Funding for a new Atlanta Braves spring training complex in North Port has been conditionally approved by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, according to Sarasota County officials.
In a release Friday, county officials announced that $20 million in funding had been conditionally approved Thursday. It is the last bit of funding needed to move the project forward.
A grant application for help with construction costs was filed earlier this summer by theWest Villages Improvement District, Sarasota County, the city of North Port and the Atlanta Braves.
"We are thankful for the state's positive response to the Braves spring training project and its benefits to our region," said Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer in the release.
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Final reviews for the city and county commissions and the West Villages Improvement District are set for Sept. 12. Should the final agreements be approved, the funding will be committed and construction can start, according to the release.
The Braves could start spring training in North Port as early as 2019.
“We are excited to be building a state-of-the-art spring training facility in this beautiful community," John Schuerholz, Atlanta Braves vice chairman,said in the release. "We have truly found some incredible partners in Sarasota County, West Villages and the city of North Port, and we look forward to training and playing there for many years to come.”
The Braves have held spring training at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Champion Stadium for 21 years.
The team decided to leave the Walt Disney complex in the Orlando area following the 2018 season partly because of other teams jettisoning Central Florida for other locales, including Arizona and along both Florida coasts.
In a Jan. 24 update on negotiations for their spring training project, officials said the stadium would include 9,000 seats, a 360-degree concourse, luxury suites, 750 paved parking spaces, six fields and two half practice fields.
It came in at an estimated cost is $75 million to $80 million, but does not include the cost of land and infrastructure.
The Braves noted at the update they were committed to signing a 30-year lease with annual payments to cover stadium debt.
Jeff Maultsby, Sarasota County’s director of business and economic development, said at the time there is no cost to Florida residents and the necessary funds would come from tourism dollars.