Posted: 3:33 pm Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Braves consider options for end of Disney lease in ‘17 

By AJC Sports

Atlanta Braves, spring training, Champion Stadium

The Atlanta Braves have called Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., their spring home since 1998. (Jason Getz / AJC)

By Tim Tucker
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Braves are considering options for a spring-training home when their lease at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex expires in three years.

Braves president John Schuerholz emphasized that the team has not decided to move its spring base from the Disney resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., but he said the issue must be explored with the 20-year lease ending in 2017 and two other teams in talks about moving farther away.

“We find ourselves now in a circumstance where teams in the central Florida area have begun migrating out,” Schuerholz said Tuesday in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It would be problematic if we found ourselves in three years with no one in close proximity to play except the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland.”

Timeline: Braves’ spring training homes

Schuerholz said the Braves will complete their current lease with Disney and that this is the prudent time to examine what comes next.

“We are doing it not because we desire to do it but because we have to tend to our business,” he said. “A critical part of our business is finding a place to train our players. It might very well be (at Disney), but it might not. I don’t have the answer to that right now.

“I don’t want to leave our organization in a circumstance that I don’t do what I need to do to provide alternatives, to determine if there are alternatives out there.”

If the Braves move their spring home, it would remain in Florida, Schuerholz said. “We wouldn’t be an Arizona team,” he said.

He would not say if the Braves are in active talks regarding other sites. “I’m going to say I have no comment on that question at the moment,” he said after a long pause.

The Braves moved their spring training home to the then-new Wide World of Sports complex in 1998 after having it in West Palm Beach from 1962 through 1997. The complex now includes 10 athletic venues, including Champion Stadium, where the Braves hold their workouts and play their home exhibition games.

Predictably, the stadium has been eclipsed by newer spring-training venues in terms of clubhouse space and training room facilities. While those issues could be addressed as part of a lease extension if both parties were willing, the map is a more complicated matter.

The teams that are most convenient for the Braves to play in Grapefruit League exhibition games are the Houston Astros, who train about 10 miles away in Kissimmee; the Tigers, who train about 40 miles away in Lakeland; and the Washington Nationals, about 60 miles away in Viera. Because of their proximity, those teams are the Braves’ most frequent exhibition opponents.

However, both the Astros and Nationals are unhappy with their current facilities and are in talks about relocating their spring homes, leading to the Braves’ concern that they might be left with only the Tigers as a convenient exhibition opponent.

The Astros’ and Nationals’ owners met last week with Palm Beach County officials about the possibility of a new shared stadium in that area. A financing plan is not in place, however. The Astros also are looking into the possibility of moving their spring base to Arizona.

The Braves are not involved in the talks with Palm Beach County, Schuerholz said.

Other than the Astros, Nationals and Tigers, the Braves’ most convenient trips from Lake Buena Vista for exhibition games are to the Tampa Bay area, which can take “anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half-plus, getting across the causeways and bridges,” Schuerholz said.

Eight of the 15 teams that train in Florida are based along the state’s west coast.

Despite the travel issues, Schuerholz did not rule out the Braves remaining in their current spring home with a lease extension beyond 2017. He said the team has a “great dialogue” and “fine partnership” with Disney.

It could turn out, he said, that “we and Disney find a way to make this work here, which is a possibility, or that no alternate site becomes available.”

It is not unusual for the Braves to consider their options at this point in a lease. With three seasons remaining on a 20-year Turner Field lease, they struck a deal last fall to move to a new stadium in Cobb County in 2017.

28 comments
LostGoat
LostGoat

the braves need to move to miami, ft. lauderdale or west palm---more teams, better clubs for the players to party hard at night!

BigIrishMike
BigIrishMike

Maybe it is the whole Disney thing but ......Could all these over paid folks be complaining about a 3 hour bus ride? geez fellows how bout folks who have to ride MARTA and hour or so every day just to get to their 6 dollar hourly job.  Poor poor  baseball Braves employees.

GT71
GT71

May I suggest Vero Beach?  Since the Dodgers left a decde ago, the complex has fallen into disrepair and on the whole the facility is nowhere near up-to-date.

BUT...

The city is desperate for a new lessee and are even contemplating giving up, selling the land and paving it over for another outlet mall...or something else not needed.  The Braves could get a good deal.  And be nearer to the south FL teams' facilities...not to mention a built-in baseball fan-base who really miss a MLB team.

HarveyPooka
HarveyPooka

Cut Disney loose like a bad dream that it is/was, and move forward.

ch2
ch2

Is it me, or can you look forward into the future, in regards to the Atlanta/Cobb Braves in about 

10 years, and foresee that they too might also want to move back to Downtown Atlanta. I suspect that they will realize that there had been a building boom in Downtown Atlanta, after they left Turner Field, associated with the new Falcon Stadium, National Civil and Human Rights Museum, the College Football Hall of Fame, the new Trolley line, Porsche Headquarters, and the proposed 5th Avenue South. And, by then, the traffic nightmares of Cobb County would have driven many folks out of Cobb County. Thus, the Cumberland area had become uninviting, and no one was coming up I-75 N to see the Braves. Kinda of like how things looked so rosy for the Braves Training Camp to move to Disney, and ironically now the West Palm area is a much more attractive location to be at. SMH!!!!!

Da_Mick
Da_Mick

As far as spring training fan experiences go, the Braves current digs are a rip-off.  The informallity of spring training facilities is the draw to these games - not the feel of a miniature big league stadium -- Disney missed the point here, but after all, the fantasy presentation is their thing.  The Braves and Disney are not a good match and never have been.  Move to either coast, and play at a bonafide spring training facility boys!  The fans deserve better.

classicpal
classicpal

My solution:

Ask Disney to expand and enhance the current facility, and convince either the Astros or the Nationals to share the facility with the Braves.  That way the Braves can possibly save on the lease, and they would still have another opponent right next to them to play with.  It should be a trend for teams to start sharing facilities - there's no need to keep asking taxpayers and local governments to build more stadiums when there are existing ones that are pretty good.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Move them to Valdosta, build their own facility so they can get parking and revenue from concessions.  Put up a motel and restaurant and make mo money.  They could offer breakfast with Pastornicky and Heyward and lunch with the Uptons and rake in the dough.  Bring the moolaa back to Georgia. 

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

I miss the old days at West Palm Beach, many a fond memory of March's past ...

DohBee
DohBee

Braves could move back to where they used to train....Bradenton, FL.


DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

Move to Waycross, the minor league camp used to be there many moons ago.

YoungerThanThatNow
YoungerThanThatNow

As nice as the Disney facilities are... and they are nice... and as expensive as everything is there... and it is Mickey Mouse expensive (concessions, souvenirs, entry, etc.)... my biggest issue there is the lack of accessibility of the players. Players at most other facilities make themselves much more accessible to their fans daily, and that's basically impossible at Uncle Mickey's place. I miss that. That's one thing that I've always loved about spring training.

I believe that the Braves are the only club in MLB who charges fans to watch workouts... not games, workouts! That's not the Braves' doing that, even if they financially benefit from it... that's Disney. So, I won't be sorry to see the Braves move. The Prez has said that they're staying in Florida... as long as they keep that promise, let's move. I'll help pack!

The gulf coast is beautiful this time of year... GO BRAVES!

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

drjfo.......Schrerholz is not in the team building business any longer, hasn't been in quite some time.

sliderule
sliderule

I hear that Cobb Co would be happy to build them whatever they want  Just give  Chmn 

Lee a call

drjfo
drjfo

Once again, more interested in building stadiums than in building a team!

ElStinko
ElStinko

Deerfield Beach or Pompano Beach would be perfect.

ElStinko
ElStinko

I would love it if the Braves would Move to South Florida between West Palm & Ft Lauderdale.

GT71
GT71

@ch2 building 'boom' in downtown Atlanta?  Really? The Civil Rights Museum?  And Porsche HQ? And the 'trolley' is a draw?  For Braves fans?

Shirley, you jest.

Look, we already figured out ch2 is a CofC employee.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@ch2  

It's you!

You shouldn't be hitting the pipe this early...or is it this late?  Comparing anywhere downtown to the Vinings areas is utter, unabated ignorance.

Now, try to flush the rest of your rocks and get some sleep!

58Supersports
58Supersports

@DaltonbywayofBickley I  watched lots of games there in 60's. they would give there old uniform to Ware Co High school to play in and I thought I was hot stuff wearing one. I know well a Jimmy R from Bickley.


Rick_C
Rick_C

@drjfo  Clearly they are only capable of working on one thing at a time...

_CraZy_
_CraZy_

@drjfo John Schuerholz's job is team president not GM.  This kind of stuff is his job. 

Boeingdawg
Boeingdawg

Move 'em to Key West!!! No other teams close by, but going down to see them would be a hoot!

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