Gov. Rick Scott is proposing a $5 million annual fund aimed at renovating stadiums and keeping Major League Baseball teams in Florida for spring training.
Scott unveiled the plan Wednesday during a stop at the Detroit Tigers' spring facility in Lakeland. The funds would be used only for spring training facilities, Scott's office said, and local governments would be required to match at least 50 percent of project costs.
State contributions would be capped at $20 million, and the Department of Economic Opportunity would review and approve the match "to ensure it provides a return on investment for taxpayers," Scott's office said.
Scott said the initiative fits with his goal of growing jobs in Florida. "We must protect and enhance this vital business for Florida families," he said.
Fifteen of MLB's 30 teams train in Florida each spring, with the other half operating in Arizona. Since 1998, six clubs — most recently the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians — have moved west from Florida, according to MLB.com.
Three teams' Florida leases are up for renewal in 2016, including the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, with two more to follow in 2017, FloridaToday reports.
More than 1.5 million fans attend spring training games in Florida each year, providing a $750 million benefit to the state each year, according to the governor's website.
The Philadelphia Phillies have made Clearwater their spring home since 1947 and have trained in Florida since 1915.
“Spring training pays huge dividends for our communities," said Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), in a statement. "The more we support baseball in Florida, the more opportunities will be expanded for our residents. This $5 million, recurring investment by Gov. Scott will support jobs across our state.”
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