|Capacity||8,000 (6,200 seats, 1,800 SRO/berm)|
|Dimensions||335L, 400C, 325R|
|Local Airport||Sarasota-Bradenton International|
|Ticket Prices||To be announced|
|Tickets on Sale||Nov. 17|
|Ticket Web Site||ticketmaster.com|
|Address||18800 W. Villages Pkwy., Venice, FL 34287.|
|Directions||West Villages Parkway is located directly off Tamiami Trail (Hwy. 41), a major throughway running between the Everglades, through Fort Myers/Naples and north to Bradenton. From the north (Sarasota), take I-75 south to exit 191 (North River Road) and follow it to West Villages Parkway. From the south (Fort Myers/Naples), take I-75 north to take I-75 south to exit 191 (North River Road), head west on Tamiami Trail, and then to West Villages Parkway.|
Atlanta Braves Spring Training: Off to North Port
With the opening of CoolToday Park, the Atlanta Braves reclaimed control of their spring-training operations for the first time since 1997—and in the process created a fan experience that raises the bar for Grapefruit League facilities.
Featuring a modern design, CoolToday Park tends to be very vertical from the outside but surprisingly light and airy inside. Part of this design has to do with the quirks of building in Florida, where you’re never too far off the water line, so the only alternative is to build up. Some Florida ballparks, such as the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, deal with this need to build up with plenty of ramps, sloped berms and gradual approaches to a concourse level. At CoolToday Park, the decision was made to divide the ballpark into separate areas, building up from there and asking patron to walk up to a raised concourse level.
Once there, the 360-degree concourse provides a lovely view of the surrounding area (Florida is a pretty flat state, so being up a story-plus provides a great perch). An added bonus to the raised and open concourse: It allows in some breezes sorely needed on a hot day. The concourses are wide, allowing for easy access throughout the ballpark. It never felt terribly busy during Sunday’s sellout debut.
It is tempting to compare CoolToday Park with Disney’s Champion Stadium, the former (as of last week) spring home of the Braves. Such a comparison really isn’t fair: at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, the Braves were strictly a tenant, with some limited workout facilities and little say over how the ballpark was run for spring training. There is a Disney way of doing business, and a spring-training game at Champion Stadium was a Disney experience, not a Braves experience.
CoolToday Park is the centerpiece of a larger development in the West Villages that will include a neighborhood shopping center between the ballpark and Tamiami Trail. Being part of a Florida planned development, The Marketplace development will feature the mandatory Publix grocery store as well as a variety of retailers and restaurants and is set to be done in plenty of time for spring training 2020. That will present some interesting issues for Braves fans: traffic was already a snarl for a sold-out Opening Day, and with access to the ballpark limited to four lanes, access probably won’t be better for 2020. Unless a new access plan is implemented, of course.
Still, being so busy that you’re generating a traffic jam isn’t the worst problem to have. CoolToday Park is a strong addition to the Grapefruit League ballpark lineup, and we’re eager to see it in action come 2020.
Spring Training History
The Atlanta Braves have trained at the following sites since the team’s entry in the National League as the Boston Beaneaters: Norfolk, Va. (1901); Thomasville, Ga. (1902-1904, 1907); Charleston, S.C. (1905); Jacksonville (1906); Augusta, Ga. (1908-1912); Athens, Ga. (1913); Macon, Ga. (1914-1915); Miami (1916-1918), Columbus, Ga. (1919-1920); Galveston, Texas (1921); St. Petersburg (1922-1937); Bradenton (1938-1940, 1948-1962); San Antonio (1941); Sanford, Fla. (1942); Wallingford, Ct. (1943-1944); Washington, D.C. (1945); Fort Lauderdale (1946-1947); West Palm Beach (1963-1997); Orlando (1998-2019); North Port (2019-present).
CoolToday Park opened as the Braves’ spring-training home in 2019.