Braves break ground on new spring-training complex today

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Braves break ground on new spring-training complex today

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Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Braves manager Brian Snitker gathers his team for the first full-squad workout of 2017 spring training at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports near Orlando. 

NORTH PORT, FLA. – A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Monday for the Braves’ new spring-training complex in southwest Florida, just 16 months before the team intends to hold its first workout at the $100-million facility. 

The stadium and training complex will be built on former ranch land in the West Villages development in the southern Sarasota County city of North Port. 

The project, which got its final governmental approvals last month, will officially begin its construction phase with Monday afternoon’s ceremony, which is expected to draw officials from Sarasota County, North Port, the Braves, the West Villages Improvement District and West Villages home-builder Mattamy Homes. 

The construction schedule is aggressive, with the Braves planning to begin holding spring training in the facility in 2019. But there is a recent precedent for building a spring-training stadium in Florida under a similar timetable: A new West Palm Beach facility shared by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, which opened this year, broke ground in early November 2015 and was built over a span of about 15 months.

The Braves will train in 2018 for the final time at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports near Orlando, their spring home since 1998. 

Plans call for a North Port stadium with a capacity of about 8,000, plus six full practice fields, two half fields and about 55,000 square feet of clubhouse and office space. 

The Braves pursued a new spring-training home in Florida for almost three years, turning their attention solely to Sarasota County in January after previous discussions with Pinellas County (St. Petersburg), Collier County (Naples) and Palm Beach County.

Taxpayers will contribute more than $40 million toward the new facility, plus interest. Sarasota County will cover $21.3 million of the construction cost, the state of Florida $14.4 million and North Port $4.7 million. (The state’s commitment is $20 million over 20 years, including interest payments.) 

The Braves are on the hook for $55.5 million through a combination of up-front payments of about $18 million and annual payments over 30 years sufficient to cover debt service on $37.5 million in bonds. A private developer will contribute $4.7 million. 

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