The Atlanta Braves appear to have focused their search for a new spring training facility on a former landfill in Pinellas County, reducing even more the remote chances of the team returning to Palm Beach County.
The Braves would partner with former Marlins star Gary Sheffield and St. Petersburg developer Darryl LeClair to transform a 240-acre former landfill into Pinellas County’s third spring training complex, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The newspaper reports that Pinellas County appears to have interest in the project and that the Braves are open to expanding their project to accommodate a second team.
The Braves-Sheffield group, known as SportsPark LLC, has requested county funding of up to $10.5 million annually if two MLB teams end up at the site or $6.5 million each year if it’s just the Braves, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Braves have trained in Orlando since 1998, after training in West Palm Beach from 1962 to 1997.
But they have been looking for a new spring home on Florida’s east and west coasts because, among other reasons, they don’t want to be stuck in the state’s central corridor with just one team, the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland.
The Braves and Tigers will be isolated because the Houston Astros are leaving Kissimmee to share a new facility in West Palm Beach with the Washington Nationals, who are leaving Viera.
The Braves flirted with a return to Palm Beach County earlier this summer when general manager John Schuerholz reached out to at least one community, according to sources.
In March, an Atlanta real estate developer representing the Braves met with Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana to discuss the idea of the team returning to the county.
“They said, ‘What do you think about adding another team?’’ Vana said, recalling the March 2 meeting at the county Governmental Center in downtown West Palm Beach.
“I said, ‘You’re a little a late. It’s already done.’’’ She said one of the consultants replied that he wished he “would have gotten here sooner.”
A Braves return here is considered remote because the county struck a deal with the Astros and Nationals for a $135 million ballpark on a former landfill south of 45th Street. Construction is supposed to start next month with an opening planned for January 2017.