Posted November 12, 2013

Braves will move to Cobb County in shocking move

Atlanta Braves
Tuner Field

The Braves have only been playing at Turner Field since the start of the 1997 season. (Rick Feld/AP)

The Braves are moving… again. This time, however, the franchise that called Boston and Milwaukee home before relocating to Atlanta for the 1966 season isn’t going very far. On Monday, team president John Schuerholz and two other executives told reporters that the franchise will build a new stadium in Cobb County, roughly 15 miles away from Turner Field, and begin playing there in 2017, after their current lease expires, with construction to start in mid-2014.

That’s a shock, in that the Braves have only been playing in Turner Field — which was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics — since 1997. Such a move will make it the first of the 24 major league ballparks to open since 1989 to be replaced, and buck the trend of teams returning to urban centers. The proposed park is in the suburbs and closer to the geographic center of the team’s ticket-buying fan base, a much higher percentage of which happens to be white. US Census figures from 2010 put Fulton County at 44.5 percent white and 44.1 percent black, while Cobb County is 62.2 percent white and 25.0 percent black.

The lion’s share of the $672 million facility – a whopping $450 million – will be financed by the county, which will presumably pass that cost on to taxpayers, while the team will kick in just $200 million. By comparison, the current venue, which was originally built as Centennial Olympic Stadium with a capacity of 85,000, was financed by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games — completely with private money — and then retrofitted for the Braves after the Summer Olympics ended.

The NFL’s Falcons recently gave taxpayers a better deal than the Braves will, at least according to initial reports. Last month, they announced a downtown Atlanta stadium to open in 2017 that will cost $1.2 billion, of which $800 million to $1 billion will be covered by the NFL and by personal seat licenses, with $200 million coming from bonds backed by a hotel-motel tax. (Update: Stadium subsidies expert Neil deMause has disputed that $200 million figure, estimating that via hidden subsidies it could be more than half a billion dollars.)

The Braves have enjoyed considerable success since moving to Turner Field, posting the majors’ second-highest winning percentage (.571) since the start of the 1997 season. After closing out their 21-year run at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium with a 1995 world championship and a 1996 pennant, the team has won 10 division titles and earned two wild card spots in the 18 seasons since while finishing below .500 just twice.

Even so, they’ve been to only one World Series in that span (1999) and haven’t won a playoff series since 2001, and there’s long been a sense that local fans take the team’s success for granted. After ranking in the National League’s top four in attendance in Turner’s first four years — with over three million fans in each — the Braves have ranked between eighth and 10th (out of 15 or 16 teams) in each of the past 10 years. In 2013, they ranked eighth, drawing a paid attendance of 2,548,679. That’s an average of 31,465 per game, which is well below Turner’s capacity of over 50,000. Their 2013 season high was 52,716, which topped both their 2012 wild card appearance (52,631) and Game 1 of this year’s Division Series (43,021). The new park will seat 41,000 to 42,000, a figure in line with the team’s 1997-99 attendance peak.

One factor apparently driving the move is the need for significant investment in the current venue. From the team’s new website devoted to the project, Home of the Braves (clever, right?):

Turner Field has served the Braves well since 1997, but it is in need of major infrastructure work, which will cost around $150 million. These upgrades are functional ones, such as replacing worn-out seats or upgrading the stadium’s lighting, and they would do little to significantly enhance the fan experience. If the Braves were to pay for additional projects focused on improving the fan experience, the additional costs could exceed $200 million.

Those upgrades still wouldn’t address the logistical challenges outside the stadium — lack of consistent mass transit options, inadequate number of parking spaces and limited access to major highways.

Perhaps not surprisingly, critics of the original Turner Field deal anticipated such a problem nearly two decades ago. From a July 30, 1996 article in the New York Times:

Emma Darnell, a Fulton County commissioner, railed against the deal partly for the Braves’ refusal to pay for future capital costs beyond 20 years. “Our experience with Fulton County stadium is that after 20 years, costs rise,” she said. “Taxpayers will be exposed.”

So instead of sinking $350 million into fixes to modernize Turner, the Braves are spending $200 million for a new park, with much of that cost likely to be covered by the development of the surrounding area and the sale of naming rights. Notably, Turner is one of just eight venues that doesn’t have such a deal in place. According to a New York Times piece from July, the Atlanta Hawks get $12 million a year for the naming rights to their venue, currently known as Philips Arena. The largest baseball deal is that of the Mets for Citi Field ($21 million per year), though the dropoff from that figure to the second-largest, Houston’s Minute Maid Park ($7.4 million), is steep.

The new venue is at the intersection of Interstates 75 and 285, said to be a major traffic snarl, “the place so congested we Cobb Countians know to avoid if at all possible,” as the Journal-Constitution‘s Mark Bradley described it. The county has resisted the expansion of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) into its domain since its inception in 1971, so it’s not served by light rail, and while the team claims “significantly increased access to the site” via Home of the Braves, it offers no specifics on the matter.

In all, while the announcement of the new ballpark is good news for many suburban Braves fans, it’s unsettling for the industry as a whole. The Oakland A’s have spent the past decade battling for a new park to replace the dilapidated Coliseum, which they’ve called home since 1966, while the Tampa Bay Rays are hamstrung by the location of Tropicana Field. Both franchises would take Turner Field as their home in a heartbeat if it could be shipped to them.

Meanwhile, 13 current major league venues have been in service longer than Turner Field, seven of which opened from 1989-95. If some of those teams start getting restless and looking to build again, local taxpayers could be asked to replace the perfectly functional single-use ballparks that in turn had replaced less aesthetically pleasing multi-use facilities whose lifespans were much longer. Particularly as teams reap a new windfall with increased television revenues, that’s not going to go over well with fans.

102 comments
AJRoth
AJRoth

How is it that the commissioners can commit millions of tax dollars to promote a private business - and not ask the taxpayers? Cobb citizens need to protest this - there are many other problems - like traffic at the WIndy Hill exit that have been neglected for decades. How will taht 2 lane tunnel to Windy Hill handle any more traffic??? Disaster for ALL trying to get home in Cobb, Cherokee, Paulding, Bartow counties. And the stupid PAY lane scheme means the rich get a pass home on game days while the middle class sits in traffic.


Michael175
Michael175

I knew 2o years ago the loacation was unsafe and hard to get too. If it was in a nice industrial area that was safe, the black white thing would be meaningless. I'm from Houston TX and they put the Astrodome in a large vacant industrial area that was safe. Worked Great!! The Braves are compounding 1 mistake with another mistake.

Stewart3
Stewart3

why is the taxpayer getting stuck for this again.  if they want to move and a new stadium let the ownere pay for it.  except they wont because they know it a BAD deal  so they all say lets screw the tax payer


deanodew
deanodew

"Braves are moving closer to their fan base".   Yes, that is correct.  But why is their fan base where it is?  There is this phenomenon that has been prevalent in the Atlanta area for over 40 years now called "white flight".   As blacks encroach on predominately white neighborhoods, whites will react by perpetually moving further from the city's center, into rural areas.  Those rural areas eventually become urban and the cycle continues.   Twenty years from now, when this new lease is up, the Brave will announce a move to Cartersville, Ga. (further north), so they can be closer to their "fan base".

SEYMOUR1
SEYMOUR1

The area near THE TED has been under rapid redevelopment for the past 10 years, just like the area near East Lake where PGA holds championships and tourneys. Let's face it baseball is losing a fan base unlike it use to have. Let's then 10% of players are African-Americans because th baseball has a problem with innercity population, unlike that of football and basketball ( just look at the little league WS). Majority of the fans for AB are southern white males who some are intimidated byattending games in an area they portray in their minds as being" Ghetto". The Braves organization is trying to take advantage of a dying sport, I get that. My only wish is that the city council will vote to remove the "Atlanta" logo from the Braves uniforms to lure another franchise to the TED like the Rays who definitely seek to leave a Yankee fan base in Tampa.

deanodew
deanodew

I live in the burbs of Atlanta and I see the word "ghetto" being bantered around in these blogs and feel I need to clarify for those of you who are not familiar with Atlanta, as the word has a different meaning here.  Basically, any building/facility that is greater than 20 years is old or "ghetto".  Also, any location where several to many minorities congregate, is also "ghetto".    I'm sure I'll be slammed by other Atlantans here who will get defensive.   That is fine but, you know I'm right.   The truth hurts....

netdragon
netdragon

Stop playing the race card. The general area of the new stadium is more like 49% white, and many of the wealthy are black. The area is an increasingly urban area that actually has a higher population density than Atlanta itself. The general area of the new stadium has million dollar developments going in left and right.

Larry e
Larry e

I see the move as a good one with two big " ifs ". First, the stadium must have a retractable roof. It is too hot in the middle of summer and it still rains too often. Many will stay home and watch in the comfort of their living room if given the option. Second, Atlanta is a traffic nightmare. Will Cobb county stadium have easier access? It had better if you want more people to come.

WoozyPolarBear
WoozyPolarBear

I live in Alberta Canada, and thanks to TBS, became a huge Atlanta Braves fan about 30 years ago. Ever since I have visited Atlanta 2-3 times a year to watch my favourite team play. Over the years, I have become very familiar with the city, and have stayed at various locations on my visits, including Downtown, The Cobb Galleria area, Alpharetta, Duluth, Marietta, and the Airport.  Generally my home of Canada is considered to be a much safer place then the United States. However I have never once in all my visits to downtown Atlanta or the area around The TED felt one bit uncomfortable or unsafe in any manner. I am a small guy, around 5'9", and around 160 lbs, and am white. I have walked from Downtown to the ballpark at night a few times, and no incidents at all. I really do believe the perception about venturing deep ITP is overblown. If this Canadian guy has no fear about it, why do so many in the 'burbs or N. Atlanta do? Yes, Cobb Galleria is definitely an aesthetic upgrade from the Summerhill Community, but it's by no means the scary ghetto you all make it out to be. As for traffic, Atlanta isn't all that bad really. I think traffic here in Edmonton, Alberta Canada is just as bad at certain times of the day. You just learn to deal with it. Anyway, bottom line is I will support this team wherever they play (and preferably in the Atlanta area for ever), and it is always nice to get a new home. While Turner Field is a nice ballpark, I'm hoping the new one creates the buzz that seemed to be missing from The TED.

Richard40
Richard40

I don't care if the Braves move, but I get tired of hearing about the costs of the moves being shifted to tax-payers.   

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

The Braves will see a 2 year bump in attendance once the new place opens, after that the stadium will be 40 percent full every night.  Just like it is right now.  

Atlanta.... worst sports town in America (except maybe Tampa).

Jessica2
Jessica2

New stadium same team...the Braves will still choke over and over again....

WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

Obscene!!! No more public funds for sports teams owned by billionaires with employees (players) making tens of millions.

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

Downtown Atlanta is dangerous. No one in their right mind would walk around there after dark. They had no choice but to move. 

MrArlington
MrArlington

I don't like this move. I thought Turner Field was still a high quality field and location. I really like being able to stay downtown in a big city and then take a cab or metro to the field. I don't like to stay downtown Atlanta and then having to get to Cobbtucky county somehow. Sad.

dramamama
dramamama

Of course we don't want to travel to the ghetto (and YES, it is a ghetto) to see the Braves!  Why would we?  The only way that Turner Field would ever be a viable option is if they were given complete control over the development of the surrounding area within a five-mile radius of the stadium.  Then they could raze the slum...er, excuse me, the "Summerhill Community", relocate the residents to Clayton County (where the rest of the residents of the projects were moved to just before the 1996 Olympics), and create a clean, safe, multi-use business/recreation area in its place.  Oh, wait...that's what's already in place in Cobb County!


There's a reason the traffic is so bad on the top-end Perimeter as opposed to the South Side: NOBODY WANTS TO LIVE DOWN THERE!  And for those people who keep making noise about the MARTA line being the solution: most of us in the northern suburbs aren't exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of taking the Marta train ANYWHERE.  We resign ourselves to riding it, only because the destination is in a dangerous area where we're unsure of the roads and nervous about our safety.  We feel the same way, incidentally, about parking at the Doraville (scary) or Chamblee (scary in Spanish) Marta stations and riding the trains.


Congrats to the Braves fans! Our family will be living in Utah by that time, in a nice, safe major metro area that has NONE of these demographic problems (which was the main reason for us moving there).  The Atlanta metro area loses about 100,000 Caucasians every year...and its not too hard to guess at the demographic make-up of the 500,000 who take our place.  In another decade, the Braves may not have enough of a fan base left to support ANY stadium ANYWHERE in Atlanta.

w63
w63

I am sick of hearing about white flight.... successful blacks flee the ghetto just as fast, nobody wants to live there white, black, pink or blue. If anything it is whites who return to the ghetto but than  you get gentrification, hipsters and an over priced 'funky' area that has the true soul and identity sucked out of it 

Taylor C
Taylor C

@deanodew I live in Midtown, and the area around Turner Field is absolutely the ghetto. No other place in Atlanta do I see more pandhandling.

Ebullient
Ebullient

@netdragon Just about any "development" these days is a "million dollar development."  The vast majority of that area is white and has money.  There are well-to-do blacks, but it's not a large percentage of the population.  This move is plainly an effort to encase the team in a white middle and upper middle class shell, now that baseball's days as a "working class" sport have been gone for 20 years, and games are astronomically expensive.

w63
w63

@Larry e I just want to know how Cobb County plans on paying for this and why they are being so secretive

GTT
GTT

@WoozyPolarBear You are correct. Some people are just scared of people who look different than they do. I've never felt unsafe around there either. Congratulations on your Brave-ry.

MattBugaj
MattBugaj

@WoozyPolarBear On my one visit to Atlanta, the use of MARTA seemed low compared to other major cities, like white people were afraid to use it. And I lived on the Orange Line (south) in Boston for a while.

mystafugee
mystafugee

@WoozyPolarBear Well, in truth this probably has nothing to do with the type of community that Turner Field is located and way more with the whole "Cobb County is willing to fork over hundreds of millions."  The team would probably relocate to Alberta if the price is right (kind of like the Flames)

Taylor C
Taylor C

@PhillyPenn Sorry we don't have a cracker jack stadium like those up in Philly or Boston. 50,000 seats is a lot harder to fill up than 35,000

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

@PhillyPenn 2,548,000 - more like 60%. Please reply after showing proof that you've completed 3rd grade math successfully.

AtlantaBiscuit
AtlantaBiscuit

@dramamama You made some decent points until you started talking about Utah. 98% White, and a hunk of them live off the goverments teet to support the 8 children that joseph smith told them god wants them to have.  Utah=White Deadbeats.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@dramamama , good to hear from a member of the John Birch Society. Oh, I mean the "Tea Party." You all always come through whenever I need to hear the opinions of embittered, unthinking Caucasians.  You know, the Yankees seem to be doing pretty well in the South Bronx. And the Dodgers seem to be doing pretty well in Chavez Ravine. And plenty of other teams are doing just fine with urban stadium locations -- the Cardinals, the BoSox, the Nats, the Cubs, etc. etc. -- so maybe Atlanta's problem is Atlanta.

pfcarini
pfcarini

@w63  Oh yes, nothing like dodging bullets and weeding through garbage to experience  the vibrancy of true soul.

deanodew
deanodew

@Taylor C @deanodew Because that is where Turner Field is.   Midtown would be the panhandling capital of Atlanta if Turner Field were there.   They follow the money.     You show up on game day.  So do the panhandlers....

WoozyPolarBear
WoozyPolarBear

@MattBugaj I always use MARTA on my visits to Atlanta, and parked the rental vehicle at the North Springs Station to head downtown or to Buckhead. Again, have never had a problem. Yeah, I occasionally get asked to spare some change...but I get that here in my home town in Canada too.  But yes, ridership is a bit lower then other cities I visit.

dramamama
dramamama

@Vinny Cordoba @dramamama ...and Detroit's problem is Detroit, right?  And D.C., Birmingham, Newark, Philly...not that they all have MLB teams, but the implication being that the "problem" with high crime areas is the Tea Party, right?  

It must be, since we can't possibly blame urban crime, etc., on the population actually responsible for committing the overwhelming majority of crimes.  Wouldn't be P.C. and all.

Funny...but Salt Lake, Portland, and Pittsburgh are also "urban" areas, and all are really nice and safe.  Again, the Tea Party (law-abiding, taxpaying people in support of smaller government, tax reform, and Constitutional rights) must be to blame.   

Thanks for clearing that up.

AKOC
AKOC

@Vinny Cordoba @AKOC Again, do your homework, lemming. The difference between me and you? I am ACTUALLY extremely knowledgeable on the general Leftist ethos. You just get all your "facts" from Huffpo and the Daily Show. I dare you to take FIVE minutes reading the provided link above and gaining some actual historical/non-fiction-based perspective. Too much to ask, ain't it. 

AKOC
AKOC

@Vinny Cordoba @AKOC Yes, I did. I said racism and pedophilia is a great evil in the world. But my Minority Politics professor named Vinny Cordoba Sr said "everything is relative; there are no rights and wrong in this world...except uhhhhh when it comes Republicans uhhh somehow"...and stuck his obese wife and children on me.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@AKOC @Vinny Cordoba , oh I get it. You're one of THOSE people. Look up Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. Two renowned racists. Used to be Democrats back during the Jim Crow days. Then switched to the GOP after Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. Just like all the other Southern Dem racists -- they all switched to the GOP after the Civil Rights bill was passed, and now they make up the base of the Republican Party. Oh, never mind. Live in your bubble. It suits you.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@AKOC , why the anger, AKOC? Did you get beat up again at school today? 

Xanth007
Xanth007

@AKOC @Vinny Cordoba @dramamama The Left has no arguments, no common sense and no rationality.  All its mindless adherents can do is cast their ideological opponents as racists/bigots and try to perpetuate that lie in the hopes that no one will actually address the substance of their politics.  They can't argue to save their lives, so they instead resort to silencing their opponents by falsely stigmatizing them. Note how Cordoba can't actually make a point -- all he can do is regurgitate ad hominem attacks on his opponents. Pathetic.   Cordoba claims that the "Yankees seem to be doing fine in NY", as do the Dodgers in L.A. -- but he completely ignores Dramamama's point that the general populations in these and other similar areas are suffering, and their governments are falling off the fiscal cliff;  And why?  Its's because they are, and have been, completely controlled by Left wing politicians for decades.  As Margaret Thatcher said, the problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.  So, NY, CA, MI, IL and all these other Blue states are now examples of what unsustainable government looks like -- courtesy of Democrats and Rinos (lite Democrats).  When they start forcing fiscally responsible states like Texas, Indiana and Georgia to pay their unsustainable corruption of government pensions, unbridled welfare, union benefits and other institutionalized graft, we are bound to experience the second Civil War. 

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@AKOC , truly? Yes, I think Spike Lee has his head up his a88 sometimes. Yes, I think everyone can be a bigot, regardless of their background. It happens on all sides, all the time, too often. But I have a special level of disgust for the Tea Party, many of whom are old enough to remember Jim Crow laws and were probably just fine with the way that world was.

AKOC
AKOC

@Vinny Cordoba @AKOC Ah who cares, why do I even bother. All Cordobas are racist bigots who perpetually get off on kiddie porn and animal abuse videos. Your opinions don't matter. You have no conscience. 

AKOC
AKOC

@Vinny Cordoba @AKOC Question: do you use the word "bigot" for all peoples who perpetually make rash generalizations of an entire group (eg. the Spike Lees of the world), or just white people, as only whites are capable of racism in the "system"?

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@AKOC , also, do yourself a favor. Read what the first poster on this thread said. See how smugly he tries to lay so many of society's problems on non-Caucasians. Seriously, gain some perspective here before having one of your nervous breakdowns. I called him a bigot, because he is. I never said "racist." I said bigot. Because frankly, he's the one who's doing the generalizing here about people who aren't white. But you seem fine with that. Gee, wonder why?

AKOC
AKOC

@Vinny Cordoba @AKOC That's cuz you're a racist bigot who enjoys kiddie porn. You and your ilk have no conscience.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@AKOC ,  I don't care what some random person on Internet boards say (sic).

AKOC
AKOC

@Vinny Cordoba @AKOC Right, mental midget, you win the debate as such. And yes, yes that always DOES hit a nerve. Calling someone a racist and bigot without any proof is some of the most despicable and humanly low things one can do, yet it is one of THE favorite pastimes of the Left. How would YOU feel if I said the entire Vinny Cordoba family is a bunch of anti-semite pedophiles who get off on stories of animal abuse and child rape everyday? You're obviously gonna say that you don't care what some random person on Internet boards say, but you would.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@AKOC , wow, looks like I really hit a nerve, eh? Ever heard of the phrase, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Probably not, since it's Shakespeare. What it means is, you spend so much time ranting about how wrong I am and how right you are, that is sounds like you're trying to convince yourself instead of me. Anyway, good luck with that.

AKOC
AKOC

@Vinny Cordoba @dramamama You despicable, despicable scum disgust me to no end. How such a large, laaarge segment of the Left can show nonchalantly paint an ENTIRE group as undeniable bigots is beyond me with ZERO proof aside from a few whacked out Youtube videos. It says something, doesn't it, that virtually ALL of the political violence comes from the Left (unions, environmentalists, unions radical student groups, Occupiers, "anarchists,"  unions...and going by the Left's ASSinine game of mudslinging, we should be able to call aaaall violence form Hispanic and black groups violence of the Left seeing as how there's a remote connection to the political voting habits at large). And don't you DARE disagree with anything I say, because I am Asian, and thus a member of the "minority." If you do disagree, that AUTOMATICALLY qualifies you as a racist bigot. Right, c-nt? Just like Republicans only disagree with Obama cuz he's black?

PLEASE tell me who's the racist? The group that believes an entire group of people must continue to have hundreds of billions of dollars of redistribution of wealth go their way because they are LITERALLY incapable of fending for themselves like some mentally retarded child, or the group that believes anyone can succeed in America through the powers of education and a free-market system? Yes, what a racist, raaaacist country America is that Asians, Jews and Indians are among the highest median earners in the country within TWO generations. WHAT is with the selective racism?

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@dramamama , actually, the implication is that the Tea Party is filled with angry, paranoid, misinformed, geriatric bigots who love to point fingers and issue blame but are never accountable for their own contribution to problems. You fit right in. Congratulations.