The Atlanta Braves may have identified a potential new Spring Training home in Florida, and the plans for the entire development in St. Petersburg include literally turning one person's trash into another person's treasure.
The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that a group including the Braves is planning to put $662 MM into building a new Spring Training complex for the Braves at the location of a former landfill. The complex would also be host to former Atlanta Brave Gary Sheffield's ambitious charitable project (which is named "The Project") that aims to bring the game of baseball to inner-city and low-income kids.
In addition to hosting Sheffield's project, the complex (which is tentatively referred to as "SportsPark") also play host to numerous other sports and events, and possibly another Major League team as well.
Listed as the team's architect is Populous, one of the nation's leading firms for sports architecture and the the same firm that's building the Braves' new Cobb County Stadium. The proposal says the site plan can be modified to host two Major League Baseball teams for spring training, which is a trend in the sport.
The proposed complex would be much like Disney's "Wide World of Sports" complex near Orlando, where the team is under contract for one more year. That facility includes much more than its baseball fields, and the proposed "SportsPark" would be an "international destination facility" including facilities to host tournaments in a dozen sports, including basketball, soccer and swimming.
The proposal would include a 10,000-seat baseball stadium with berm seating for an additional 1,000 fans, a 15,000-seat fieldhouse for basketball or other indoor events, a track and field facility with 20,000 seats, an aquatic center with a pool and hockey rink and a 200,000-square foot dormitory that could house 800 people.
Part of the 258-page proposal is a letter from Braves president John Schuerholz to Sheffield, confirming "extensive discussions" about the proposal and "significant interest" in "exploring a partnership." The Braves are "especially interested," he writes, "given the youth sports initiative and positive impact it will provide to kids of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances." Schuerholtz said construction could begin by next year with the facility set for completion by the 2018 season.
The move to St. Petersburg itself would make sense from a logical standpoint. It'd put the Braves a lot closer to other teams in the Grapefruit League, which would make travel during Spring Training a lot easier. In addition, the complex itself looks extremely lavish. Seriously, if you haven't clicked the link to the Tampa Bay Times' report above and taken a look at the concept drawing for the site, then go ahead and do it now. It's definitely an attractive-looking baseball complex.
The architecture group known as Populous is going to be in charge of this, and if that name sounds familiar to you, then it's because they're also the ones who are responsible for the architecture of SunTrust Park. So, assuming that this project gets the green light, there will be some amount of aesthetic synergy when it comes to the Braves' home in Cobb County and their home away-from-home in Florida.
Of course, nothing's set in stone yet. Plans could change just as quickly as they develop, but for now it appears that the Braves may have found themselves a new Spring Training home for 2018 and beyond.