Turner Field in Atlanta, home to the Braves since 1997, has apparently outlived its usefulness.
The Braves announced on Monday that they will move into a brand new 42,000-seat stadium being built for them in nearby Cobb County, about 10 miles from their current site at Turner Field.
The Braves’ current 20-year lease in the downtown stadium owned by the Atlanta Fulton County Recreational Authority expires at the end of the 2016 season. According to a statement on the Braves’ website, the move is being made because of logistics and a need for improvements that they say aren’t enough.
“The reason for moving is simple. The current location has certain issues that are insurmountable and will only become more problematic over the years. These fundamental issues involve how you, our fans, access Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates. Furthermore, the Braves do not have control over the development of our immediate surroundings.”
The Braves had been negotiating with the Atlanta Fulton Country Recreation Authority for years, but it seemed clear that a resolution simply wasn’t going happen.
More on the Braves’ decision to move:
“Turner Field is a facility that was built for three weeks of use for the Olympics, but has now served us well for nearly 20 years. The issue isn't the Turner Field we play in today, but instead whether or not the venue can remain viable for another 20 to 30 years.
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."
The new facility will be approximately 10,000 seats smaller than Turner Field, but will have direct access to major highways along with about 30,000 designated parking spots.
The total cost is estimated at about $672 million, and it’s unclear how much Cobb County taxpayers will chip in.
Team president John Schuerholz assured fans that the move will benefit them in a variety of ways.
"We know this new site will provide our fans with a far more pleasant experience of accessing our ballpark, leaving the ballpark and coming early," Schuerholz said. "What is unique about this project is [that] coming out of the ground at the same time as the stadium is the first phase of our mixed-use development, this great destination where people will be able to mitigate the traffic problems by going someplace early, where they can have a nice meal, shop or hang out with friends and family, and then stay there afterward if they like. That helps a lot of the traffic issues."
While the Braves can certainly enhance their fanbase by moving to an area more accessible by car, what they fail to mention is that there are no rapid transit options for getting to and from the new stadium. The MARTA system doesn’t travel to Cobb County, and the Braves will have to come up with alternative options for fans in the city who don’t want to make the drive, or who don’t have a car.
The Braves have opened themselves up in terms of enticing more fans with more parking options, but they may also lose a factions of their fanbase who has no desire to go to the suburbs to see their favorite team in action.
It’s a win for some fans, but a loss for others. Only time will tell whether the move will be the right decision.