Fitch and S&P give AA+ rating to Sarasota County bonds being issued for Atlanta Braves’ stadium funding

Bonds to be repaid by Tourist Development Tax revenue

An architectural rendering shows the Atlanta Braves complex planned for the West Villages. Image courtesy Chappell Roberts

Both Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings have given an AA+ rating to the approximately $21.5-million capital improvement revenue bonds Sarasota County will issue later this month to finance its portion of the Atlanta Braves Spring Training stadium complex, the county has announced.

The positive ratings are the latest indication of the economic health of Sarasota County Government, county news releases point out. Fitch also affirmed the county’s implied AAA rating, indicating that the rating reflects the strength of the county’s low, long-term liabilities and continued sound financial operations, a news release notes.

Fitch also affirmed an AA+ rating for the county’s outstanding capital improvement revenue bonds, Series 2010A and 2010B, of approximately $17.3 million, and it affirmed a stable outlook on the bonds, the release adds.

“These strong ratings are a reflection of the responsible stewardship of public tax dollars by our County Commission and the continued commitment of our Office of Financial Management staff,” said County Administrator Tom Harmer in a release.

In its report, Fitch Ratings noted that “the significant legal revenue raising ability and solid expenditure control [provide] the county with the ability to maintain stability throughout economic cycles,” the release points out.

“In its rationale, S&P said the rating reflects its opinion of the county’s growing, strong and diverse local economy and very strong debt service coverage on existing debt, among other factors,” a second news release adds.

“One of Sarasota County’s goals is to ensure fiscal sustainability, and that’s a responsibility we take seriously,” said Deputy County Administrator Steve Botelho, who serves as the county’s chief financial management officer. “Ratings like these reinforce that responsibility and our commitment to Sarasota County taxpayers.”

Sarasota County has committed to contributing $21.2 million to the stadium complex project out of the new bonded proceeds, the releases point out. The funds will be repaid with Tourist Development Tax (TDT), or hotel bed tax, revenue.

The approximately $100-million new Spring Training complex for the Braves will be in the West Villages community in North Port.

The county, the team, West Villages, the City of North Port and the State of Florida have partnered to relocate the team to Sarasota County, the news releases add. The stadium is expected to be completed in time for Spring Training in 2019. All the partners have provided financial contributions to the project.

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