A milestone to be recognized: The Atlanta Braves and its partners broke ground on the new Sarasota County spring training complex in the West Villages development in North Port, Florida.
West Villages and North Port are on the south side of Sarasota County, creating a nice little rivalry with the Tampa Bay Rays, who train in nearby Port Charlotte. The $100-million complex is scheduled to open for spring training 2019, providing for 16 months for construction and the Braves one last training camp at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Disney World. In a worse-case scenario, some of the training areas may not be done by February 2019, with the ballpark ready to roll.
The new complex by the numbers:
- 6,200 fixed seats and 1,000 berm seats
- 360-degree concourse walkway
- Two luxury suites and two larger hospitality areas that may be divided
- Six full and two half practice fields
- Outfield patio and bar area, with other gathering spaces scattered throughout the ballpark
- Press box for up to 25 people
- 55,000-square-foot clubhouse and office building for both major league and minor league operations
- Batting cages and pitching mounds
- Player development academy
“This is finally happening,” said Marty Black, the West Villages district executive who has led negotiations since the beginning. “It’s been a lot of fun, sometimes a bit stressful, but all this time later and it’s finally going to become a reality.”
Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz welcomed a crowd of more than 100 fans, residents and local elected officials as new “friends and neighbors” to the team during a short opening ceremony in the sweltering heat.
“We look forward to being a fantastic neighbor and enjoying many many years of baseball — 30 of them at least — together with you, our great new partners, our great new friends and our great new neighbors,” he said.