The Atlanta Braves will not move spring-training operations to Sarasota County’s North Port community until 2020, giving the team one last campaign at Disney World and Champion Stadium in 2019.
The team had planned to shift spring operations in 2019, closing out their Orlando-era residency this spring. But delays with ballpark planning (including a delay in governmental approval of the facility) and concern about additional delays due to potential weather events, like hurricanes, led the Braves front office to negotiate a one-year extension with Disney. Also cited by the team: the experience of Houston Astros and Washington Nationals fans at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in 2017, where the ballpark and training complex did indeed open on time but in an incomplete nature.
The current plan now calls for the Braves to train at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in 2019, playing all but one home game at Champion Stadium. The new North Port complex in Sarasota County is expected to be open in April 2019, when the Braves’ Florida operations staff will move from Disney. In addition, the current plan is for the Braves to play their last game of 2019 spring training at the new ballpark.
“We are thankful for our good friends at Walt Disney World Resort and are excited for this extension,” said John Schuerholz, Atlanta Braves vice chairman emeritus, in a press statement. “We also appreciate the foresight and thoughtfulness of our partners in North Port, Sarasota County and West Villages in recognizing such an extension will be of benefit as we continue to make progress on our new facility. When complete, our new, state-of-the-art facility will secure our long-term goal of creating a perfectly positioned and operational spring training facility for the next 30 years.”
When it opens, the new spring training ballpark is expected to include 6,200 fixed seats, plus 1,000 berm seats. It will also feature some of the amenities found at many newer spring-training venues, including a 360-degree concourse and an outfield patio and bar area. The cost of the project has now risen to $110 million.