The Sarasota County Commission and representatives of the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday discussed the team's proposal to build a new Spring Training stadium in North Port.
The Braves, which now call Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports its Spring Training home, could move south to Sarasota County as soon as 2019 if the deal goes through.
Commissioner Tom Harmer said that, if approved, Sarasota County's contribution to the stadium project would come from a Tourist Development Tax. He estimates the proceeds from the tax would amount to $22.1 million, enough to cover local infrastructure costs associated with the stadium.
Braves' Vice Chairman John Schuerholz emphasized that the team is committed long term to Sarasota County and the state of Florida.
"The Atlanta Braves have trained only in the state of Florida. We love Florida. We have made a vow. We will remain in Florida for our training,” he said.
After more than a year of considering locations including Palm Beach County, Schuerholz said the team is not negotiating with any other sites at this time.
During the Spring Training 'off season,' Schuerholz said the stadium would serve as a rehabilitation facility for injured members of the Braves. It would also act as a practice area for minor league players.
According to a statement from West Villages, a housing development company based in Sarasota, the proposed stadium blends into its master plan for the area.
"It will become an anchor for our future entertainment district and complement our planned new downtown Main Street development," the statement read.
Commissioner Charles Hines said he had concerns about whether visitors and residents would be able to access the stadium. River Road, a feeder road, has been under consideration for a lane expansion project.
“How will Sarasota County be able to prepare for the Braves and complete River Road simultaneously?” Hines said.
But Commissioner Nancy Detert expressed concern that the Braves hadn't yet been granted a long-term lease or funding through the state of Florida. She emphasized that the approval process still had a ways to go.
“Well, as my grandmother used to say, ‘Many a slip between the cup and the lip,’” she said. “So we're all fans and we're all rooting for you. That's all I have to say.”
Schuerholz said he expects that the state funding will be granted.