Say farewell to the Ted, the Atlanta Braves announced today that at the beginning of the 2017 season they will be moving into a new stadium roughly 15 minutes northwest of their current location.
At the intersection of I-75 and I-285 in Cobb County, the stadium plot lies at the edge of city limits and will mark the first time in team history that the Braves will play their home games somewhere other than downtown. The move has caused a serious stir in the Atlanta area and came as somewhat of a shock to most of the Braves faithful; Frank Wren and the Braves front office negotiated with Cobb County under a veil of silence, announcing their plans to the public on day one of this year’s General Managers Meetings.
The pronouncement has plenty of boisterous detractors including Braves fans that would much rather see improvements made to Turner Field than the team move elsewhere. Renovating the stadium was something the organization had under serious consideration for several years, but ultimately the plans and process proved too costly. According to Braves’ executive vice president of business operations Mike Plant, as is, Turner Field would need roughly $150 million in infrastructure work and an additional $200 million in improvements to enhance fan experience.
That’s a $350 million price tag to sink into a stadium that likely won’t reap nearly that amount in benefits. Moving the stadium to the proposed location is a smart decision. Turner Field sits in one of the highest crime areas in Atlanta, is notoriously difficult to get to (whether by car or public transport), has substantially less parking than necessary and rarely features a sell-out crowd (meaning not only is it in a poor location, but is simply too big).
The new stadium will be in a family-friendly area, replete with shopping and dining in the surrounding neighborhood and much easier to access from two major highways. No, moving to Cobb County doesn’t solve the problem of public transport (MARTA still won’t run to the stadium), but all problems can’t be solved with a single swipe of the hand.
Placing the stadium in the northern suburbs makes going to Braves games much more accessible, affordable and enticing to the largest contingent of Braves fans (yes, the suburbanites). Factor in that roughly 30,000 parking spaces are planned for and that the stadium will seat only 41,000-42,000 and you can expect that attendance will greatly increase and that the atmosphere inside will be much more intimate and intimidating.
This is a smart move. I’m as much a sentimentalist as anyone, but citing the rich history of and unforgettable moments that occurred in Turner Field is simply not a good enough argument for remaining in the stadium. Perhaps if the Braves had a lucrative television deal in the making there would have been a greater push to stay at the Ted; as it is, they are locked into one of the worst television contracts in all of sports. Consequently, the organization is in desperate need of a financial shot in the arm – and a new stadium could provide just that (in the long run, of course). Turner Field will be missed; it will forever be remembered as the House that Chipper Built, the place where Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz solidified Hall of Fame careers, the stadium in which Bobby Cox helped an entire generation to forget what it was like to lose. And while progress might keep one eye on the past, it only moves in one direction.
The Braves have taken a huge step in bettering their club with this announcement, and their fan base should be excited about what the future holds. This new stadium could go a long way toward bringing championship ways back to Atlanta.