NORTH PORT — Some 170 people packed Suncoast Technical College in North Port on Friday for North Port’s annual Real Estate Summit.

This is the third year the city has done the event with people from various industries such as real estate, economic development and business owners to hear about how the city is growing.

Friday’s presentation included three keynote speakers — one of whom was Mike Dunn, vice president of Florida Operations for the Atlanta Braves.

Dunn has been overseeing the building of the new stadium in West Villages area of North Port.

Dunn said the new stadium, which is due to host its first game on March 24, 2019, will act as not only the team’s stadium for spring training but also as a conditioning center.

The center will not come fully online until April 1, 2019, when the move from Lake Buena Vista will be complete.

“It is a manufacturing facility (for baseball players),” Dunn said.

The stadium will focus not only on healing and conditioning players, but training the next generation of players. The year-round facility will eventually have a player academy. The academy will host up to about 140 players that will teach young foreign players not only English, but life skills such as healthy eating and general help adjusting to a new culture. The academy is slated to open in 2020.

Dunn said the model the Braves uses builds players to not only play baseball but also be part of their community.

In being part of the community, Dunn said that there will be about 140 Braves staff members, including young players who will make North Port and West Villages their home.

That number is slated to grow during the spring training season with some 300 staff and players needing accommodations, he said.

As for the complex itself, it will be a year-round complex according to Dunn. There will be plans to have open training events, films, broadcasts and even events for youth baseball players.

“We want to give back to the community,” Dunn said.

One of the presenters during Friday’s summit was Ron Starner, who is the executive vice president of Conway Inc., which publishes Site Selection Magazine.

Conway said North Port’s first big win was the Braves.

North Port should not stop there and continue to capitalize on its fast-paced growth, he said.

Starner’s presentation brought a question from Sondra Guffey, marketing manager for the West Villages. Guffey asked how the West Villages and North Port could capitalize on the Braves.

Starner told Guffey that this deal is what put North Port on the map and the opportunity is based on how the city takes advantage of it.

“Be prepared with how you’ll welcome (them),” Starner said.

Friday’s presentation also included an update to Babcock Ranch from Rick Severance, president of Babcock Ranch, which is located in Charlotte County near the Lee County line.

Babcock Ranch is the first sustainable community being built in Florida and has some 100 homes already occupied with another 258 sold and waiting to be closed on.

He told the crowd the number is expected to grow as more families and people continue to move to the area. Severance said that they had expected people in the 55+ demographic to be moving in, but it’s been largely young families or adults looking to start families.

The largest migration of families and young professionals have been from about 60 to 90 miles away from Babcock Ranch, while the older demographic is coming from all over.

Severance said the development has approved 19,000 homes to be built and will continue to grow in the coming years. The development will also see an additional solar field.

Severance told the Sun he hoped those attending took away that smart development can be successful and embraced by multiple communities.


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