Atlanta Braves in ‘exclusive’ talks to move spring home to North Port

A preliminary rendering of the proposed Braves spring training complex in North Port (photo via Mattamy Homes)

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Atlanta Braves are one step closer to moving their spring training headquarters to the West Villages section of North Port.

The team and Sarasota County have entered an “exclusive negotiating window,” the county announced Tuesday. The move would take effect for the 2019 season if the sides reach an agreement on the construction of a new complex for the Major League Baseball club.

“We appreciate the patience of all parties during this process,” Braves CEO Terry McGuirk said in a statement. “This is the perfect location for our team and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of Sarasota County and West Villages.”

Negotiations began after the Board of County Commissioners gave the green light for talks in March 2016.

“There’s still a lot of work to do to finalize the terms, agreements and approvals necessary, but this announcement is a major step forward in the efforts to bring the Braves to our area,” County Administrator Tom Harmer said. “Continuing to expand sports tourism is high on the county’s list, and the opportunity to bring a major sports anchor to the City of North Port could have a significant impact in south county.”

The planned site is located within the City of North Port near U.S. 41 and River Road, with direct access to West Villages Parkway. An official with the West Villages development referred to the project as a “true public-private partnership,” though the cost — and just who would foot the bill — are unclear.

The Braves currently train at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

Collier County officials have considered making multiple runs at the team, but county commissioners rejected those proposals.