Gov. Rick Scott is spending the day at the ball park, and he wants to spend $5 million in the coming year to help keep Major League Baseball teams in Florida for spring training.
Scott made the announcement Wednesday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, home to the Detroit Tigers, where he also spent the morning working with the grounds crew.
"If you talk to the teams, they want to have great stadiums," Scott said. "They want to make sure their players can train well here. They want to make sure they can rehab here. So that's the most important thing for them. They know that Florida, with 89 million tourists a year, is a great place for their fans to come."
The state set aside money to renovate spring training stadiums several years ago. This year marks the 125th anniversary of spring training baseball in Florida.
There are currently 15 major league teams in the state, but there used to be more. In fact, the last couple of years we have lost the Reds, Dodgers, White Sox, Indians and Rangers to Arizona.
Scott said there are two reasons: Funding and transportation. He'd like the state to pitch in more money and see local governments match it. He also pointed out that most spring training stadiums in Arizona are centered around Phoenix, while Florida's teams are more spread out.
At least four teams will have leases up for renewal, and state leaders want to make sure these teams stay. Stadium renovations will likely be a must to keep them here.
Spring training baseball, state leaders say, generates about $753 million a year. Scott said he wants to put the money into a trust fund and use it for renovations.
When asked about state money for the Tampa Bay Rays stadium issue, Scott declined to talk about it.