It’s basically official: The Atlanta Braves say they are committed to moving to North Port in 2019.
But the exact designs, costs and process to making that a reality are far from over. So what’s this all about and what happens next?
Here are the six main things you need to know about the Braves’ plans:
This week: The Braves and Sarasota County jointly announced Tuesday afternoon that the team is “exclusively negotiating” for the North Port site now, putting to rest any lingering speculation that the team might still be considering other Florida sites, such as Palm Beach or Collier counties.
Next week: Braves CEO Terry McGuirk and Vice Chairman John Schuerholz will be in town for their first public presentations about the proposal since negotiations formally began last March. They’ll make presentations to both the county and North Port city commissions on Tuesday.
The plan: To build a new $75 to $80 million stadium and training facilities on 70 acres just south of the State College of Florida campus in North Port. The complex will include a 6,500-seat stadium, team clubhouse, training facilities, a half-dozen practice baseball fields, six multi-use fields and space for the team’s sports medicine academy.
The background: The Braves have been searching for a new home for spring training for almost two years as the team nears the end of its lease at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, where it has trained since 1997.
They pitched the idea to Sarasota as early as fall 2015, but Sarasota have been hot and cold as the team publicly considered other potential sites in Collier and Palm Beach counties. Last month, the Collier County Commission voted for a second time against opening negotiations for a complex in greater Naples, where Schuerholz has a home, and team officials reportedly met with business leaders in the Palm Beach area, where the team trained for decades before heading to Orlando.
What’s next: For the process to continue, team executives will ask the North Port City Commission to authorize its staff to negotiate with the team about the exact terms of the agreement, as the County Commission did last March. Then local leaders will finalize the terms and present it to both city and county commissioners for their approval before the whole thing is really, truly official.
Breaking ground: Construction isn’t very far off if everything goes according to plan, though leaders won’t talk about specific timelines. Utilities, roads, stormwater and sewer infrastructure all needs to be brought to the site and a commercial development nearby on West Villages property is in permitting. It’s expected that on a perfect schedule, construction on the stadium and complex would be complete just in time for spring training in February 2019.