Throughout the day, I’ve stopped what I was doing to scroll through my Twitter feed, listen to Atlanta sports talk radio, and read through the endless number of news stories regarding the Braves’ stunning announcement that they are leaving the city of Atlanta and Turner Field for Cobb County. After nearly 9 hours, I believe I’ve started to process the decision and provide a few rational thoughts before my day comes to an end.
First of all, I’m not particularly thrilled with the Braves moving to the suburbs. While it brings the Braves closer to the fans that attend games on a regular basis, it puts them in the middle of endless sprawl with nothing aesthetically pleasing about the surrounding area. Sure, the Braves are promising a massive multi-use complex, which was completely lacking at Turner Field, but the new park won’t have the gorgeous Atlanta skyline in the background (a driving factor behind Turner Field’s lack of outfield lights), nor will they be anywhere close to downtown. The team points to Colorado, San Francisco, and Cincinnati as key examples of what they want for the new stadium and other developments. What those parks have in common that the new Braves’ park does not: they’re in the cities.
By Ryan Hill
The Atlanta Braves stunned Fulton County this morning with an announcement that the team has secured 60 acres of land in Cobb County for the construction of a new ballpark, following an apparent breakdown in negotiations with the City of Atlanta regarding use of the 17-year old Turner Field.
While several reasons were given for the move, one of the strongest concerns was the amount of traffic generated by games in the current area near the Mechanicsville neighborhood of Atlanta. “Today, most of our fans arrive via car, and getting to this (new) site via car from all sorts of different directions is easier,” explained Braves executive Derek Schiller.
Franchise President John Schuerholz elaborated, claiming “unless the City of Atlanta devises some kind of smarter way of moving people without the use of cars, we’re going to stick with reality and go where there is very little traffic […] and that place is the intersection of I-75 and I-285.”
The announcement has been responded to enthusiastically by Cobb County public officials and residents. The project is planned to be more than just a ballpark, including a large mixed-use development that promises year-round entertainment.
Comments from our readers have already flooded the original article this morning, requesting additional amenities such as a “border wall” built along I-285. Only time will tell if the Braves organization and Cobb County establish avenues for public input from citizens, though it has been demanded that only citizens with photo ID gain access to these still not-yet-announced “town halls” that are anticipated to happen over the next three years.
Even then, the county is sure to face challenges financing the new ballpark, which is projected to cost $672 million and built “in partnership with Cobb County,” according to the press release. It’s not known how much of this is expected to come from the public, but the announcement comes at a time when taxpayers everywhere are faced with “take it or leave it” negotiations from professional team ownerships across the country. Not exactly fond of tax increases of any kind, Cobb County remains the regional seat of the Tea Party movement.
But Tea Party leader and Marietta-resident Bob E. Lee is convinced that solutions can be found by “thinking outside the box” and “deporting all them illegals [sic] living off the teat of the American taxpayer first.” He also suggested that funding could come from firing half of all public school teachers, especially the ones found to be “communists,” an idea that has found support in most areas of the county during recent recession years.
Public officials have indeed shown creativity with regard to budgetary challenges in the past. Several years ago, the Cobb County School Board suggested replacing facilities maintenance workers for the school system with prison laborers. It’s possible this idea could be extended to ballpark ushers, concession vendors, and ticket takers, substantially cutting operation costs once the ballpark is constructed.
We asked local public policy expert and Newt Gingrich Chair of Political Science at Kennesaw State University, Jefferson D. Brumby, what this meant for the area. “It’s just a win-win all around,” he began, “we get to bring our proud Southern traditions, like the ‘Tomahawk Chop,’ to those who have embraced it the most in Cobb County.” He continued, explaining that there was an ideal proximity to Atlanta and its history of the Civil Rights movement, “but not to any [African-American] neighborhoods.”
Dr. Brumby also proposed incorporating some of Cobb County’s history and culture into the new ballpark, suggesting a “Mary Phagan Memorial Pavilion” with a view of the famous “Big Chicken,” which sits a few miles away, in lieu of any actual skyline. Home runs could be referred to as “white flights,” he suggested, recalling the final stage of the campaign of “massive resistance” homeowners waged against “Big Government” in the 1960s and 1970s, diverting private investment northward to Cobb County and promoting growth in the area.
Braves owner Liberty Media is on board with the project, according to Schuerholz. “We’ve shared all of the details with them […] down to the various smallest of details,” Schuerholz said. “Their initial response was, ‘Wait, we own a baseball team?’ But we’ve talked further and believe we have a green light for the plan.”
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm was not shared by fans inside the I-285 perimeter. At Manuel’s Tavern, a bar in the North-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta, we spoke to longtime bartender Bobby Agee. “To hell with the Braves,” he said after hearing the news, explaining that “this was the worst thing to happen to the team since the end of the 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 [seasons],” continuing to mumble as he walked back to the kitchen.
Ryan Hill has been a Braves fan longer than he can remember and spent more days as a Cobb County resident than he’d like to remember, while attending Kennesaw State University.
In a stunning move that shook fans of the Atlanta Braves to their core, the team announced that following the 2016 season, they’ll move to the cozy confines of Cobb County, abandoning the city of Atlanta after 50 years. Unless you are omnipotent, no one saw this coming. The team’s lease on Turner Field expires on December 31, 2016 and it was no secret that Braves’ officials were not pleased with the current arrangement. However, few, if any thought the team would actually move.
It was a lot to process this morning for everyone. News outlets scrambled to report the story, while fans reacted with excitement, hesitancy, and in some cases, anger. Personally, I was shocked and a bit dismayed. Earlier this year, the Braves and the city looked at several proposals to redevelop the parking lots around Turner Field, turning them into the mixed-use development that Braves desperately want (and apparently will get in Cobb County). I knew full well that the Braves’ lease on Turner Field expired and it was going to take something big for the city to retain the Braves. However, I assumed a deal would be reached, because let’s face it, a 20-year old ballpark isn’t that old (Wrigley Field celebrates hits 100 next year) and despite already being one of the older National League parks, Turner Field is in pretty good shape. Yes, the team and city desperately needed to fix an untenable traffic and parking problem, and there’s no question that the area surrounding Turner Field wasn’t exactly pretty, but to pack up and leave? Seems a bit sudden and drastic.
We don’t know a ton about this move, other than the expected cost, the location, and when the Braves are packing their bags for Cobb. However, it will be a sad day for me. Turner Field was my second home as a kid. I’ve been a huge Braves fan my entire life and when I moved to Atlanta in 1998, I was beyond ecstatic for the chance to hang out at the Ted every summer and I did. Every season since then, I’ve attended multiple games at Turner Field and loved every minute of my time there. Over the next three seasons, I hope to make a few more great memories and regardless of where they go, I will always root for my home team.
Anyways, I’ll provide my full thoughts on the move in the coming hours or days as I process everything.
- It was going to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million to make infrastructure improvements to Turner Field
- The Braves started discussing improving the parking, traffic, and overall infrastructure surrounding Turner Field with the city of Atlanta starting in 2005; those negotiations didn’t go very far
- Cobb County offered $450 million to help cover the cost of a new stadium (estimated at $672 million overall)
- The new stadium will be located at the intersection of I-75 and I-285 near Cumberland Mall in Cobb County
- The team started talking to Cobb County sometime in July
- The Braves want to build a large, mixed use developed featuring shops and restaurants to keep fans engaged before and after games, and throughout the year
- The Braves are meeting with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Governor Nathan Deal on Wednesday at the State Capitol
- On November 26, the Cobb County Commission will vote on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Braves (this means no new taxes can be created to fund the stadium, but it’s likely some taxes will increase in order to coverthe $450 million cost Cobb County agreed to pay
Saturday marks the launch of a brand new, 24-hour, cable sports network; it’s supposed to be the ESPN killer. We’ve heard this kind of talk before, most recently with the NBC Sports Network. Sports fans are fed up with ESPN’s shenanigans and are looking for a true alternative. Thus far, NBC Sports Net hasn’t proven its worth, but FOX Sports 1 could be very different.
Where FOX can succeed where NBC has thus far failed lies in the programming. FOX Sports 1 not only features a promising nightly sports news program, it will launch with significant amounts of live sporting events, including college football and basketball, NASCAR, MMA events, and starting next year Major League Baseball (including Division and League Championship Series). Another fascinating premise behind FOX Sports 1′s potential success (and something few are discussing) is the existence of a vast series of regional networks.
UPDATE: I guess enough fans complained or the Braves realized that it wasn’t very fun to sit through a 4-hour rain delay on Monday. The team announced yesterday that anyone who has a ticket stub to the 6/17 game against the Mets can take it to the Turner Field box office and use it to buy a $5 ticket to 18 various second half home games. You can get tickets in pretty good sections as well, so it’s not a total loss for fans who suffered through Monday’s madness.
Even with threatening weather, I was excited to see my hometown Braves take on the Mets last night at Turner Field. I hadn’t been to a game since opening day and I was looking forward to seeing baseball. Yes, it was risky to buy tickets with a radar filled with different shades of green, yellow, and orange, but to the Ted I went. Not only was I greeted with close to a 4-hour rain delay, but a significant chunk of that delay featured no rain at all. First pitch was scheduled for 7:10; the game didn’t start until 10:52 EDT.
Managers Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves and Terry Collins of the Mets pushed hard to play last night, despite the weather, because the teams were already facing a 5-game series (there’s a makeup game today as part of a day/night doubleheader) and there’s a high probability of rain affecting one or both games today. I get what they were doing, but what resulted was inconsiderate to fans and unfair to players.
Stupidly, I purchased upper deck tickets to last night’s game, sat through the rain, getting rather wet and cold in the process, and it was so late by the time they actually started playing baseball, I left following the first inning. It was after 11:00 p.m., it was a Monday night, and it wasn’t the type of night where I wanted to hang at Turner Field until 2 a.m. What’s even more unfortunate is that because of the rainout policy, the thousands of fans that left before the start of the game (22,000+ paid to go, maybe 5,000 stayed) are out the bucks they paid to attend last night’s game. Families with young kids, folks that head to work early, and others that just gave up had a pretty rotten experience last night dodging rain, spending oodles of money on food and souvenirs that couldn’t be enjoyed while watching baseball.
It’s really sad when you’re hiding in the bowels of the stadium eating a hot dog watching the grounds crew standing on a field where it isn’t raining, but simply anticipating a storm.
From the players’ perspective, they must be pretty upset. Yes, they are paid an insane sum of money to play a game, but they are professionals and asking them to start a game at nearly 11:00 p.m. when they had a 1:00 p.m. game the following day is cruel and unnecessary. I could understand the push to get the game in if the Braves were playing a west coast or American League team, but it was the New York Mets, a team you play 18 times a year and will be back in Atlanta in September. To further the players’ case, they asked for a response from the MLB Players’ Association at 10:00 p.m. last night when the radar showed more heavy rain moving into the Atlanta-area, but were met with silence.
I can’t count how many Braves games I’ve been to in my life, but this was by far one of the worst experiences–if not the worst–I’ve had at a baseball game anywhere in the country. It’s one thing to delay an afternoon game into the early evening, but it’s an entirely different situation to delay at 7:10 game until nearly 11:00 p.m. on a Monday night…
C’mon Braves, I love you and you can do better that this.
P.S. I’m moving out-of-state in early August and this was quite possibly one of my last Braves games for quite some time. Way to give a great impression on my way out of Georgia.
For the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect a single new member to the Hall of Fame. With names like Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa on the ballot, it’s not shocking that the writers shied away from the stench of performance enhancing drugs. Baseball fans knew it was going to be a controversial year. Bonds and Clemens represent two of the greatest players at their positions of all time and had PEDs not been an issue, both would’ve likely been elected to the Hall with well over the 75 percent of the vote necessary for induction. However, that’s not the case and Astros’ legend Craig Biggio was the only player that came close to the 75 percent bar.
Fans are outraged, spewing venom at the writers, calling the voting system antiquated, and the writers clueless. This humble blogger feels differently from the angry fans, who of course were all going to flock en masse to Cooperstown over the summer for the induction ceremony (yeah right…). I don’t blame the writers for failing to elect a single member to the Hall, in fact, I applaud them. The Hall of Fame should be a place for players that truly made an incredible, game-altering contribution to the game. Oh, and they must also represent the highest character possible. I know, I know, we have some terrible human beings like Ty Cobb in the Hall and Babe Ruth wasn’t exactly a saint, but now’s the time to change what’s been done.