March 20, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; A grounds crew worker paints a line on the field before the spring training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Caught in the Middle. Braves Mulling Departure From Disney?


It’s the happiest place on earth:  Walt Disney World!  But it’s also getting a bit lonely in the middle of the state, according to the Braves.

Tim Tucker, writing an exclusive report for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today, raises the thought that the Braves might consider leaving their current Spring Training complex at the ESPN Wide World of Sports/Disney World when their lease expires in 2017.

The reason for such a thought involves logistics – plain and simple.  In fact neither financial nor facilities reasons were cited at all within the article.

Here’s the map of the current Grapefruit League teams (click it to embiggen it):


Clearly, most squads are currently located along the Gulf (of Mexico) coast.  Two teams, Houston and Washington, have recently expressed concerns with their current homes at Kissimmee and Viera, respectively.  The Astros have been there since 1985.  The Nationals have a newer home (which originally was for the Marlins), but it sits in a swamp – pretty much like the entire development known as Viera (dunno if they really care about that, but it’s just a fun fact).

There has been noise of moving both teams to West Palm Beach, which once housed both the Braves and the Twins, but nothing is moving very quickly on that front yet.  The Astros are also looking at the possibility of moving to Arizona, following both the Reds and Dodgers who have fled Florida in recent years.

Regardless, the Braves are looking at this chart and wondering if they will still have two of their three closest neighbors nearby when 2017 rolls around.

A lot of people who haven’t been to Florida simply don’t realize just how big the peninsula is.  Interstate 4, which runs from Daytona to Tampa is 132 miles long.  A drive from Tampa to Ft. Myers is almost that same length.  Thus any trip from Disney to Jupiter or Ft. Myers runs the Braves around three hours of travel time – each way – which limits the number of trips they can make during the Grapefruit season.  The Cactus League teams don’t have this kind of problem – most of them are pretty well clustered within the greater Phoenix area.

At this point, Atlanta is merely beginning to explore options.  But one option they would prefer to avoid is in playing the Tigers a dozen times every Spring.


This will take some time to percolate – and no one is ruling out staying put, either.

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  • Sealift67

    Was Braves and Expos who shared the West Palm facility. Was easy to
    walk right up and buy a ticket in those days. Dodgers were up in Vero beach,
    Yanks down in fort Laud.

    • Chris Headrick

      Doesn’t ultimately matter too much, but I like the Vero beach location. Not so tightly packed, and close enough to Lake Okeechobee where I often travel on bass fishing trips :) haha. Also puts them right in the middle of some division rivals, so if you;re on an extended trip, you can take in some other divisional games. Be interesting to see, if they move, where it will be. I have never been a huge fan of the Disney complex, despite the fact that I’ve been many times.

      • carpengui

        Loved the dodgertown field down there.

    • carpengui

      Epic fail – yes: it was the Expos. The Twins were on my mind as I was recalling their former home at Tinker Field in downtown Orlando (my home town).

      First spring game I saw there was down the LF line: Braves vs. Twins. Harmon Killibrew and Hank Aaron. Aaron had two doubles in the game… neither one left the infield (rain-generating pop-ups that the Twins’ infield mis-played to let drop untouched!).

    • DailyPlunge

      Venice or Brandon would be good locations for a team moving to the West Coast of Florida.

  • fireboss

    Florida needs to understand that they will lose teams if they don’t create a solution that allows teams to stay economically. Arizona did it by consolidation around Phoenix, Florida’s solution is more complex and would benefit the Rays regular season as well; high speed rail. A high speed rail line linking Orlando with the coasts would allow teams and fans to travel in comfort and link the Orlando amusement complex with the beaches, Space Coast and Miami.
    The other issue is the horrible expense of attending a game at the Wide World of Sports complex and relative inaccessibility of the players – one of the big draws of ST – needs to be fixed as well.

    • DailyPlunge

      High speed rail? You do realize that Orlando is a tourist destination. If you build a high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando it will cost a fortune and no one will ride it. High speed rail always sounds good, but there are far too many reasons why it’s a bad idea to count.

      I live in Sarasota so I can attest to the issue with the Wide World of Sports complex. It’s easily the most inaccessible and most expensive destinations to watch a game. Since it is part of Disney it doesn’t matter, but I’ve only gone to one game in 10 years. I usually wait for the Braves to come to Sarasota.

      • fireboss

        My wife is from Tampa, one of my sister-in-laws lives in Orlando and I’ve traveled the state a lot. Orlando is great if amusement parks and the like is all you want to do but a lot of folks would head to the Space Coast or Gulf beaches for a day if they didn’t have to fight traffic there and back or rent a car and pay for excess mileage. There are other things to consider as well. Flying is becoming more expensive and more restrictive every day. The rail could largely be powered by solar created electricy and the trains don’t have to be three mile long behemoths to be cost effective. There are issues of course but they can be overcome. Traveling to and from Tampa and Miami – both of which are zoos to drive in these days would be a lot simpler and less stressful.
        From a baseball point of view, Florida has to do something to make spring training easier on the teams. Players do not want to drive hours on end to play 5 innings in an exhibition game. Fans don’t want to make a week long trip – whether they drive or fly – and be stuck watching split squad games and not be able to access the players. Arizona figured it out and Florida needs to as well

        • DailyPlunge

          I used to believe in rail, but after researching other projects it doesn’t work. If you can provide an example of an a rail project that came in on budget and that people actually use please let me know. Otherwise you’ve pieced together a few unconnected fantasy ideas to make your argument.

          BTW airfare is as cheap as ever. People are flying more and the price per mile has fallen. Flight isn’t really an issue in Florida.

          Arizona didn’t figure anything out. The population of Arizona is 7 million and Florida is approaching 20 million (the same as NY). There are only a couple of place for baseball teams to move.