Braves, North Port move forward with spring training facility

- A North Port cow pasture could a field of dreams for the Atlanta Braves in 2019.

Tuesday night, city commissioners voted unanimously to instruct the city manager to negotiate with the Braves on a spring training site and facility. Under the current proposal the City of North Port would kick in $4-$5 million over 30 years.

The rest of the $80 million project would be funded by Sarasota County tourist taxes, state money and the Braves. Team officials say North Port will put them in the center of the Grapefruit League on Florida's West Coast.

"The Red Sox, the Twins, the Rays, the Orioles, the Pirates, the Yankees, Phillies if we want to, and the Blue Jays, it's pretty attractive," said Braves CFO Chip Moore who attended the commission meeting.

Land for the stadium would be donated by The West Villages, a company that's building hundreds of homes in the area. They believe the stadium will help boost sports tourism in the region.

Once completed, the facility will house 6,500 fixed seats, plus six full and two half practice fields. General admission will hold 2,500 people and it'll come with a 30 year lease.

Brave's Vice Chairman John Schuerholz shared the plans with Sarasota County Commissioners Tuesday morning.

"We will have major league players here rehabilitating from their injuries, we will have minor league players here trying to improve their skills, we will build an academy that will combine physical and mental and physical sciences," he said.

The Braves are loading the bases with the proposal. Land for the stadium is being donated by the developer West Villages. West Villages will oversee construction and development.

Money will come from tourism tax dollars and state grants.

"I'm very excited to see that you are going to operate a year round academy for the career creation of this not just jobs related to the hospitality nature of this. It's careers is what I'm looking for," said Commissioner Mike Moran.

There is still a long list of items that Sarasota County and West Villages must check off before the Atlanta Braves can call North Port their spring training home. That includes signing a lease agreement and applying for state funding.

"We are going to need as much time possible with this project," said Jeff Maultsby, director of economic and development for Sarasota County.

The Braves believe they've hit a home run with Sarasota County and are hopeful fans will see their finished work in 2019.

"We don't see many obstacles. We see a lot of interest. We see a lot of partnership. We think we will get this done," said Schuerholz. 

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