The Atlanta Braves could be moving the team's spring training operations to Sarasota County as early as 2019, according to an announcement made Wednesday.
If the terms of an agreement can be reached, the Braves will move their spring training operations from Central Florida to Sarasota County as soon as two years from now, said Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk, who has been leading the team's efforts to secure a new spring training site.
In March 2016, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners authorized administrator Tom Harmer to negotiate with the Braves, and in June the team asked for more time to continue the discussions.
"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.
"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."
The planned site is located in North Port, with direct access to U.S. 41 and West Villages Parkway. The city will play an important role in helping finalize the terms and agreements, as well as overseeing any necessary regulatory approvals to advance the project, North Port City Manager Jonathan Lewis said.
"The City of North Port is excited about the possibility of spring training and everything else a new facility would bring to our area," Lewis said. "A world-class professional baseball organization calling North Pot home can only help to put our area on the map."
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.