North Port Explores Potential Braves Impact

Sports

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY JUL 6, 2017

The construction of spring training facilities for the Atlanta Braves could bring a $1.7 billion economic impact to North Port over the next three decades, according to a study commissioned by the West Villages Improvement District. North Port commissioners will discuss the spring training deal at a special meeting today, and could ask for an independent study. 

“We know this stadium and the excitement of Major League Baseball have more than just an economic impact,” says Martin Black, West Villages district chairman. “It will truly touch this community for two generations or more.” The study works on the assumption spring training will attract at least 73,500 in attendance in the first year and see increases in attendance over the next decade to reach more than 80,000 by 2028. 

North Port already voted in favor of a letter of intent with to bring the Braves to town on property provided by the West Villages district, with commissioners noting the prospect not just in attracting a popular pro team to the region each spring but in having a sports complex available for other public use as well. But officials there say they also want to explore the costs that the city will incur taking land off the tax rolls while contributing to a deal with Sarasota County to attract the team. City Commissioner Debbie McDowell has asked the commission consider directing staff to complete its own summary of the economic impact with the Braves facility. 

North Port officials have asked for any deal to release North Port from liability to the stadium, for any arrangement to specify there will be additional use for overflow fields and that North Port will be named in promotional materials for the facilities and activities there. 

The Braves have trained at the ESPN Wide World of Sports for 20 years, but as other MLB teams have migrated their facilities further south, the team announced it would leave the Disney-owned facility in Central Florida. The team is expected to remain in Lake Buena Vista next year, but will move to North Port after a stadium opens in January 2019. Notably, the Braves have seen annual Spring Training attendance average about 122,500 per year since 2010, which may indicate the West Villages calculations were extremely conservative.

The economic impact study done by West Villages is part of a grant request submitted last month for for $20 million from the state’s Spring Training Retention Program to help pay for the stadium. Sarasota County will contribute about $21.26 million funded from tourist development tax revenue. North Port will contribute about $300,000 per year as part of the deal, as will West Villages.

West Villages officials say the stadium will have 6,500 fixed seats and 1,500 in grass berm seating, with 60 percent of seats shaded. The 80-acre site will host the stadium and a 55,000-square-foot clubhouse with executive offices for major and minor league operations.

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