NORTH PORT — The Atlanta Braves are exclusively negotiating with Sarasota County to be the team's new spring training home, say team and county officials.
The new facilities would be in North Port in south Sarasota County, specifically within the West Villages master-planned community. Financing for the project, which would include a stadium, up to six practice fields and a clubhouse, would come from a combination of the Braves, Sarasota County, North Port and the West Villages. Sarasota County Director of Business and Economic Development Jeff Maultsby, in a press conference, says the county's portion of the funding, about $21 million, will come from tourist development taxes.
If both sides reach an agreement, the Braves will move their spring training operations from Central Florida to Sarasota County as soon as the 2019 spring season, Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk says in a statement. "This is the perfect location for our team and we couldn't be more excited to be part of Sarasota County and West Villages,” McGuirk says in a statement.
Sarasota County officials started negotiations with the Braves last March, and the team asked for more time in June to continue the discussions. Officials from other areas, including Naples and Palm Beach, also spoke to the Braves about relocation.
"There's still a lot of work to do to finalize the terms, agreements and approvals necessary, but this announcement is a major step forward in the efforts to bring the Braves to our area," County Administrator Tom Harmer says in the release. "Continuing to expand sports tourism is high on the county's list, and the opportunity to bring a major sports anchor to the City of North Port could have a significant impact in south county."
The West Villages Improvement District and its development partner, Mattamy Homes, has played a key role in the negotiations by helping to structure and secure both the public and private investments in the project, the release states. The planned site is located within the city of North Port, with direct access to U.S. 41 and West Villages Parkway.
The team and the county will be working over the next several months to finalize the terms and move forward with the project.
The Braves would join the Baltimore Orioles, which hold spring training at Ed Smith Stadium, as the second major league team to hold spring training in Sarasota County.