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Braves Plan New $672M Stadium

Friday, November 15, 2013

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Saying their current digs need “hundreds of millions of dollars” in upgrades, the Atlanta Braves will chop their ties to Turner Field and build a new $672 million ballpark to open in 2017.

The proposed 41,000-seat stadium will be in Cobb County, about 14 miles northwest of Turner Field at the I-75/I-285 intersection, in a new mixed-use development of hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and entertainment venues, the team announced Monday (Nov. 11).

Although the facility will be in the more affluent northwest suburbs, it will keep an Atlanta address.

Turner Field
Wikimedia Commons / Zpb52

Turner Field ("The Ted") was built as Centennial Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Olympic Games, then converted to a baseball stadium and given to the city of Atlanta.

The funding package is still being worked out, although the team disputed reports of a $450 million public funding commitment.

"At no time in our discussions with Cobb County, or any other municipality, have the Braves referenced a $450 million public investment," the team said on its new Home of the Braves website. "Reports of this figure are erroneous."

The team said it would "pay a significant amount of the expense of the new stadium, both in upfront costs and throughout the term of the lease. The exact number is being finalized with officials from Cobb County."

The team says it will also sell naming rights to the stadium.

Mayor Disappointed

Braves president John Schuerholz and Mike Plant, executive vice president of business options, told Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Nov. 8 that the club would leave Turner Field when its 20-year lease expires at the end of the 2016 season.

Plant described the mayor as "disappointed."

"He's a pro-business guy," Plant told "He understands business. I told him very clearly [that] we're not moving into another city or another state. We're still going to be an active participant with the city with our Braves Foundation grants. We're not leaving Atlanta. We're just moving [14] miles up the road."

Reed, however, reiterated the $450 million figure supposedly offered by Cobb County and added, "We are simply unwilling to match that with taxpayer dollars."

Mayor Kasim Reed
City of Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Cobb County had offered the Braves $450 million in public funds—a figure he said he would not match. The Braves denied the figure.

"We have been working very hard with the Braves for a long time, and at the end of the day, there was simply no way the team was going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen," Reed said in a statement.

The city is also contributing $200,000 to a new $1.2 billion stadium for the 2-7 Atlanta Falcons football team—a price tag that has already climbed by $200,000 before construction even begins.

Turner's Troubles

Schuerholz delivered the news to fans in a superlatives-studded video announcement on the team's site.

"We wanted to find a location that is great for our fans, makes getting to and from the stadium much easier, and provides a first-rate game-day experience in and around the stadium," he said.

Turner Field requires "hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades" that still would not "do anything to improve access or the fan experience," Schuerholz said.

"These are issues we simply cannot overcome."

Plant told ESPN that the stadium needed "$150 million in routine improvements and that it would cost $200 million to truly enhance the fan experience." Among other things, the team says the stadium needs 5,000 more parking spaces.

The Braves' website, however, still calls Turner "the benchmark for future baseball park design."

"Turner Field combines the nostalgia and the atmosphere of old-time baseball with a state-of-the-art environment unlike any other park," the site said Wednesday night (Nov. 13).

'One of the Most Magnificent'

The new facility, meanwhile, will be "one of the most magnificent in all of baseball" and will "thrive with action 365 days a year," Schuerholz pledged.

New Braves Stadium

The new stadium, at the intersection of I-75 and I-285, will have more access to major roadways, more mass transit options, and more parking. The blue area is the stadium; the red is future mixed-use development.

Surrounding the new stadium will be a new "mixed-use destination" that will serve the region's residents "in the finest of fashion," Schuerholz said.

"We think this is going to be a remarkable, positive development on all sides."

Turner's Future...

Although the deal is not finalized, the Braves insist that construction on the Cobb County facility will start in mid-2014.

Meanwhile, discussion has already turned to the future of Turner Field, whose fate is in the hands of the City of Atlanta. The city and the Atlanta-Fulton Recreation Authority own the facility.

Reed told the Associated Press that Turner (known as "The Ted") would be demolished and the area redeveloped with "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had."

In a statement, Reed added, "We have been planning for the possibility of this announcement and have already spoken to multiple organizations who are interested in redeveloping the entire Turner Field corridor."

...And Past

Whatever the price tag on the Braves' new home, it's safe to say that the taxpayers won't get a better deal than the one that built Turner.

Hank Aaron fence Player Numbers
Wikimedia Commons / UCinternational (left); Turner Field (right)

Left: The fence over which Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th career home run still stands outside a Turner Field parking lot. Right: Retired player numbers graced the field perimeter until the 2013 season.

That stadium was built with private money by the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games and was gifted to the city.

"It was one of the best examples of an Olympic facility being put to long-term use," Bruce Seaman, an economist with nearby Georgia State University, told USA Today.

"Other cities struggled to find a use for their facilities after the Olympics. I find it a tragedy that they will tear down this stadium. This was one of the great legacies of the 1996 Olympics."


Tagged categories: Color + Design; Commercial Buildings; Commercial Construction; Government; Government contracts; Jobs; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

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