Sarasota Co. to pursue Atlanta Braves Spring-training deal

Pedro Ciriaco, Michael Bourn
Atlanta Braves' Pedro Ciriaco, right, high-fives on-deck batter Michael Bourn after hitting a home run off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi during the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — There could soon be one more reason to visit the Tampa Bay area for Spring Training. Sarasota County Commissioners are working to lure the Atlanta Braves to the area.

The Braves currently hold their Spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Sarasota County Commissioners on Tuesday authorized the county administrator to continue negotiating terms with the West Villages and the Atlanta Braves for the funding, design and construction of a state-of-the-art spring training destination in the new master-planned community.

The proposed campus would have training facilities, practice fields and a 7,500-seat stadium on a 100-150 acre site, with direct access to U.S. 41 and West Villages Parkway, according to an announcement about the proposed project that was released by the county Tuesday morning.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our county as well as the entire region,” said Sarasota County Commission Chairman Alan Maio. “I believe the West Villages is uniquely positioned to partner with the Braves and the county to move these negotiations forward.”

Braves President John Schuerholz said the organization is “excited and appreciative that West Villages and Sarasota County are working with us to potentially secure a beautiful, state-of-the-art, future spring training location for the Braves.”

County leaders believe that having a Major League Baseball presence in Sarasota County would boost tourism.

“This project is consistent with our goals to expand sports tourism throughout the county and would have a significant economic impact for the south county area,” said Jeff Maultsby, the county’s director of Business and Economic Development.

The proposed property is located in south Sarasota County just off U.S. 41 in the new commercial core of the master-planned community of West Villages. It is adjacent to the State College of Florida-Venice campus and a future Sarasota Memorial Hospital 28-acre medical and wellness complex. The community is within 15 minutes of the Gulf beaches, historic downtown Venice and access to the wild and scenic Myakka River.

According to the county, each year more than 700 new homes are sold in the area surrounding the proposed spring training campus, which amounts to 40 percent of new home sales in Sarasota County

The county says the proposed property is centrally located, with the spring training complexes of the Red Sox, Twins and Rays to the south and the Orioles, Pirates, Yankees, Blue Jays and Phillies to the North, all within easy Interstate 75 or U.S. 41 access.

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