Braves Negotiating New Spring Training Complex

The Atlanta Braves have been in the market for a new spring training home for a couple of years. It appears they my have finally found a match. Sarasota County announced on Tuesday that exclusive negotiations are ongoing between the county and the team, with the Braves targeting a 2019 move-in date according to club Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk. The new complex is pending a final agreement.

The prospective site is located in the City of North Port, which is along Florida’s Gulf Coast, and would be part of the West Villages development project. The complex would be built off West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida. The city will also play a role in the negotiations and eventual construction should the project be approved. The Braves have been in talks with Sarasota County since March of last year.

“We appreciate the patience of all parties during this process,” McGuirk said in the official release from the 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.”

Zach Murdock of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the current proposal for the complex includes a 6,500 seat stadium, additional practice fields and a sports medicine academy on a 70-acre plot, all at a projected cost of $75-80 million. Murdock adds that McGuirk as well as Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz will be in town to meet with Sarasota County and City of North Port officials next week.

County Administrator Tom Harmer has handled the negotiations with the Braves. An agreement could come within the next few months. The county is planning a public update next week with Braves officials in town.

“There’s still a lot of work to do to finalize the terms, agreements and approvals necessary, but this announcement is a major step forward in the efforts to bring the Braves to our area,” Harmer said in the release. “Continuing to expand sports tourism is high on the county’s list, and the opportunity to bring a major sports anchor to the City of North Port could have a significant impact in south county.”

This move would end a two decade stay in the Orlando area for the Braves, who have trained at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex since 1997. In recent years, the team has explored relocation following the exit of many other teams from the immediate area. Sarasota County, Palm Beach County, Collier County and St. Petersburg have all been discussed as prospective spring training sites for the Braves.

Most recently, the Nationals and Astros moved into a joint-complex in West Palm Beach which opens this year, leaving only the Tigers within an hour’s drive of Atlanta’s spring home. If the Braves move to North Port, they would be nestled in an area with favorable commutes to the Rays, Pirates, Red Sox, Twins, Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays and even the Tigers to a lesser extent.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves and MLB for 92-9 The Game. You can subscribe to the “Around The Big Leagues” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Follow Grant on Twitter.

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