NORTH PORT, Fla. -- The Atlanta Braves are getting another new stadium.
This time, it's part of a new spring training facility in North Port, Florida in Sarasota County. The plans have been in the works for a couple of years, but the city voted 3-2 on Tuesday to approve spending $4.7 million in taxpayer money to help build the more than $100 million facility. The funds will come from the city's penny sales tax.
It was the final step for the Braves in getting the facility approved.
With funds coming from the Florida state budget, Sarasota County budget and now city budget, there is an estimated $40 million in taxpayer money going towards the facility, according to the city clerk.
Today, the North Port City Commission voted to approve the development agreement in regards to the Spring Training Facility for the Braves. pic.twitter.com/dFLlPbeCUM— North Port, Florida (@CityofNorthPort) September 19, 2017
In the Braves' original letter to the city about their intent to build the facility, the Braves said the total cost would be about $75.4 million. However, the expected cost has increased to $100 million.
The ambiguity surrounding the facility is why Commissioner Debbie McDowell voted no for the funding.
"Part of the reason I voted no was the money. There's also the contract itself. There are so many blanks and so many discrepancies, you can't have a contract with this kind of money and have so many blanks. I would never do that for my personal life," McDowell said to 11Alive.
McDowell is a baseball fan, but she said she represents the city and its 65,000 residents. The Braves didn't reference a "local preference" to hiring for the facility, which concerned her.
"I'm sure there will be some positives. I am not one to say I told you so, but it'll be hard to bite my tongue," McDowell said.
11Alive attempted several times to reach out to the vice mayor and commissioners who voted yes, but they were unavailable and did not respond to our messages.
During the commissioner's meeting, Chris Hanks said he felt the city had been overly negative throughout the approval process.
“We talk about the negative aspect of everything,” Hanks said. “We never once mention all the positive scope, all the positive studies."
A ground-breaking for the facility should happen soon, and the facility is scheduled to open for the Braves' 2019 spring training. The Braves' lease of Champion Stadium at ESPN's Wide World of Sports, the team's current spring training facility, ends in 2018. The Braves have been training there since 1997.
While the Disney atmosphere has created a memorable fan atmosphere at the team's spring training games, its proximity to other teams has taken a toll on the Braves.
The next closest spring training stadium is 35 minutes away, and it is the Detroit Tigers' stadium in Lakeland, Florida. However, most other teams are about two hours away, not accounting for traffic.
Back in April, Braves manager Brian Snitker was pleased to hear about the progress the plans for the new facility were making. He said that moving just 35 miles southwest will be an advantage to the team in the long run.
"I think it'll be good because we'll be closer to a lot more teams," Snitker told 11Alive back in March. "We're spending a lot of time in a bus, which takes away from a lot of the work you can get done."
The Braves will enter into a 30-year lease for the new facility, which will be owned by Sarasota County.