CoolToday Park Sparks Development in North Port


When the Braves come to town, North Port notices.

Traffic, blooming businesses and luxurious residential complexes come to life as the 2021 World Champions start their preseason schedule in South Florida. The areas surrounding CoolToday Park, the home of the Braves during Spring Training, have been in constant development since the venue opened its doors in 2019.

But it wasn’t always like that.

When the Braves played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, North Port was still a growing city. The area, which is known for its natural beauty, was incorporated in 1959 and occupies 103 square miles of southeast Sarasota County.

Now, the residents have mixed feelings about the developments around the stadium.

Some of the locals have taken advantage of CoolToday Park’s restaurant and bars, which are open year-round. Others have enjoyed concerts and youth sports tournaments that are held at the stadium during the offseason.

Jolie Walecka, who has resided in North Port for seven years, said the growth has been exponential since the start of the pandemic. She noticed an influx of newcomers in the area, which led to the creation of new residential complexes.

Jolie’s husband, Chris Walecka, said the stadium has had a positive impact despite the added traffic because the area now has more entertainment options.

“We’re really happy the Braves came,” Chris said. “They’re doing a good job with the stadium.”

According to North Port police officer David Cook, the city becomes more chaotic during the spring due to the Braves games. He said that the stadium has also sparked a series of road expansions to accommodate more visitors in the city.

Tom Essenburg, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, native who ushers for the Braves during Spring Training, also noticed a change in traffic behavior. Before joining the Braves staff a year ago, Essenburg worked with the Tampa Bay Rays and saw the impact these teams have in South Florida cities.

He said that wherever the team goes, traffic follows.

Learning more about CoolToday Park

  • The Braves moved into their new stadium in late March 2019, with the inaugural game being played on Sunday, March 24, against the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • The stadium has a capacity of approximately 8,000 spectators, with a left-field berm.
  • The complex features an 18,000 sq. ft. indoor training facility and 6 major league practice fields.
  • The stadium has a two-story team store.

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