After a protracted public records battle with Sarasota County, I finally obtained public records exchanged between the county and the Atlanta Braves that reveal several concessions the major league team appears to be seeking from the county during negotiations over its future spring training home.
- A "community benefits" clause was removed from the agreement, which would have allowed Sarasota County to host public meetings, conventions, conferences, non-profit events, and amateur sporting events at the facility when the Braves were not using it. However, a county representative says that is a non-negotiable.
- A "construction materials sales taxes" clause was added, asking Sarasota County to use "reasonable best efforts" to ensure construction materials will be exempt from state and local sales taxes. However, that may run afoul of state law since the county will not be the owner of the facility during construction.
- A clause was added to ensure the Braves "shall have no obligation to provide its financials to (the county) or any other third party during the term of such debt."
- A "cost overruns" clause was added to require Sarasota County to pick up an additional $20 million in project financing if state financing cannot be secured. However, a county representative says there is "no deal" without the state funding.
- The Braves also got the county to agree to contribute a yet-to-be-disclosed annual amount to a capital improvement fund for repairs and replacements to the facility and surrounding player housing. In original drafts, the team was responsible for all capital improvements.
- The county will also be asked to ban street vendors within half a mile of the ballpark.
- The county would assume ownership of the facility, but provide the Braves with year-round control of the facility. This insures the team will not have to pay property taxes.
- The Braves also retain "all revenues" from events held at the "public" facility, including parking on county property.
- The Braves will pay for the day-to-day maintenance and operating expenses to operate the facility.
- The Braves will pay the developer somewhere between $3.75 million and $4.5 million per year for rent, but according to documents, the team "wants to make no up-front capital contribution to development/construction of the Facility."
- The 30-year lease is actually a 20-year lease, since the Braves can opt out anytime in the final 10 years of the contract, provided they give the county 12 months' notice and pay off any outstanding public debt (if any still exists) on the project. Here's more on the 2014 state law that made it easier for MLB teams to break spring training leases.
- The West Villages is donating $7 to $9 million worth of land, plus $12 to $20 million in infrastructure costs;
- The City of North Port will contribute $4 to $5 million;
- Sarasota County plans to contribute approximately $22 million from its bed tax collections;
- The state is being counted on to pay for $20 million in construction.
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