ATLANTA (AP) - The city of Atlanta will demolish Turner Field and rebuild in its place a large-scale development after the Braves leave for a new stadium in the suburbs in 2017, the mayor said Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Kasim Reed didn’t provide specifics on the future project, but made clear that the stadium would not be left vacant when the Braves depart.
“We’re going to have a master developer that is going to demolish the Ted and we’re going to have one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had,” he said, referring to the stadium’s nickname.
The mayor said Atlanta had hoped to keep the team in the city but could not afford to do so. He says the city would have had to take on $150 million to $250 million in debt to make the improvements the Braves wanted at Turner Field.
Reed’s decision to let the Braves walk came just a few months after the mayor faced tough criticism for pushing through a plan to use at least $200 million in public money to support a new NFL stadium downtown. While the city made a high-profile effort to help secure a new $1.2 billion, retractable-roof stadium for the NFL’s Falcons, talks with the Braves quietly broke down over the summer.
The Braves unexpectedly announced Monday they are moving in 2017 to a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium about 10 miles from downtown in suburban Cobb County, apparently swayed by a lucrative financial package.
Reed said Monday the city couldn’t match Cobb County’s offer of $450 million in public support to the Braves, though county officials wouldn’t confirm that amount.
The Braves stressed on a team website that the team and the county were still finalizing how expenses for the stadium would be split.
“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 in a statement on the site. “Reports of this figure are erroneous.”
Mike Plant, the Braves executive vice president of business operations, said the team has not signed a contract with Cobb County, but he’s “100 percent certain it will happen.”
Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee said the team is working to finalize a memorandum of understanding that would be presented to the full commission at its Nov. 26 meeting.
He declined to answer any questions about public financing or the $450 million figure cited by Reed.
The Braves had made it clear for years they were not satisfied with Turner Field, located just south of downtown near some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The team frequently cited a lack of neighborhood development, complaints about the closest MARTA rapid-transit station being about a mile away, and the inability to secure more parking spaces.
The site being considered in Cobb County also lacks any rail service. Reed said Tuesday he believes that Cobb County will need some type of rail service at the new stadium site to deal with traffic congestion. The Braves say a system of buses will be used to get fans around the site and predicted that access to the new stadium will be better than at Turner Field.
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.