Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Public Lacks Details on Braves Proposal | Local Officials Should Discuss Costs and Benefits

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Public Lacks Details on Braves Proposal | Local Officials Should Discuss Costs and Benefits

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

The Herald-Tribune has long supported the use of tourist-tax dollars to help diversify the economy -- and enhance sports, cultural and nature-based venues and events. The results of those expenditures -- an upgraded Ed Smith Stadium, expanded arts programming, maintenance of parks and beaches -- have attracted visitors, provided a solid return on investment and improved the quality of life for residents.

To that end, we welcome the opportunity for Sarasota County to discuss the potential for investing the Tourist Development Tax in another baseball facility -- proposed for the city of North Port and its West Villages Improvement District.

Last week, the County Commission and the Atlanta Braves entered exclusive negotiations over the possible construction of a 6,500- seat stadium and other facilities. The Braves, who want to leave a spring-training facility in Disney World, explored partnerships with Collier and Palm Beach counties but found inadequate support there.

High-level representatives with the Braves are scheduled to appear before the County Commission and the North Port City Commission today. We hope they are welcomed cordially.

We also hope the public is offered more than the scant, general information provided to date.

The Herald-Tribune has reported general financial terms: about $20 million from the tourist tax; $4 million to $5 million from North Port; $20 million from a state government fund aimed at retaining Major League Baseball spring training in Florida; infrastructure provided by West Villages; state funding of road expansion.

In a three-paragraph memo to commissioners, County Administrator Tom Harmer stated that an update on negotiations with the Braves will "include an overview of the proposed project, the general terms and the next steps in the discussions."

Commissioners and the public deserve more than "general terms," especially since Harmer says there is "a concerted effort to advance a project" that would accommodate the Braves in 2019. …

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