month.

Lucas helps ballplayers at all levels get a roof over their head.

“For minor leaguers who don’t have the budgets that the big leaguers do, or the snowbirds do, our area is so challenging for them,” he said.

Major League Baseball clubs are working to improve that situation by providing housing for the vast majority of their minor leaguers. A new minors housing policy took effect in 2022 and a representative of the St. Lucie Mets said the team has made arrangements, so their ballplayers don’t feel the housing crunch.

Rose is among those who believe more short-term rentals will be converted to long-term rentals over time.

So, while there may be more places to choose from soon, affordability is another issue altogether.