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Braves pitch St. Petersburg sports complex for spring training

Proposed Pinellas Co. spring training camp

The Atlanta Braves are part of a partnership proposing a 240-acre, $622-million St. Petersburg sports complex that would include a new spring-training complex for the club.

The Braves are part of SportsPark Partners LLC, a corporate entity that includes real-estate developer Echelon and the Gary Sheffield Sports Foundation. SportsPark Partners LLC is proposing a $622-million development at the former Toytown landfill site off I-275 in St. Petersburg. (If you know St. Pete: the location is north of downtown, east of the freeway and across from the Valupak plant on the west side of the freeway, south of the Hwy. 686 interchange.)

The St. Petersburg sports complex would include a 11,000-capacity ballpark (10,000 seats, 1,000 on the berm), a  15,000-seat fieldhouse for indoor events, a 20,000-seat track and field stadium, an aquatic center, a hockey rink and a 200,000-square foot dormitory housing 800. From the Tampa Bay Times:

The proposed complex would be much like Disney’s “Wide World of Sports” complex near Orlando, where the team is under contract for one more year. That facility includes much more than its baseball fields, and the proposed “SportsPark” would be an “international destination facility” including facilities to host tournaments in a dozen sports, including basketball, soccer and swimming…..

Part of the 258-page proposal is a letter from Braves president John Schuerholz to Sheffield, confirming “extensive discussions” about the proposal and “significant interest” in “exploring a partnership.” The Braves are “especially interested,” he writes, “given the youth sports initiative and positive impact it will provide to kids of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances.” Schuerholtz said construction could begin by next year with the facility set for completion by the 2018 season…..

The proposal projects annual revenues of more than $800-million, including rooms in new lodging on the site and fees from hosting tournaments beyond spring training. Construction for the full project is estimated over five years, and the proposal includes Populous, one of the nation’s leading firms for sports architecture. Letters of recommendation were written by former Rays player Fred McGriff, as well as Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks of the Bucs.

It’s no secret the Atlanta Braves are not seeking to stay at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports after their lease ends in 2017, and it’s no secret that Disney is making absolutely no effort toward keeping the Braves at Champion Stadium. The Braves have become a lesser lessee there, and with Disney moving strongly into more youth sports and tournaments — especially soccer — the Braves announced last April that they were looking for a new spring home.

One interesting part of the proposal: it’s being designed for two spring-training teams. With Doug Melvin (a Scottsdale resident) gone as Milwaukee Brewers general manager, it’s hard to say with certainty that the team is totally committed to Maryvale Baseball Park.

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