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Professional and college baseball returns to Charlotte County

The Tampa Bay Rays play their first spring training game Feb. 24.
Posted at 6:27 PM, Feb 19, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Monday was full of anticipation as the Tampa Bay Rays held their first full-squad spring training 2024 practice.

It marks the first time the whole team has been together at the Charlotte Sports Park since 2022, when Hurricane Ian destroyed the field.

The extensive damage to the park forced the Rays to play spring training in Orlando and their home field in Tampa in 2023.

Now, over $17.5 million in repairs have been made to the park and the Rays will prepare to take on the Atlanta Braves during their first spring training game back in Port Charlotte on Feb. 24.

Across El Jobean Road at Centennial Park, more than 30 NCAA Division I and Division III teams are playing in the Snowbird Baseball Classic tournament.

The tournament lasts for over a month, and with each team bringing friends, family and fans to Charlotte County, the area will likely benefit from the economic boost.

"We're blessed that it's almost a month and a half long and does $10 million in economic impact," said Sean Walter, with the Punta Gorda Englewood Visitor Convention Bureau. "So that money is shared throughout the county will local businesses, restaurants, attractions and of course hotels."

On Tuesdays during the tournament, locals can get in free by presenting an ID with a local address, or tickets can be purchased at the entrance to the parks.