Will taxpayers have to pay for Atlanta Braves’ move to North Port?

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarasota County officials approved a letter of intent on Tuesday which gets the ball rolling to build a new spring training home for the Atlanta Braves in North Port. But, there are a lot of questions over where the money is coming from.

The Atlanta Braves want to leave their spring training home in Disney World and build a new stadium in North Port. By approving a letter of intent, commissioners are moving forward with getting all parties on board with plans for an $80 million dollar stadium.

The Braves will be putting millions toward stadium costs and lease payments, and the county has committed $22 million.

“Our contribution for the Sarasota County Government will come exclusively from our tourist development tax dollars,” said Jeff Maultsby, Sarasota County’s Director of business and economic development.

Maultsby did stress that there are five partners in the project to help in the effort.

One of those five partners, the city of North Port, will soon decide how it will pay for its share- $300,000 a year for 30 years. A spokesman tells 8 On Your Side commissioners may decide to use the general fund, or in other words, tax dollars.

Some are not happy.

“Taxpayer money should not go to a spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves. We actually think the Braves can afford this sort of thing themselves without any taxpayer help and we think that this area is attractive and beautiful enough, that it doesn’t need to lure these giant corporations in with basically welfare,” said county resident James Ray.

“It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work for the public. It’s not a cost benefit,” said county resident Jim Lampl.

Officials stress the stadium will boost the economy, will be used year round and can even be used for public events like concerts and festivals.

“We have nothing to hide. We think it’s a good deal. We want to be good stewards of the public trust and the public dollars,” said Maultsby.

A spokesman at the city of North Port stresses that no plans have been approved yet over how the city will pay for this. It could come from the general fund or officials may look for other revenue sources. Commissioners will have a meeting on March 7th.

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