That’s the word from Braves executive vice president of business operations Mike Plant, who said the team filed its paperwork to release the territory a few days after the R-Braves season finale at The Diamond on Sept. 1.
"We sent all the documents to the International League and Minor League Baseball," Plant said in an interview this afternoon. "That has taken place. We wanted to wait until we were comfortable (with ballpark construction in Gwinnett). That happened a couple days after our last game in Richmond."
However the deal is not done. The territory is officially the property of the International League, and it still has some business to take care of before it’s ready to let go. Namely, the IL still has to formally approve the Braves’ relocation to Gwinnett—a move that league president Randy Mobley said is expected to be completed on Tuesday when the IL board of directors meet in Oklahoma City during Bricktown Showdown festivities.
The vote should be little more than a formality, considering the Braves have terminated their lease in Richmond and begun stadium construction in Gwinnett.
Minor League Baseball spokesman Steve Densa wrote in an e-mail correspondence that the International League has given permission for outsiders to begin discussions about relocating to Richmond.
"The Braves and International League have given permission for leagues, owners or prospective owners to have discussions about relocating a club to Richmond pending approval of their relocation to Gwinnett County," Densa wrote. "Leagues, owners and prospective owners need to request and be granted permission to explore by their league and the Minor League Baseball president."
Plant said that ballpark construction in Gwinnet is ahead of schedule and that he fully expects it to be ready in time for the G-Braves home opener on April 17. One explanation for the Braves’ delay in releasing the territory had been the need for a backup plan. The Braves are on the road during Gwinnett’s first home series and the Triple-A affiliate will play at Turner Field if the new ballpark is not ready, Plant said.
One reason for the delay in finding a replacement for the Braves in Richmond has been the team and International League’s hold on the territory, which prohibits other clubs from negotiating with the city. Expect things to move along a bit more quickly after the vote on Tuesday—MILB president Pat O’Conner said he expects a decision on Richmond within the next 30-45 days.
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