Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed announced in a news conference on Tuesday that the current home of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field, will be demolished once the Braves move out. On Monday, Atlanta Braves ownership stated that they planned to move out of Turner Field and into a brand-new stadium in Cobb County after the 2016 season. That will be when the team’s 20-year lease with the stadium is up.
The proposed 42,000-seat stadium that the Braves will move into is being built at a cost of $672 million. Besides being located in the suburbs, the county is providing $450 million in public funds, per Reed. The team will finance the rest of the construction costs. Braves’ ownership had stated that they felt that Turner Field needed at least $150 million in normal infrastructure repairs and perhaps another $200 million to bring it up to par with the newer stadiums in terms of luxury suites and other amenities.
It was no secret that the Braves were not fond of the stadium or its location. While still less than 20 years old, the stadium itself was actually built for the 1996 Olympics and then used by the Braves as their new home at the beginning of the 1997 season. Therefore, unlike a lot of the baseball-only stadiums built around that time, Turner Field was somewhat plain and not made exclusively for the Braves. Also, the Braves have decried the location for years, as it is surrounded by some of the poorer parts of the city and there are no close mass transit options.
Considering that Reed had already gone through a long and bitter fight with the city council getting public funds to help build a new football stadium for the Falcons, there didn’t appear to be any will by him, the council or the city’s taxpayers to front even more money to improve Turner Field. It should also be pointed out that the Georgia Dome was opened in 1992. Trying to convince the councilmembers to take on more spending related to another relatively young stadium was going to be a tough road to navigate.
Reed has stated that his plans with the space that will be vacated by the stadium are to create massive housing developments for middle-class people. Most likely, this is an effort to try to bring in much of the population that has retreated to the suburbs due to white flight. While one could look at the departing stadium as a loss for the city, there has not been much in the way of redevelopment for the surrounding areas in the years that stadium has sat there. Typically stadiums and arenas are economic stimulants for the surrounding neighborhoods, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with Turner Field.
In this case, this might be the best thing for both the Braves and the city. The Braves get a brand new stadium located in a more affluent area that could bring in more revenue. The city is not on the hook for any further money to help renovate the existing stadium and they may finally be able to really develop and improve a major part of Atlanta. However, this could be somewhat concerning for the repercussions it can have in the arena of MLB and all major-league sports. Will other teams see that the Braves were able to get themselves a brand-new stadium built for them, largely with tax dollars, less than 20 years after moving into a then new stadium, and think that this is a method they should attempt? Is it possible that we will see some extortion attempts by major-league franchises to bilk large amounts of public funds from cities to either renovate existing stadiums or build brand-new ones? It is something to wonder about.