The Atlanta Braves franchise is moving again. Not back to Milwaukee, or Boston — where it started — just to Cobb County, in Atlanta's northern suburbs. The Braves announced Monday morning that they'll abandon Turner Field, which opened in 1997, and play at a new facility starting in 2017.
Built on 60 acres of land near the northwest intersection of Interstates 75 and 285 — "the heart of Braves country," apparently — a new ballpark will be financed in a team partnership with Cobb County. No other details on that have been released yet, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Word of this deal first came via the Marietta Daily Journal.
The Braves have played in downtown Atlanta (first at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium) since coming from Wisconsin in 1966. This latest move seems to come as a surprise; it had been thought that new money would have been pumped into Turner for upgrades. That's the word the Braves gave not long ago.
But improvements to Turner Field would not have changed its location, which the Braves believe is why they've struggled to draw fans — they finished 13th of 30 teams in 2013 — despite being a consistent winner. Note, in the photo above, the empty seats during a playoff game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in October. If a winning Braves team couldn't pack Turner Field for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, when was it going to happen?
A new stadium will be about 19 miles to the north.
"Turner Field, which we do not own, is in need of hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrades. Unfortunately, that massive investment would not do anything to improve access or the fan experience," team president John Schuerholz said in a video statement at HomeoftheBraves.com.
Schuerholz also claims that the new stadium complex will be busy "365 days" a year as a "mixed use destination." Braves fans won't care about that, though taxpayers in Cobb County might.
No matter how wasteful it seems to replace a stadium still in its teens, to throw more money after a bad investment doesn't make sense, either.
Some great Braves teams have played at Turner Field, which was converted to baseball use after the '96 Summer Olympics. The ballparks of downtown Atlanta hold many memories for fans, from the days of Hank Aaron smashing Babe Ruth's home run record to Sid Bream sliding in safely to beat the Pirates. But this is about the longterm health of the franchise. Moving makes sense. If Braves fans live by the mall out in the suburbs, that's where the stadium should go, too.
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