The Sarasota County Commission approved borrowing $22 million toward the $75.4-million price tag for a new Atlanta Braves spring training camp in North Port, backed by existing tourist tax proceeds.
The move wasn’t considered to be controversial, and indeed it took the commission about 10 minutes to approve the measure. With no new taxes or higher tax rates involved, the move didn’t generate a lot of public discussion or controversy. But it is an important piece of the financial puzzle, and with the county approving the biggest chunk of the puzzle, it paves the way to move forward with the other parts of the financing. That includes $20 million from the state via an existing program to keep spring training in Florida, $15 million (including a land contribution and infrastructure work) from developer West Village, $7.5 million from the Braves in upfront costs as well as up to $2.5 million annually in a lease, and up to $5 million from the city of North Port. (Why the variables? Because the specific numbers will depend on the bond rates. These contributions were all designed to address debt service.) From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:
“I think this deal is very unique compared to most, with so much coming from the private sector with the land owner (West Villages) and our funds really coming from tourist development funds versus from our taxpayers directly, or our homeowners and businesses,” Commissioner Charles Hines said. “I hope the public sees it as different, they may disagree with our view, but I think this is a really unique structure.”….
Still needed: A stadium operating agreement, a project development agreement, a formal application for state spring training grant funding, a funding pledge from North Port coffers, and interlocal agreements between the city, county and West Villages, county administrator Tom Harmer has said.
Those agreements are still under development but also will be subject to public comment and commission approval.
If the complex receives final approval in a timely fashion, it could open for the Braves in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, the Braves will train at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports complex for 2018.
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