Yes, this is really happening: The Atlanta Braves are moving to Cobb County, closing the door on nearly a half-century of big-league baseball in downtown Atlanta. Citing frustrations with access to Turner Field and costly repairs to bring that facility to modern standards, the Braves announced this morning that the first pitch of the 2017 season will happen at "a new world-class ballpark" at the northwest intersection of interstates 75 and 285 in Cobb. The site they've chosen near Cobb Galleria is about 60 acres, with 15 acres devoted to the actual (and much smaller) ballpark, which early graphics suggest could be visible from both interstates. As for the remaining acreage, this is the team's vision: "Our new location will give us the opportunity to develop the surrounding area of the new ballpark, transforming it into a mixed use, 365-day destination and creating an enhanced atmosphere for our fans during Braves games." (Two cents: Kudos for being mindful of the non-gameday experience, but what's the over-under on this place making Lindbergh look like Brooklyn?) In a radio interview this morning, a team official stressed the new stadium will be only 12 miles from downtown and will retain an Atlanta address, though no one with a clue would confuse the site for the city's core.
WHERE BRAVES TICKET-BUYERS WERE IN 2012 (with a caption from the team):
In terms of upgrade costs, the teams says 16-year-old Turner Field is in need of $150 million in infrastructure work (worn-out seats, stadium lighting and such) and another $200 million to "increase the fan experience" with Wi-Fi and other amenities.
For their part, the team admits, "This decision to move was not easy, and we have mixed emotions about leaving a ballpark that holds so many great memories. However, knowing that our lease will expire in 2016, we have devoted our time trying to secure the best option for our fans, our team and our organization. We believe this new site will be the best location for our fans and our organization for the next 30 years."
Paying for the project "will be a true public-private partnership," according to the team, but what exactly that means in terms of public contribution isn't clear, to our knowledge. They extolled the economic benefits, of course: "From the construction process, which will support more than 5,227 jobs and generate $235 million in payroll, to the ongoing benefits the new stadium will be an economic engine for Metro Atlanta."
What about The Ted's MARTA rail access (sort of) that will be lost in Cobb County? Here's the team again, speaking vaguely: "There also will be significantly increased access to the site, enhanced parking opportunities, and, generally, easier access to and from major roadways with a variety of other transportation options."
Another major question: What the hell will become of Turner Field and its surrounding asphalt ocean? One early idea involves a year-round residential and entertainment center with horses racing where Chipper once made history and Dan Uggla struck out.
· Home of the Braves.com [Team stadium's new website]
· Swapping the Atlanta Braves for pari-mutuel betting? [AJC]