But good story by my colleagues at the Times today, Tracey McManus and Charlie Frago, who reported there's a new effort to court a third spring training team to Pinellas County.
The proposal is one of three submitted for the humungous and conveniently-located - but environmentally troubled - Toytown complex. And you'll recognize the names involved: Darryl LeClair, who tried to build the Rays a stadium just a few miles away; Gary Sheffield, who tried to build a spring training park in Pasco Co.; and the Atlanta Braves:
Listed as the team's architect is Populous, one of the nation's leading firms for sports architecture and 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 Times reports the proposal projects annual revenues of more than $800 million...but everyone who knows anything about this stuff should still expect the venture to request county and state tax dollars anyway.
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 baseball fields. It would include 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.One would think the Braves are "especially interested" anywhere tax dollars are available.
Another big question mark in this plan is whether the county would try to kill two birds with one stone by relocating the Blue Jays to Toytown as well. Currently training in Dunedin, the team has hinted an eight-figure stadium may be necessary to keep them there.
But the biggest question mark: are county leaders willing to contribute bed tax dollars toward a new spring training complex when it would take away from potential Rays stadium funding?
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