This move isn’t about the Braves as much as it is about Mayor Reed and Fulton County.
I knew once the Braves made the announcement that they were moving north to Cobb County in 2017 where the conversation was bound to go. I knew fans (and media types alike) would point out that Turner Field has only been home to the Braves since 1997 and that means they essentially just got a new stadium. Problem with that is, it isn’t theirs. In just about every way this stadium was never truly home to the Braves. Many don’t realize that “The Ted” was being leased by the Braves. What they also don’t realize is that at capacity, it doesn’t fit the modern mold of a baseball-first facility. Lets also try to name the number of multi-purpose (NOT baseball first) stadiums currently in use in major league baseball.
I’ll let you chew on that one for a second.
Now there is a part of the argument I understand: when will the age of publicly funded stadium deals end? The answer, in short, is no time soon. According to reports, of the proposed $672 million dollar price for the development the Braves are on the hook for $200 million dollars of it plus any costs above that. That means that Cobb County will pay more than $450 million dollars for the Braves to play in their neck of the woods; or as some call it “the heart of Braves Country”.
**They call it that because of this heat map that was released today showing ticket sales per area**
While the thought of paying for a new stadium isn’t high on my list (I’m not from Cobb, but estimations show their finances aren’t much better than those in Fulton County) what the legislation has done in Cobb County is bring a product that will attract more people to their area and re-brand it altogether. Growing up in Savannah, Georgia there really wasn’t much of a reason to go to Atlanta because people from “up North” came South to vacation where I was from. In fact the only thing I could remember going that way for was a Braves game (the Hawks and Falcons weren’t worth the five plus hour trip back then). Which means that going to Cobb was even less desirable.
Look at them now.
Jason Kirk of SB Nation’s “Talking Chop” site wrote a great piece today explaining Cobb County and its many nuances. Now, the county known more for WWF wrestling “elites” and, at least to me, poor drivers has the single most important professional franchise in the state of Georgia and its surrounding states (Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana). They have set aside 60-acres of land to develop its own version of “LA Live” so that the facilities in the area can be used year round and there are things to do before and after the games. Given the myriad number of events that come through Atlanta, Cobb County is looking at a financial windfall they couldn’t have dreamed of. You now know what Cobb County is and you can point it out on a map. That is something you couldn’t do 24-hours ago. That’s something you couldn’t do 45-minutes ago. Fulton is losing badly with this one.
What irks me the most is the steady decline of the most powerful city in the South because of inept leadership. This goes beyond athletics, honestly. Mayor Reed continues to make misstep after misstep when it comes to financial opportunities in the county of Fulton. To lose the Braves because they weren’t prepared to match Cobb County’s offer is a ridiculous attempt to get intelligent people off of his idiotic scent. Especially when they’ve committed $200 million to a Falcons stadium that has one-eighth the amount of games during their season. The Braves didn’t need $450 million dollars to play in Turner Field, they needed $300 million, a better share of the parking revenue, and more authority to improve the area surrounding Turner Field; an area those native to Georgia know needs every red cent. Mayor Reed wasn’t prepared to do that, so the Braves put up $200 million dollars of their own money and Cobb was more than willing to partner with some of the most intelligent businessman in professional sports and reap the benefits.
Again, look at Cobb County now!
People outside of Atlanta saw the lack of attendance as “excuses for a spoiled fan base”. Let me clear that up as well: you’re wrong.
The area surrounding Turner Field isn’t just gridlocked with traffic, it lacks adequate parking, security, and things to do. An example would be your good friend who lives in the middle of nowhere. Why don’t you want to go to their house very often? Because the thought of driving for hours, battling traffic, and going to a bad area for that sole purpose doesn’t outweigh the alternative: not having to do that. Also, imagine that friends house makes it so you have to park three-quarters of a mile away from their house so you have to walk the rest of the way? those familiar with the Braves home games know what I’m talking about. Once you arrive at Turner Field there is “that walk”. Filled with vendors selling knockoffs during the day and who knows what lurking in the shadows at night.
So my friend (the Braves) moved closer to where I’m coming from. What a cool friend, right?!
The breakup between the tenant (Atlanta Braves) and the landlord of Turner Field (Fulton County) played out like the one in Los Angeles between the USC Trojans and the Los Angeles Coliseum (owned by the city of Los Angeles). USC was fully prepared to play in the Rose Bowl (in Pasadena) once its lease was up until Los Angeles officials got their act together and realized the Coliseum (which,ironically enough, also an old Olympic venue) needed drastic renovations. Difference here is Los Angeles wised up. They realized that USC was part of the fabric of Los Angeles and losing that football team six to eight Fall Saturdays a year would be something they, or that area, could ill-afford.
Mayor Reed isn’t that wise. So from he will now trumpet all the wonderful things he will do with the “parking lots” left behind after the Braves move 14 miles North. He will say his “hands were tied” despite pledging $200 million dollars to the Falcons and their stadium that is set to open the same year as the Braves new home. But don’t be fooled, 81-games during the Summer will be hard to duplicate without a stadium or team in the area. And will be hard to compete against with all the fun stuff sure to be planned in that 60-acre area in a better part of town. San Diego, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Denver and Anaheim figured it out. Fulton County couldn’t.
Cobb County says thank you.
The answer to the question about the stadiums is two: Atlanta (1996 Olympic games; retrofit for baseball) and Oakland(Oakland Coliseum is also home to the Oakland Raiders) who could be moving to San Jose.