Collier County on Florida’s southern Gulf Coast has been eliminated from consideration for hosting a new Atlanta Braves spring-training facility, as the team will instead focus on proposals from Sarasota County and Palm Beach County.
The issue: the lack of a guarantee that a new complex could be completed for spring training 2018. The Braves’ current lease at Disney World’s Champion Stadium ends after spring training 2017, so the need for a new home is fairly imminent. With proposals from Sarasota County and Palm Beach County working on a spring training 2018 deadline, the lack of opening-day certainty ended up being a deal-killer.
Of course, the Collier County pitch also had some other flaws. The location isn’t bad — moving to Collier County would put the Braves in a four-team cluster with the Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers), Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers) and the Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte), as well as proximity to some pretty sweet demos in Naples. But Collier County officials weren’t totally committed to the plan: the county already rejected a location off Collier Boulevard near Interstate 75, leaving some less-attractive properties on the table, and the notion of using tourism taxes to finance the facility didn’t lure much interest, either.
So this leaves two viable proposals still under consideration. In Palm Beach County, the Braves want a spring-training ballpark with 8,000 seats and a 2,000-capacity berm, a standard six-field training complex and player dorm, probably in Lake Worth. Sarasota County officials pitched the Braves on a North Port spring-training site located in the southern part of the county. The Braves front office hasn’t been shy about stating that their preferred site is Palm Beach County, which would represent a homecoming of sorts (the team formerly training in West Palm Beach).
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