Local Atlanta Braves fans could soon be able to Root! Root! Root! for their home team as early as spring 2019 if all goes according to plan.
The team is one step closer to bringing a new spring training complex to Sarasota County after agreeing to negotiate exclusively with county commissioners to find their new home.
After training in Orlando for 21 years, the Braves have proposed a 9,000-person capacity stadium – 6,500 fixed seats and a grass landing to accommodate an additional 2,500 general admission guests – per the terms of their 30-year lease.
The proposed complex, set on a 75-acre property, would be utilized by the team all year, with a team clubhouse, six practice fields, six multi-use fields, and an academy for player rehabilitation and development.
After negotiating with five other local counties including Pasco and Pinellas, the team says they’ve found the new home-away-from-home that will help keep the Braves closer to other teams during spring training and reduce travel time.
“We enjoy what Sarasota County has to offer,” the Braves’ Vice Chairman John Schuerholz said. “We’ve done our due diligence; we know what this county is about.”
With sports tourism expansion as a top priority for the county, city officials and locals alike hope that the opportunity to bring a major sports anchor to North Port will have a positive impact on the local economy, making it a destination for fans from around the globe.
A lifelong fan of the Braves, Hugh Reilly of Tampa said, “As an Atlanta native now living in Tampa, I couldn’t be more excited about the move. It’s like having one of the best parts of Atlanta right in our backyard where I can now share the experience with my kids.”
Five communities from Sarasota County are expected to contribute more than $22 million from tourism revenue, the state is expected to contribute $20 million, and the West Villages will donate the land – valued around $7-$9 million – and $12-$20 million in infrastructure improvements.
Local residents, however, should not expect to see ad valorem taxes increase.
The site for the estimated $80-million project is currently empty and has direct access to U.S. 41 and West Park Villages Parkway, and is near the State College of Florida campus in North Port, about 30 miles southeast of the city of Sarasota.
If the project is approved, the Braves would be the second MLB team to call Sarasota County home in the spring, following the Baltimore Orioles who moved to their spring training facility from Ft. Lauderdale to Sarasota seven years ago.
But for Atlanta Braves fans, change is nothing new. After leaving storied Turner Field in 2016, the team will soon move into SunTrust Park, their new $672 million regular-season stadium in the coming weeks.
The Braves will officially christen their new ballpark during a March 31 exhibition against the Yankees, and then again with their first regular-season game on April 14 against the Padres.
While there is still much left to finalize before ink is put to paper, the announcement is a major step forward in the efforts to bring the Braves to North Port, with hopes to start hosting spring training games in 2019.