SARASOTA, Fla. – “We can’t wait for this complex to come out of the ground and make our home for the next 30 years in Sarasota County,” says Atlanta Braves’ Vice Chairman John Schuerholz.
The Braves official set the tone for the team’s first official meeting with Sarasota County commissioners.
“We know what to have a win-win, be beneficial, be good partners intend to do that here. We hope you give us that opportunity,” said Schuerholz.
The team’s top rank officers were present and from the waving Braves pennants in the audience and commissioners’ reaction. “I’m excited I want to move next to the stadium,” says Charles Hines, Sarasota County commissioner.
The Braves appeared to be welcome with conditions.
Commissioner Paul Caragiulo told the Braves, “Real, true, year-round benefits is something that I’ll be looking at that’s inclusive.”
The Braves would own and operate a year-round baseball academy on the $80 million facility. It’ll be on 75 acres donated by the developers of the West Villages community in North Port.
“Career opportunities, growth opportunities for young people who want to think about a career in professional baseball, in training, physical sciences may happen because we’re here,” says Schuerholz.
The cost for the 9,000-seat complex set to open in 2019 will be divided 5 ways.
The West Villages, donating the land worth $7 to $9 million plus $12 to $20 million in infrastructure improvements, City of North Port that projects to contribute $4 to $5 million, the state has around $20 million in grant money available. Sarasota will use approximately $22 million in tourism dollars.
Maultsby says, “Local residents will not see ad valorem taxes increase as part of this deal.”
The Braves would sign a 30-year lease with annual payments to cover the stadium debt, provide all furniture, fixtures and equipment, and contribute to stadium maintenance.
Opponents say spring training facilities siphon money from local businesses.
“The contrary is what we hope to do is enhance the revenue … hope the rising tide will lift both,” says Maultsby.
The Braves say their spring training attendance is the third highest in the league.
Sarasota’s county administrator says this isn’t a done deal yet there are still hurdles to clear including applying for up to $20 million in state grants.
To put this into perspective, baseball is big business for Florida. From the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte to the New York Yankees in Tampa, Florida's Gulf Coast now plays host to the majority of the Grapefruit League
The Braves’ training complex would be one of the newest. They've been at Disney's Wide World of Sports since 1997.
(© 2017 WTSP)