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Two Teams Training in Sarasota County? Could Happen

Sarasota County Braves camp

Local officials say they are talking to multiple MLB teams about a proposed North Port Sarasota County spring training complex, in addition to the Atlanta Braves.

Most of the talk about Sarasota County has focused on the Braves, who are negotiating in three Florida counties (Sarasota, Collier, Palm Beach) for a new spring-training complex to replace Disney World’s Wide World of Sports and Champion Stadium in 2019. But, flipping the table, local officials say that there are multiple teams involved besides the Braves, and both single-team and two-team complexes are on the table. From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

West Villages General Manager Martin Black mentioned other teams for the first time publicly during an update to the Venice City Commission on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ve been in discussions with several other teams in addition to the Braves in considering whether or not to do a two-team spring training destination, or in the event the Braves pick another location we would have another team with the desire (to move here),” Black told commissioners.

Black did not identify the other teams he has contacted and attempts to reach him after he was scheduled to meet with design consultants hired by the Braves on Wednesday morning were unsuccessful.

The proposal calls for a full $100-million single-team training facility on 100-125 acres, complete with a 7,500-seat ballpark on the south side of U.S. 41 and west of River Road. That would put the Braves — or another team — squarely between the Orioles and the Rays along the Gulf Coast, making for a nice stretch of spring training action between Fort Myers and Tampa.

Realistically, there are only two teams besides the Braves with lease situations that would allow a move to Sarasota County: the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers. Every other team in Major League Baseball has a spring-training camp lease extending well into the future, by our reckoning. (For instance, the New York Mets have a Tradition Field lease running through 2023; the Rays have a Charlotte Sports Park lease running through 2029.)

But the Blue Jays and Brewers are on short-term leases in Dunedin and Phoenix, respectively. Both teams have openly sought new spring-training homes or upgraded facilities. The Blue Jays once partnered with the Houston Astros on a quest for a new Palm Beach County spring home before being replaced by the Washington Nationals, and since then have pitched Dunedin officials for upgraded facilities there. The Brewers have expressed dissatisfaction with Maryvale Baseball Park, but efforts to find a new facility elsewhere in the Valley have hit a dead end. Now, it would be an extreme move for the Brewers to shift from the Cactus League to the Grapefruit League, as the team has trained in the Phoenix area since the Seattle Pilots entered the American League in 1969. But stranger moves have happened.

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