The Atlanta Braves announced on Monday that the team has agreed to vacate Turner Field and move into a new stadium situated in Cobb County in 2017, meaning the team will leave Fulton County for the first time since it relocated there from Milwaukee back in 1966.
According to Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller, the Braves’ new stadium will be built at the northwest intersection of I-75 and I-285 in the Galleria/Cumberland Mall area, which is still an Atlanta address. At this point the team has “secured” 60 acres on which to build this new facility, which is currently projected to cost $672 million.
Rumors had swirled around the city of Atlanta that talks between the city and the team regarding renovations to Turner Field had broken down over the last several months, leading many to ponder the possibility of the team leaving the sixteen year old stadium once its twenty-year lease expires following the 2016 campaign. One of the main tipping points of the situation seemed to be the city’s refusal to aid in renovations to Turner Field that would have been close to $150 million for improvements such as replacement of seats, upgrading lighting and plumbing, to maintain its status among the top complexes in Major League Baseball.
At this point a rendering of the stadium’s plans has not been publicized, but officials have stated that it will be open-air and will seat approximately 41,000 to 42,000 people, about 10,000 less than Turner Field currently holds. In an effort to explain such a decision, Braves executive Derek Schiller said, “We expect that by having (fewer) seats it to be an intimate arrangement for our fans and provide a number of experiences that will be different than what fans are currently used to at Turner Field.” Also up in the air is the name of this venue; the team currently plans to sell its naming rights to the highest bidder.
Reaction to the Braves’ announcement has seemed very mixed at this point in time; some have lauded the Braves for vacating “The Ted”, which was situated around some rough areas in downtown Atlanta, while others have questioned the team’s decision to up and move its maintained roots for the purpose of chasing money and a brand new stadium. Braves’ beat writer David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shared what he had heard from other baseball executives about the team’s announcement:
Immediate reaction from first 5 people asked at GM Meetings about move was along lines of: “What?! Turner Field is a (great/nice) ballpark.”
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) November 11, 2013
Although a move to Cobb County seems great on paper, several adjustments will certainly have to be made in order to make a painless experience for the fans. Namely, there will more than likely have to be additional roads constructed around the stadium, which will lead to even more traffic headaches for the people who are frequently exposed to the joys of I-75 and I-285. Along with more roads will probably be the addition of a MARTA rail line very close to the stadium, the absence of which many felt really hurt Turner Field (the nearest stop in Atlanta is close to a mile away from The Ted). Braves president John Schuerholz also said that the team plans “to transform the surrounding area into not only a new ballpark but a mixed-use destination”, a statement that leaves questions about what exactly will be built around this new stadium.
In the end, the Braves appear to be building this new stadium in an effort to both a) get what they wanted but were ultimately denied at Turner Field and b) make the situation just that much better for the fans. Is it a coincidence that the team decides to make such a move around the same time the Atlanta Falcons are building a new stadium, set to open up shop in 2017 as well? Probably, due to the simple fact that the team’s lease with Turner Field ends in 2016, but it may very well be portrayed as the teams pushing to be among the best franchises in their respective leagues, which could put Atlanta on the forefront of progress in the sports world.
Despite the fact that construction is still very far off (According to the AJC, Schiller and Mike Plant said they are “100 percent confident at this point that the stadium will be built”), at this point it is certain that the Braves will be vacating Turner Field, the walls in the parking lot that still stand from the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and the marker that signifies where Hammerin’ Hank Aaron belted his record 715th career home run, all in the name of progress.
Are the Braves justified in moving team out of downtown Atlanta? Leave a comment and let your opinion be heard!