The Atlanta Braves will enter into exclusive negotiations on the terms of a new Sarasota County spring training complex to replace Champion Stadium and Disney’s Wide World of Sports in 2019.
The negotiations, announced today, comes after more than a year of talks with three Florida counties — Collier County to the south, Palm Beach County to the east and Sarasota County to the west — about a new spring-training camp. Collier County rejected the team’s overtures late last year, however, and although some in Palm Beach County saw hope that the Braves would settle on a Lake Worth site, the decision to move forward with Sarasota County and North Port was announced by the team and the county today.
North Port is in the southern park of Sarasota County. Despite being part of the Sarasota-Bradenton MSA, North Port is much close to Port Charlotte (11 miles or so) than Sarasota (34 miles or so). That puts Port Charlotte’s Charlotte Sports Park, spring home of the Tampa Bay Rays, less than 10 miles from North Port. (The Baltimore Orioles train at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium.) The team has been looking at the West Villages area of North Port, with direct access to U.S. 41 and West Villages Parkway.
“We appreciate the patience of all parties during this process,” said Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said in a press release released by Sarasota County. “This is the perfect location for our team and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of Sarasota County and West Villages.”
The parties to the agreement will be working over the next several months to finalize the terms and move forward with the project. The county plans to provide a public update on the status of the negotiations at the Jan. 24 Board of County Commissioners meeting.
The ballpark is envisioned as the center of a new planned Main Street entertainment district, a model that’s worked well in other parts of Florida — especially Abacoa, a Palm Beach County development anchored by Roger Dean Stadium. The county isn’t expected to fully fund the ballpark bill, as West Villages land development partners, including Mattamy Homes, have been playing a key role in the negotiations by helping to structure and secure both the public and private investments in the project.
“This is a true public-private partnership,” said West Villages General Manager Marty Black. “We are excited to be at the table. The stadium complex blends well into our master plan for the area. It will become an anchor for our future entertainment district and complement our planned new downtown Main Street development.”