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Repairs to Sarasota County's MLB training fields, parks to cost more than $10M after Ian's impacts

Damage to the Cool Today Park includes a missing letter B from the Atlanta Braves sign.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — Several Sarasota County parks have reopened after taking on water and wind damage from Hurricane Ian. But dozens still remain closed weeks after as county leaders get an estimate on repair costs.

County-owned Ed Smith Stadium took on some impact from the storm, including its roofing. But managers with the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources at Sarasota County said the damage is quite significant at the Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota and the Cool Today Park in North Port.

"HVAC system, roofing, water intrusion, obviously lots of fencing, lots of signage down or damaged that we're working through," said Nicole Rissler, director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources at Sarasota County. 

The damage to the Cool Today Park includes a missing letter B from the Atlanta Braves sign at one of the entrances, seemingly renaming the Major League Baseball team to 'Atlanta Raves.' 

The Cool Today stadium is among 65 Sarasota County parks still closed after the hurricane with around 130 open or partially open. 

"Snookhaven is one of those that is partially opened. So our kayak launch and boat ramp have been reopened to the public. The area surrounding the restaurant and the river house does remain closed," said Rissler.

Along with developed parks with playgrounds, gyms and athletic fields, many of the county's parks include natural areas, preserves and trails on more than 50,000 acres of land.

"We have to make sure trails are cleared out as you can imagine, we have thousands of acres and you have trees down, we want to make sure they're safe," she said.

Park managers said many of their parks had significant insurance coverage but they are still compiling repair costs and have a preliminary estimate about starting cost of repairs so far.

"All of our parks including our three major facilities of Cool Today Stadium where the Atlanta Braves play, Ed Smith Stadium, and Nathan Benderson Park, we are over the $10 million mark for the cost of repairs and I do anticipate that will continue to rise," said Rissler.

Some of the closed parks are being used for disaster recovery efforts. County officials hope to have the ballparks ready and repaired on time for spring training.

The North Jetty Park, which also had significant vegetation debris, reopened this past weekend while South Lido reopened on Friday.  The county says they're prioritizing re-opening parks with the most recreational demands.

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