Braves still eyeing Collier County for spring training complex

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 19:44:18-04

A deal to bring the Atlanta Braves to Collier County for spring training may not be dead after all.

In April, county commissioners rejected a proposed sports complex for the team on Collier Boulevard, south of I-75, after nearby residents complained that the traffic and other impacts would be too great. Now, Braves are looking at a new site just north of the freeway. 

The Braves had originally set a timeline to get a new spring training facility built by 2018. Now, they seem willing to wait another year.

"They never really gave up on Collier, they just basically said, 'we have to be in a facility by 2018," said Gary Price of Fifth Avenue Investors in Naples. He and his firm have been acting as a liaison between the county and the Braves.

He said that the team is now looking at several sites, particularly one in an area called City Gate. That site is at the northeast corner of I-75 and Collier Boulevard, away from residential communities.

"The roads are great, the access is great, and you're not going to impact a lot of homeowners," Price said. He said the Braves are saying that they can wait until 2019 to start their spring training in a new facility.

"The fact that they are considering us once again, given that none of our competing neighbors were able to meet their accelerated deadline, tells us that we're obviously their top choice," said Georgia Hiller, a Collier County commissioner.

She said that a vice-chairman with the Braves ball club, who lives part-time in Naples, is rooting for Collier to be the new spring training home for his team.

Commissioner Penny Taylor told Fox 4 that while it's flattering that a major league baseball team wants to locate here, the costs may be not be worth it.

"It's a huge investment of time, and also taxpayers' money," Taylor said. "We just have to be sure that this is the right fit for Collier County."

Price said that his firm is looking at trying to bring a second MLB team to use the same complex that the Braves would use - meaning that the state could kick in $70 million to develop the stadium, rather than just $20 million for one team.

"If we're able to attract a second team, that would be something that the Braves would like to consider," Price said. "And obviously it means a lot more money that the county doesn't have to come up with."

Price said that his firm is looking at a few teams to try to lure to Collier County, but did not name them Friday. 

Commissioners will discuss a new proposal for a Braves spring training complex at their regular meeting Tuesday. The team has had their spring training home near Orlando for close to 20 years.