Braves New Spring Training Home Has More Than Meets The Eye
NORTH PORT, Fla. — Imagine you are a baseball fan. It’s 1990 and you’re headed to spring training.
You walk into the park. In no way does it feel like you are walking into an Major League Baseball stadium. The fences are chain link. The bleachers down the line are actual bleachers—no chairbacks. It has a distinct minor league feel to it and the prices are scaled down as well.
A decade later, the next generation of spring training facilities sprung up in both Florida and Arizona. By 2000, a fan who spent time watching the Braves at West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1990 would feel they had stepped into a different world at Orlando’s Wide World of Sports complex. Where West Palm had nothing of an MLB feel, Orlando provided a fan experience of a scaled-down MLB stadium. The concourses were wider. The concessions options were broader and every seat in the park was nicer. The ticket prices reflected the change and spring training ceased to be the low-cost alternative to going to an MLB game.
Now it's 2020 and the Braves’ new facility in North Port, Fla., opens this week for its first full spring training, but fans won’t notice a massive change from the site in Orlando.
What’s notable in the next generation of stadium improvements for the Braves' park are largely items that will not catch the fans’ eye. There are countless spots to stand or sit on a journey around the stadium–fans in 2020 seem to move around the park more than they did in the past. And there are some very nice suites and bars and an interesting seating area behind the left field fence, just like there is at the Braves’ MLB park.
Braves North Port Spring Training FacilityLaunch Gallery
But the biggest difference between the Braves’ complex in Orlando and its new one in North Port is all the areas off limits to the fans. Areas including underneath the stadium, the clubhouse, storage and training areas of the Braves’ Wide World of Sports facility were all crowded to the point of overflowing with personnel.
As big as the move from West Palm Beach to Orlando was for fans, the transformation from Orlando to North Port will be a similar leap for players.
“The stuff that’s there—the fields, the hydrotherapy, the weight room, the facilities are player development driven at the highest level,” Mike Dunn said.
At the new facility, there is a brand new, much larger clubhouse for the MLB team. There are also new MiLB clubhouses that can house all the team’s minor league players as well.
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Then there are the video rooms, training facilities and dining rooms that are a different level than what the Braves had before and much larger accommodations. The clubhouses for the minor league coaches at the North Port facility rivals in size and comfort that of the Braves’ MLB clubhouse in Orlando. There are meeting rooms for coaches and players and conference rooms that simply didn’t exist before. There are four minor league clubhouses, set to handle 46 players per pod. The MLB clubhouse can handle another 66 players.
There is another distinction. The Braves were a tenant at Orlando—every day during the season the Braves players would be allowed to use a certain number of the cages and facilities, which varied daily depending on what else was going on at the Wide World of Sports.
At the new stadium, the Braves big leaguers can leave bats and gloves in their spring training locker year-round—it’s theirs to use all 365 days of the year. Every batting cage and training facility is for the team.
The minor league facility houses some of the biggest changes. The minor league campus includes a 250-seat theater for presentations, discussions or watching the MLB team play. The MLB team has four configurable indoor pitching and hitting cages, while the minor league facility has another seven.
Fans going to Braves' spring training games will see a difference traveling from Orlando to North Port. But the players and coaches will see many more.