Rumor has it that the Atlanta Braves and Falcons will be holding a joint news conference next week to announce their plans to build newer new stadiums before the 2037 seasons.
“By then there will be children born in 2017 who are approaching legal drinking age,” an anonymous source close to both franchises said. “That yet-born generation will not want to go to a ballpark that doesn’t have all the holographic bells and whistles. And the current parking lots we plan to have for our new facilities set to open in 2017 will not be able to accommodate all of the Jetson hover cars.”
Seriously, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Falcons’ decision to abandon a perfectly good 21-year-old Georgia Dome to build a billion-dollar stadium about 300 feet from the current location. Now word comes that the Braves will be leaving 16-year-old Turner Field for a more “intimate” facility to be built in Cobb County.
“We’ve played in our current facility for quite some time, and it was with mixed emotions that we made this decision because we have many great Braves baseball memories that occurred for all of us,” said Braves executive John Schuerholz, neglecting to mention none of those memories included winning a World Series.
“Quite some time,” indeed. If, for example, your child was conceived in the Lexus Lot back when the Ted first opened for baseball in 1997, he or she actually has a license now to be able to drive to a Braves game now – if they would ever desire to sit in a clearly dilapidated facility to watch a game their great-great-great grandparents once cared about before the invention of the iPhone made shared events less communal.
Despite increasing accusations of being an old man, the truth is I’m not even 50. While in college, I attended baseball and football games in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and basketball at the Omni.
Then Atlanta went on a stadium building binge in the 1990s and updated everything. The Georgia Dome opened in 1992 and played host to a couple of Super Bowls by 2000. It’s a fantastic football destination for colleges, pros and high schools and the occasional Final Four. It remains one of the most comfortable and loudest domes you’ll ever see a game in despite not having all the luxury accoutrements to satisfy Arthur Blank’s underwriters.
Turner Field first opened as Centennial Olympic Stadium in 1996 for the Games that featured unforgettable moments like Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic flame and Michael Johnson shattering the 200-meter world record. The Braves took over the next year.
Philips Arena completed the sports tableau in 1999, housing the NBA and NHL before one of the tenants took off for Winnipeg.
Pretty sure most folks figured Atlanta was set with first-class facilities for the foreseeable future.
That’s old-school thinking, I guess. Major-league franchise owners can’t stand it when other teams have fancier facilities, so they routinely seduce pliable politicians into footing bills for new athletic cathedrals that will excite the local populace into wanting to see what’s inside until it’s no longer new and shiny.
And so Atlanta agrees to foot at least $200 million in public funds for a new open-air Falcons stadium with a retractable roof. The NFL is so flush with cash, it’s probably a pretty good investment. Maybe another Super Bowl might even come to town because of it.
But this new Braves deal is shocking in its uselessness. Turner Field might not be the sexiest stadium in baseball, but it has everything any fan could want for a night out at the ballpark – complete with convenient access to downtown near the intersection of I-20 and the I-75/85 connector.
But now Cobb County is ponying up a reported $450 million of public financing to bring the $672 million multi-use project to a 60-acre site near the intersection of Interstates 75 and 285 near the Cobb Galleria/Cumberland Mall area. The new open-air stadium will apparently seat up to 42,000, downsizing from the nearly 50,000 that can fit in Turner Field. Since the Braves rarely fill the Ted, at least that part makes sense.
What doesn’t is the notion the Braves are doing this to make it more convenient to fans – moving to one of the most congested rush-hour junctions in the nation in a county that has long refused access to MARTA because it might transport the wrong kind of public to its affluent neighborhoods.
“We also recognized that what is insurmountable is we can’t control traffic, which is the No. 1 reason why our fans don’t come to more games,” said Braves exec Mike Plant, who has apparently never driven to Atlanta’s northern suburbs at rush hour when fans would be heading out for a 7:05 p.m. baseball game.
To try to wash all this down, the Braves claim a necessary $150 million in infrastructure work needed for Turner Field – including seat replacement and upgraded lighting and plumbing. So naturally like the rest of us who own homes that might need new roofs and water heaters after a couple decades, you raze the whole structure and build an expensive new house somewhere else.
It’s really sickening considering all of the state’s budget woes – with school systems that are languishing from neglect – that the public will have to fork over a dime (much less well more than half a billion) in an ego race to replace two perfectly good facilities that barely date back to the 20th Century.
Maybe when the owners get bored with their new toys in a couple decades, they can afford to replace them on their own.