News came out yesterday that the Braves are exploring building a spring training facility in St. Petersburg. The team’s lease with Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex is set to end in 2017, and the team would have the new facility open by 2018.
On the surface, this all makes sense. Orlando is actually pretty far from most team’s spring training facilities, and having a more central location would widely benefit the players. When I visited for spring training this past season, I had to dodge hundreds of middle-school aged cheerleaders just to get into the stadium. The main focus needs to be on baseball, and this is a necessary move for the Braves. Our location has become too commercialized and it’s used for far too many various functions. This new location has a lot more room for various competitions and seats more fans.
Remember Gary Sheffield? One of my favorite Braves would actually help develop the land with the Braves. According to reports, the proposal is for a 240 acre property that would include the stadium, an arena, a hotel and practice fields.
(Renderings can be seen here: http://www.tampabay.com/resources/images/dti/rendered/2015/09/02WEB_Toytown092315_750x525_15957857_8col.jpg)
The Braves are also open to sharing the facility with another team. Given the size of the facility, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Another take: John Hart lives outside Orlando, and that was a big selling point when he was offered his position that he seemed reluctant to take. Could Hart be planning on assuming this role through the 2017 campaign and handing John Coppolella the keys in 2018?
All-in-all, this looks like it could be a great facility. Between “Toytown” and Suntrust Park, fans have reason to get exciting and hope the team will be competing when this all happens. Nothing has been made official just yet, but bank on the Braves making St. Pete their spring home.