11 November 2013

So the Atlanta Braves are going to leave Turner Field?

Come 2017, the Atlanta Braves are going to have a new home. As first reported by the Marietta Daily Journal and then confirmed by the club themselves on Twitter, a new stadium will be built in unincorporated Cobb County a short distance from downtown Atlanta near the intersection Interstates 75 and 285. The move will come with the conclusion of the team's lease at Turner Field and is expected to coincide with the completion of a new stadium for the Falcons.

This is a move by the team that nobody saw coming and while there are some positive benefits of what a new ballpark can do, I still have one main problem with all of this.

The website dedicated to this project gives us some clues as to why they are building a new stadium and why they are building it in this location.

First, here's a nifty graphic showing the ticket base for the club in 2012 as well as the locations of both Turner and the new field.
Click to enlarge
As you can tell, this new stadium is located in more of the heart of the fan base, in the prosperous and growing Atlanta suburbs to the north, than is the current stadium.

The club is also saying that there are logistical challenges to the current ballpark in that there is a lack of mass transit, limited access to the major highways in the area as well as a lack of parking spaces, and yet the new stadium will have less parking than the current one does. The lack of a MARTA stop is an issue with the current stadium but now the team is moving to a spot where MARTA does not exist and is already a pretty congested area so the issues of traffic are likely to still remain.

But the major problem I have with this is the fact that Turner Field is not even 20 years old. It was finished in 1996 as Centennial Olympic Stadium as the city's main stadium for the 1996 Summer Games and was then retrofitted for the Braves for the 1997 season. And Turner Field is still considered to be one of the finer parks in baseball, there is nothing substantially wrong with it save for it being a tick too big. I'm necessarily buying the team's argument that they would have to put in $150 million (their estimates) in infrastructure costs like repairing seats and fixing the lights and $200 million (again, their estimates) for projects "focused on improving the fan experience," because that total would be half of what it will cost for this new ballpark, which the Braves say they will be a key investor in in conjunction with Cobb County, which of course is code for public financing.
UPDATE: $450 million will be paid for by the county, at least $200 million by the Braves.

There is no question that money is at the heart of this announcement. The team will say that they will be able to spend more money due to being in a more prosperous area where the base of the fan base is, which is generally true. And considering the club is saddled with the worst TV deal in baseball, one that has hampered their spending methods despite playing in a sizable market, this could be a way for the team to increase their revenue to a point where they can open up their wallets. Of course, we always hear this reasoning, and it didn't stop the Marlins from blowing up their expensive roster a year later in 2012.

But we have ourselves an issues in sports of teams forcing their way to building new ballparks when their current homes have little wrong with them, case in point being the aforementioned Falcons. Not to mention the fact that there are still clubs that are in far greater need of new stadiums, particularly in baseball with the foremost example being the Athletics (and to a lesser extent the Rays). And especially considering how often counties and cities are duped with paying for a substantial amount of the cost, teams wanting a new stadium all but for the reason of wanting a new stadium is a serious issue that has to be addressed with, but probably never will.

1 comment:

  1. The Falcons play in the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta,the Georgia Dome is only about 25 years old and obviously has a dome. Why do the Falcons need a new stadium/