Since 1997, the Braves have conducted spring training at the Wide World of Sports area of Disney World near Orlando. As they’ve been nearing the end of their lease there, it’s been no secret that they’ve been checking out the possibility of building a new complex elsewhere in Florida.
Looks like they’ve found the spot.
Tuesday morning, Braves executives met with local leaders in Sarasota County to publicly discuss their desire to construct a new complex on undeveloped land near the community of North Port. The 70-acre site lies just south of the North Port campus of the State College of Florida, placing it a 12-mile drive from the spring-training complex of the Rays in Port Charlotte and under an hour to play the Orioles in Sarasota and the Pirates in Bradenton. The Red Sox and Twins, both in Fort Myers, would also be close.
“We’ve liked it at Disney,” Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz told me recently, “but we don’t have the teams around to play. They’ve all moved out.” Indeed, with the Nationals vacating Viera and the Astros departing Kissimmee (both bound for a new complex in West Palm Beach), the Braves are down to one team (the Tigers in Lakeland) within a two-hour drive. “It’s just too much time on the bus and not enough on the practice fields,” Schuerholz observed. Read More
While in Atlanta for the final two baseball games at Turner Field (see our photo essay on it here), the Braves graciously agreed to take me on a tour of the construction site for SunTrust Park, which will become their home in 2017. This article and the accompanying photos lets you know what I saw and learned.
Leading the tour was Derek Schiller, President of the Braves’ business operations. Also along was Beth Marshall, Senior Director of Public Relations. The insight provided by the two of them was simply outstanding, because you need to understand the reasons behind the team’s desire for a new facility to appreciate its location and why it was designed the way it was.
In case you’re not familiar with the new park’s location, it’s a dandy. It’s quite close to the interchange of two of the area’s major highways, I-75 and I-285, in Cobb County, about ten miles north of Atlanta’s downtown.
Prior to the Braves’ acquisition of the parcels of land to make this project possible, this was an oblong piece of largely undeveloped land bounded by Windy Ridge Parkway on the north and Circle 75 Parkway on the east and south. Even though it’s very much in the center of an enormous amount of traffic, it hadn’t been developed partly because major pipelines ran beneath the property. On the south side of Circle 75, though, were several office buildings. The Braves set up a “Preview Center” in one of them. The photo above looks across Circle 75 from the front of that office building. Three years ago, this same scene showed thick trees and a pond.
In the first three installments of this series on Turner Field, we provided insights from a Braves exec, a fan since the team moved to Atlanta and the team’s face of the franchise during its years at the ballpark. To wrap up this series, here is the article I wrote for USA TODAY Sports Weekly (which is why I conducted those three interviews). The piece appeared in their September 28, 2016 edition under the headline “Braves had Super Run at Stadium.” Many thanks to the editorial staff for allowing me to reproduce it for you here.
By the way, after the article was published, an astute reader contacted Sports Weekly and suggested that the Top Ten list was missing an important event: the unveiling of the All Century Team at the 1999 MLB All Star Game at Turner Field. I think he’s right.
ATLANTA When the Braves host the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, October 2, it will mark the end of an era. Turner Field, the scene of a tremendous amount of history in its short two decades, will see its final baseball game. That’s because in 2017, the Braves will move into SunTrust Park, currently under construction ten miles to the north in Cobb County.
As fans prepare to say goodbye to the ballpark, let’s examine how it came to be, what magical moments have occurred on its playing field, and what will become of it when the Braves are gone.
ANYTHING BUT HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
When Atlanta secured the rights to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, organizers realized there was no local venue capable of hosting the marquee track-and-field events plus the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Read More
The Braves have known for three years that this day would come. They knew that at the close of the 2016 season, it would be time to say goodbye to Turner Field so they could move about ten miles north to new SunTrust Park, which will open on April 14, 2017.
BaseballParks.com was on hand for the stadium’s final baseball game. We can’t say that it was the last game, because football will be played there when Georgia State University converts it into a gridiron facility. But Sunday, October 2 was the final baseball contest, and the Braves pulled out all the stops in giving their home for the past 20 seasons a proper send-off.
So here are some of the sights from that last game.
As fans entered Turner Field one last time, they were handed a special memento. It was a small disk containing “2016 Authenticated Game Used Dirt” from the ballpark, along with an oversized commemorative ticket. It was all in a plastic lanyard. A very nice touch.