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State Grant Targeted for Braves Spring Training Facility

Sarasota County Braves camp

Ongoing debates in the Florida State Legislature could complicate a plan for an Atlanta Braves spring training facility in North Port, where state incentives are being targeted.

Last week, the Braves and Sarasota County announced that they are entering into an exclusive negotiation period for a new spring training facility in North Port. For the Braves, the proposal could mark the end of the team’s search for a new facility to replace Champion Stadium and ESPN Wide World of Sports, which the team is slated to leave after 2018.

Early discussions on the public contributions in the funding model include a combination of at least $20 million county hotel taxes, $4 million-$5 million in funds from North Port, and up to $20 million in state incentives. The state funding would be obtained through a grant application to the Florida Sports Foundation, and be dispersed in the form of annual payments for 20 years. However, that is by no means guaranteed at this point.

The ongoing legislative session has been marked by backlash toward state incentive programs, including those aimed at funding sports venues. One of the more notable pieces of legislation comes from state senator Tom Lee, who has proposed gutting the Sports Development Program that was put into law by governor Rick Scott in 2014.

For right now, there are no certainties either way. While the level of criticism aimed at incentive programs could lead to legislative action, there is always the possibility that the consternation does not lead to new laws. Additionally, Sarasota County officials are seeing what effect, if any, the proposals could have on spring training.

As it stands, none of the proposals to gut incentives that are intended for spring training complexes, but it is still a development to be watched for Sarasota County. More from the Herald-Tribune:

No specific proposal has been made to end the spring training stadium grants, so local officials and leaders of the Florida Sports Foundation, which will review the application for the Braves, are proceeding as normal, they said. But they are also cautiously watching the House for clues about the program’s future.

“I don’t want to speculate on what politicians may or may not do. All the work has been done and they can still apply for it,” said John Webb, president of the Florida Sports Foundation of the Braves and local leaders. “Right now, there’s a program in place to preserve spring training in Florida for the next generation, and they do qualify for it with matching funds from the county or municipality.”

Preliminary projections have the facility costing somewhere in the range of $75 million-$80 million. Private contributions are expected to come from the Braves and the West Village development company.

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