LEADOFF: Braves’ spring-training deal survives dissent


Good morning. This is LEADOFF, an early look at Atlanta sports.

The final required governmental approval of a new Braves spring-training facility did not come easily Tuesday. 

At a special meeting of the North Port, Fla., City Commission, many questions were raised and concerns expressed about details and language of the agreement. The two commission members raising most of the issues, Mayor Linda Yates and Commissioner Debbie McDowell, voted against the deal, which nevertheless passed 3-2 after several hours of discussion and dissection. 

The meeting was streamed on the city’s website. 

“This issue we are dealing with today is not about whether or not the city welcomes and wants the Braves to come to the city of North Port,” Yates said. “That’s not what we’re deciding up here today; that was kind of decided way back in January and February. 

“We’re open, we’re welcome to conversation and negotiation. That’s how we got to the LOI,” she said, referring to the letter of intent, a precursor to the development agreement approved Tuesday. “I can say everything since then has been a disappointment because of the process and how this has happened and this has worked. 

“Every single document we’ve received was, ‘Your back’s against the wall; you have to accept this or else everything is going to fall apart.’ And to me, it’s a disservice to the taxpayers of this community to be in that position and to rush through it.” 

Said McDowell: “There’s things missing from this contract, there’s areas that we need to have tweaked, but we are told that if you tweak it then it’s going to delay everything.”

Vice Mayor Vanessa Carusone and commissioners Christopher Hanks and Jill Luke voted in favor of the agreement, clearing the way for construction to begin on the $100 million Sarasota County facility. A formal ground-breaking ceremony is expected next month.  

“I am behind this,” Luke said. “I think it will be that economic driver it should be and could be.” 

“I ... think it is a good deal,” Hanks said. “And I am good with the way it is.”

“Honestly, it’s all about risk versus reward,” Carusone said. “I only see the reward. I don’t see how this is truly a bad decision. ... I just think that we have already really put this through the process as professionally as we possibly can. And I feel good about it, I do.”

Click here for more on Tuesday’s vote, details of the deal and Braves executives’ reaction.

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