MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In an effort to keep big league ball teams coming to South Florida for spring training, Gov. Rick Scott has decided to give them an incentive.
During his 16th “Let’s Get To Work Day” at Joker Merchant Park in Lakeland, Scott announced that he will work to provide $5 million annually to be used only for spring training facilities.
“Spring training has provided families in Florida with countless job opportunities since the 1800s,” said Scott. “It’s my job as Governor to make sure Florida remains the number one destination for spring training and that is why we will work to provide $5 million annually to only be used for spring training facilities.”
The Joker Merchant is the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers. During his work day, Scott worked at the concession stands, managing equipment and working with the grounds crew.
Currently, 15 teams use Florida facilities for spring training, three teams’ leases come up for renewal in 2016, and two come up for renewal in 2017.
Currently there is no predictable or a regular funding stream for spring training in Florida. That means if teams need renovations to their facilities, they must begin at square-one to secure funding and planning from the state and from local governments.
Under the initiative, local governments will be required to match at least 50 percent of project costs. State contributions for each project 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.
“Florida has a long-standing tradition with the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball Clubs,” said David Dombrowski, President, CEO and General Manager of the Detroit Tigers. “We are excited and appreciative that the Great State of Florida is doing all it can to continue this partnership for many years to come.”
More than 1.5 million fans attend spring training games annually, and provide a $750 million benefit to the state each year. Since the 2000 season, more than 20 million fans have passed through the turnstiles at Florida stadiums.