The mayor made it sound as though the city never had a chance after Cobb County officials offered up a site that will give the Braves more options for commercial development, including restaurants, retail shops, hotels and entertainment facilities. Despite the lack of any rapid-transit in Cobb County and the stadium site being located next to one of the city’s most congested interchanges _ a swath of interstates that are as wide as seven lanes _ the Braves insisted the new stadium could actually provide easier access because of a planned “circulator” bus system.
“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,” Reed said in the statement.
Derek Schiller, the team’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, said the Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority will own the new stadium, with construction scheduled to begin next summer. The team would be responsible for any cost overruns, and Schiller said other financial details would be released soon.
The Braves immediately launched a website that said the new stadium would be closer to the geographic center of the team’s fan base. Also, Census data shows the team is moving to a much more prosperous area, with a median household income of about $61,000 and a poverty level of 8.6 percent, compared to $23,000 and nearly 40 percent for the neighborhood surrounding Turner Field.
Bucking the trend of pro teams seeking stadiums and arenas closer to the city center, the Braves‘ new facility will be part of a 60-acre development near Cobb Galleria mall. Plant compared it to new ballparks in Cincinnati, San Diego and Houston, as well as L.A. Live, which hosts the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers and the NHL’s Kings at Staples Center.
“With our current location, we couldn’t control that process,” Plant said. “This site allows us to do that.”
Turner Field opened as the 85,000-seat main stadium for the 1996 Olympics, hosting athletics as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
After the Olympics, the stadium was renamed after former Braves owner Ted Turner, downsized to about 50,000 seats and converted to a baseball park for the 1997 season, replacing Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium across the street. The old stadium was imploded and turned into a parking lot for the new facility, just a week after the city’s Omni coliseum met the same fate.
As Turner Field, the park hosted the 1999 World Series, 2000 All-Star game and four National League championship series.
Commissioner Bud Selig said he was kept informed of the negotiations and endorsed the team’s decision, even though Turner Field is newer than 13 of Major League Baseball’s other 29 stadiums and would certainly be an upgrade over facilities in Oakland and Tampa Bay, which have tried for years to build new parks without success.
“Maybe they can put the old one on wheels and send it to Tampa,” joked Sandy Alderson, general manager of the NL East rival New York Mets.
Others around baseball were surprised by the announcement.
“That one came out of nowhere,” said New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
The Falcons are also scheduled to move into their new stadium in 2017, a downtown facility that will be built next door to the Georgia Dome. The old stadium will be leveled after its replacement opens.