Articles & Media


SCF Venice to open new charter school

By Elizabeth Djinis
The collegiate school, modeled after the college’s Manatee County program, will enroll students in 2019

State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota is set to open a new collegiate charter school campus in Venice, building off of the popularity of its Manatee County charter school.

The Sarasota County School Board unanimously approved the charter at Tuesday night’s meeting. SCF intends to open the school to 100 11th grade students in the 2019-20 school year before expanding to 12th grade the following year and ninth and 10th grades the year after. The school’s total enrollment is projected to be 400 students by 2022. SCF will serve ninth and 10th grades in a precollegiate program and 11th and 12th grades in an accelerated college program.

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Construction on new Atlanta Braves spring training facility moves forward despite rainy season.

By Grier Ferguson
Next spring will mean a fresh start for the Atlanta Braves.

But to get to fresh start, first the Braves, through a handful of partners and entities, are engaged in a massive and unique, one-time, $125 million made on the Gulf Coast manufacturing project: a brand new baseball stadium.

The Major League baseball team is moving its spring training base from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando to West Villages, a master-planned community in North Port, a south Sarasota County city. With the move, the Braves will become the 10th Major League team, in what's called the Grapefruit League, to hold spring training on the west coast of Florida, from Lakeland through Fort Myers. Unlike most other teams, this stadium is the rare one to be made from scratch.

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Atlanta Braves Top Off Stadium in West Villages.

By Earle Kimel
NORTH PORT — Roughly nine months ago, area dignitaries gathered to start digging a hole for the new Atlanta Braves Spring Training Complex. On Friday, many gathered again for a “Topping Out” ceremony, signifying the placement of the highest steel beam at the $125 million project.

Len Moser, a vice president with Orlando-based management firm Barton Malow, noted that this ceremony had a slight twist on the centuries-old Scandinavian tradition — which includes placement of a small tree on the top beam — by using a grapefruit tree to signify the Florida Grapefruit League, the spring training league for teams preparing for the regular season here.

“It’s huge in our industry; it’s actually bigger than the groundbreaking,” Moser added. “It’s great to get started but to be able to put the highest piece of steel on a project is a very significant accomplishment — that’s what the the topping out is about.

“That tree is going to signify life for the project,” he added. “And there’s been tons of lives poured into the project; there’s going to be a lot more moving forward.”

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Braves spring training deal earns state economic development award

By Earle Kimel

NORTH PORT — The partnership that brought the Atlanta Braves spring training complex to the West Villages development area in the city of North Port was touted as the top regional deal of 2018 by the Florida Economic Development Council.

Five separate entities — the Braves, North Port, West Villages, Sarasota County and the state of Florida — came together to help finalize the deal for the $125 million complex.

“The entire construction team is working well together and making great strides,” Mike Dunn, vice president and director of Florida operations for the Braves, said in an email. “The city has been a great partner in helping the project along.

“All parties are working for a great common goal, a beautiful baseball complex.”

The complex, which will be open for one game at the end of the 2019 spring training season and then be fully operational by the following spring season, is expected to create 139 jobs and an estimated $1.7 billion in economic impact.

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West Villages breaks ground on wastewater treatment plant

By Earle Kimel
Project is one of three cornerstones falling into place for fast-growing development

NORTH PORT — Since Mattamy Homes took a controlling interest in the West Villages Improvement District in 2014, several visions that had been dormant because of the recession have come to life. Paul Erhardt, president of the West Villages, pointed to the construction of the West Villages Wastewater Treatment Plant in south Sarasota County as one of at least three major cornerstone pieces that have started in the past year.

“This is a major milestone for the district and for the West Villages Development and for the city,” Erhardt said Wednesday morning at a ceremony to mark the groundbreaking for the plant. “As you know, West Villages had a plan a decade ago and everything didn’t quite get off the ground.

“We’re picking up with the strong economy and strong financial owner; we’re able to move forward these key projects,” he added. “The wastewater treatment plan is a very significant investment.”

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Atlanta Braves break ground on spring training complex

By Zach Murdock
Oct 16, 2017 — They have 16 months to finish to project.

NORTH PORT — It took local officials and Atlanta Braves executives more than two years to negotiate and finalize a plan to build a new spring training complex in North Port.

Now the team and construction crews have just 16 months to actually build it.

The race to the Braves’ first pitch in February 2019 officially began Monday when local officials and team executives formally broke ground on the site of the planned $100 million stadium complex in the West Villages.

Standing in the middle of what is now just a pasture off U.S. 41 and River Road, leaders hailed the project as a boon for North Port and the entire area and marveled at the transformation that must take place over the next year.

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July 20, 2017 - City analysis of spring training points to $3.7M boost to city coffers over 30 years

By Earle Kimmel
Thursday, July 20, 2017 NORTH PORT — A fiscal analysis performed by city officials suggests that the 30-year impact of the proposed Atlanta Braves spring training facility would be a positive net operating surplus of $3.7 million, while other indirect benefits may pump another $34 million into the economy.The City Commission will discuss the analysis, as well as the interlocal funding agreement with the West Villages Improvement District, at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The analysis covered anticipated revenues generated on the entire 113-acre campus, including a proposed hotel and baseball academy — both of which would remain on the tax rolls, while the $75 million Spring Stadium would not, as it would be a county facility.

That $3.7 million figure is based on taxes and fees over 30 years.

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Jan. 5th Herald Tribune - West Villages Growth
Sept. 23rd WWSB - ABC 7 My Suncoast - North port
Sept. 20th WWSB - ABC 7 My Suncoast - River Road may get a makeover
Sept. 19th West Villages - Sun - Former Professional Searching For Local Stars
Sept 12th West Villages - Sun - -Artist Adds A Message To Her Work
August 29th West Villages - Sun - The West Villages Welcomes Mattamy Homes
Mar 8th Atlanta Business Chronicle - Braves in talks for spring training home in Sarasota


Good feelings

By Mark Gordon | Managing Editor
Friday, December 25, 2015

The next 12 months will be busy for Marty Black. The longtime developer leads an ambitious project in south Sarasota County, to turn Thomas Ranch, a 9,650-acre property into a successful live, work and play development. Master-planned communities like that are sprinkled statewide. The list includes FishHawk Ranch in illsborough County, Lakewood Ranch in east Manatee County and the forthcoming Babcock Ranch in Charlotte and Lee counties.

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Good feelings

Jul 17th City Within a City - Business Observer Read the Article
Jun 29th Sarasota Memorial Hospital land swap looks to the future Read the Article
May 26th Mattamy nears start of major South County development Read the Article