SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Throughout the Sarasota County commission chambers, spectators were waving Atlanta Braves pennants as the team’s legendary Vice Chairman John Schuerholz approached the podium.
“We want to be here in 2019,” Schuerholz said.
The soon-to-be Hall of Famer arrived with the team’s chairman and a number of other Braves executives to lay out his plan to build a new Braves spring training home in the West Villages complex in North Port.
The team is exclusively working with Sarasota County on finding a new home.
“We enjoy what Sarasota County has to offer, we’ve done our due diligence; we know what this county is about,” Schuerholz added.
The team is proposing a 6,500 seat stadium and complex that will be utilized by the team year-round, including practice fields and an academy for player development and rehabilitation.
“Our job is to develop major league baseball players that win world championships and get more [championship] rings. That’s what our job is. But, we also can do that and give back to the community,” said Schuerholz.
Schuerholz explained that moving to North Port will keep the Braves closer to other teams during spring training, so it will cut down on travel time.
It will also serve as an economic boom for the North Port area.
“This opportunity to partner with the Braves and the county and the city of North Port, we think creates a unique opportunity for the south Sarasota region to be on the world-wide map,” said West Villages General Manager Marty Black.
The project is estimated to cost around $75-$80 million.
The county would contribute $22.1 million from tourism dollars and the state would contribute $20 million. The West Villages would contribute the land, infrastructure and oversee the construction of the complex. The city of North Port will contribute as well. The Atlanta Braves will sign a 30 year lease with annual payments to cover the stadium debt.
County commissioners are excited for the plan, but there are still meetings and more work to be done before the plan is finalized.
The Braves hope to start hosting spring training games in North Port in 2019.
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