Could Turner Field have a future after the Atlanta Braves move out of it? If Georgia State has its way, it'll become a football stadium.
The Braves are building a new stadium in Cobb County, Ga. that's set to open in 2017. When the Braves move, there have been no future plans announced for Turner Field, the team's current home.
Georgia State would like to make the current baseball stadium its home for football and build a baseball-specific stadium next door. Those plans are part of a proposal to the city of Atlanta.
University President Dr. Mark Becker and Atlanta real estate development firm Carter provided the Atlanta Journal-Constitution an exclusive look at the proposal on Wednesday. The idea is more than just stadiums. They want to be partners in building an estimated $300 million development that will include retail, residential and student housing and will be paid for through a mix of public and private funds.
“Georgia State has never had these sorts of facilities for its athletics programs,” Becker said. “We are aware we’ve won three conference championships this year. The program itself is on an upward trajectory. This continues to support a growing and strengthening athletics program, but one that by no means has achieved its potential.”
Georgia State, which went 0-12 in the Sun Belt Conference last year, currently plays at the Georgia Dome, the home of the Atlanta Falcons. According to the AJC, Georgia State's average attendance last season was 15,577. Plans for Turner Field to become a football stadium would put capacity at 30,000.
The team currently pays over $75,000 per game in rent to the Georgia Dome.
If it's a feasible idea from a cost standpoint – that is, making sure that taxpayers aren't on the hook for the improvements and it's a project that won't loom as a future financial hindrance to the unversity – it seems like a great idea. How many times are stadiums demolished (like Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, the predecessor to Turner Field) or sit empty after not being used? And Turner Field only opened in 1997; it's not an archaic stadium by any means.
However, we're a tad skeptical about the idea that a stadium could truly energize fan support for the team. Support is something that takes time, especially for a university that's only been playing football for four years and has a combined record of 10-35 in that span. Winning is by far the best way to sustain fan enthusiasm. If Georgia State starts to do that (perhaps with the help of Penn State?), prospects for a rocking crowd at Turner Field in five years increase exponentially.
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