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St. Pete next stop for Braves spring training?

St. Pete development proposal

Less than six months after opening a search for a new spring-training home, the Atlanta Braves are part of an effort to bring a 240-acre, $622-million sports complex to St. Petersburg, Florida.

We have the full details at our Spring Training Online site, but the short story is that the Braves are part of SportsPark Partners LLC, a corporate entity that includes real-estate developer Echelon and potentially the Gary Sheffield Sports Foundation, which is pitching the sports complex on a former dump site in St. Petersburg. The location on I-275 is totally open now, and the city has been seeking proposal for development. That much open space in a city these days is catnip to big-picture developers (indeed, the RFP attracts some other big plans, including a huge solar-energy panel array), and SportsPark Partners LLC responded with a pretty big plan that resembles their current home, Wide World of Sports in Orlando’s Disney World.

The St. Petersburg sports complex would include a 11,000-capacity ballpark (10,000 seats, 1,000 on the berm), a 15,000-seat fieldhouse for indoor events, a 20,000-seat track and field stadium, an aquatic center, a hockey rink and a 200,000-square foot dormitory housing 800.

It’s no secret the Atlanta Braves are not seeking to stay at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports after their lease ends in 2017, and it’s no secret that Disney is making absolutely no effort toward keeping the Braves at Champion Stadium. The Braves have become a lesser lessee there, and with Disney moving strongly into more youth sports and tournaments — especially soccer — the Braves announced last April that they were looking for a new spring home.

The proposed complex is also designed by Populous to house two teams during spring training. Interestingly, the future of the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park is in question: a prime reason why the Brewers have stayed in the Phoenix facility was accessibility for GM Doug Melvin, a Scottsdale resident. He’s now out of the picture. With no public money available for Arizona spring-training facilities in the future (a rental-car tax devoted to spring facilities was halted by a judge in a legal battle earlier this year), the Brewers will have to play at Maryvale Baseball Park in the condition it’s in. The Brewers have a short-term lease at Maryvale Baseball Park.

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