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.