WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Spring training ballparks across Florida remain closed after negotiations by players and owners in Jupiter failed to end baseball's lockout.
The games are big money for Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties with five teams and fans spending weeks across our area.
TCPalm columnist Ed Killer is a big baseball fan and thinks the state needs to take Major League Baseball to court.
"Spring training is the wonderful part of baseball," Killer said. "It's one of the best things there is about baseball."
His most recent column expressed his disappointment and suggested that Florida might fight back in court.
"I'm not an attorney but from my standpoint, that if you were interested in protecting Florida's best investments ... We've spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on these ballparks," Killer said.
Spring training is big money in Florida, contributing as much as $687.1 million a year in economic impact to the state, according to Florida Sports Foundation.
Taking Major League Baseball to court certainly doesn't seem likely, but it does capture the sentiment of many fans.
Spring training ballparks are largely funded by the local counties and state, and most of the debt is paid for the money from the hotel bed tax.
Fortunately, it appears tourism is still strong in Florida this year even without baseball.
"If there is any year we are going to miss some of spring training, this is the year to do it because the visitors have come down in full force because of the desire to get out and do some vacationing," said Glenn Jergensen of the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council.
Jergensen said hotel occupancy rates are running around 75%, and those taxes are still being collected.
At some point, however, he said it would still be nice to have spring training at some time this year.
Jergensen said hotels are about 75% filled, which is just slightly off where they'd be if games were being played.
Tourism officials are staying hopeful that there will be a couple of weeks of spring training — eventually.
Spring training has a storied history in Florida. It actually dates back to the late 1800s.
The last study conducted before the pandemic found that spring training created more than 7,000 jobs annually, but COVID-19 hurt the economic boon.