NORTH PORT — A pitcher will throw from its mound at 4:05 p.m., March 24, 2019.
And that will inaugurate the new Atlanta Braves spring training stadium — with the Braves hosting the Tampa Bay Rays.
The team showed off the newly monikered stadium to area officials and media Tuesday.
The name: CoolToday Park.
The event Tuesday was about “showcasing the progress that has been made, and some of the fun things our fans can look forward to on March 24,” Braves Vice President for Florida Operations Mike Dunn said.
CoolToday Park will be its name for at least 20 of the 30 years of existence, according to an agreement announced Tuesday.
“As part of our commitment to maintain a lifelong relationship with our community, this partnership with the Braves organization, city of North Port and Sarasota County will cement our presence and strategy for southern Sarasota County, said Jaime DiDomenico, president and owner of CoolToday. “I’m very excited about what the future holds.”
A 90-minute tour of the grounds included a walk around the main concourse which will provide fans with a chance to see the games from the entire stadium, if they choose.
It also featured a peek inside the state of the art clubhouse, its Tiki Bar, a look at its largest-in-Florida 40-feet by 80-feet scoreboard and other areas while workers — who have worked a half-million hours combined so far since the October 2017 groundbreaking — continued to dig, chip and perfect the facility.
“I’ve designed a lot of minor league baseball stadiums,” Pendulum architect Jonathan O’Neil Cole said. “There’s very few organizations that are more storied than the Atlanta Braves ... when you see that celebrated, it’s going to blow people away.”
Pendulum is working with Fawley Bryant Architect out of Sarasota for the designs of the stadium.
“We’ve seen this in our heads for a couple years now,” Cole said. “When people are actually able to experience and feel what we’ve felt back then, it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Tickets for the March 24, 2019, game go on sale online Jan. 15, 2019. Season tickets have been on sale at the Braves Preview Center in North Port along Tamiami Trail. People interested in purchasing those tickets can call 941-413-5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the words that kept coming up for the project during the tour: Transformative.
Mike Plant, CEO and president, Braves Development Company, said the team wants to be a part of helping transform the area for “the next couple decades.”
“We’re very grateful,” Plant said. “We’re here 30 years at least, and this is going to be our home — and we’re tremendously excited about that.”
Marty Black, president for West Villages, echoed similar thoughts.
“This is truly a tranformative investment in our community by the Braves and it’s wonderful to see South County benefit from that,” Black said.
The new ballpark along West Villages Parkway will ultimately have 6,500 seats and be able to host another 2,500 general admission visitors for fans wanting to watch from the berm or concourse.
Its Tiki Bar will seat about 65 people and, if the market dictates, it’ll be open year round, according to the Braves’ Chip Moore, executive vice president of Minor League Affiliates and Strategic Planning.
The Braves are moving in March from their spring training home of 22 years in Lake Buena Vista.
The facility will have a half-dozen practice fields, 55,000-square feet of clubhouse and fitness areas for the team and fields along with other public areas for North Port and Sarasota County events. It will operate year-round with Gulf Coast League and instruction league games for the Braves.
The team signed a 30-year lease for the property with funding for the more than $100 million project coming from the team, Sarasota County, West Villages and North Port.
The city and West Villages paid $4.7 million and West Villages donated the land. Sarasota County provided $22 million from tourist development taxes and another $5.6 million in capital expenditures. The state pulled $20 million from its spring training retention fund toward the facility.
Black took in some moments talking with visitors, telling the Sun the event was “refreshing.”
“There’s no questions about if it’s going to happen. It’s here,” he said. “The quality is outstanding, with the construction, the teamwork, the partnership between the Braves, the state, West Villages, the city, the county. Everybody is making it happen,” Black said.
Dunn praised everyone who has worked on the effort.
“All those teammates came together,” Dunn said. “We’re looking forward to introducing the Suncoast to Atlanta Braves baseball — championship baseball.”