What Was The Score Of The Georgia Football Game The Braves Seek Out Suburbia

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The Braves Seek Out Suburbia

The wisdom of cinematic baseball is that if you build it, they will come.

The Atlanta Braves seem to want to add a caveat: “… as long as you make it in the right place.”

In a move the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described as “amazing,” team officials announced the Braves would leave downtown Atlanta for Cobb County, a northwest suburban area whose largest city is Marietta. (1)

The Braves have played in downtown Atlanta since they moved from Milwaukee in 1966, but their current home, Turner Field, is newer. It was built for the 1996 Olympics and became Braves Park in 1997. The team said it will move for the 2017 season, its first chance to do so since its 20-year lease at Turner Field ended.

There is nothing wrong with Turner Field. The only major downside is that it’s not covered and is difficult to play or sit on during a day game in Atlanta in July. But the brave will not go because of the weather. (Team officials said the new arena will also be open-air.) A website the team launched to explain the move cites “some issues that remain unresolved and will become more difficult over the years.” (2) These include inadequate parking and lack of public transportation.

I think those are real issues, but I suspect the Braves have other considerations as well. Money is high on the list as usual. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed released a statement after the Braves announced that keeping the team in downtown Atlanta would cost taxpayers “hundreds of millions of dollars.” He claimed that Cobb County would provide a $450 million subsidy for the new ballpark, a figure neither the Braves nor Cobb County would confirm. Citing Reid, ESPN reported that the city plans to demolish Turner Field after the Braves leave.

However, the Braves didn’t pick Cobb County to take it easy. Like much of metropolitan Atlanta, the area surrounding the proposed stadium is frequently closed, even without the additional traffic a major league venue would generate. As for mass transit, skeptics were quick to point out that the MARTA transit system doesn’t serve Cobb County.

But the suburban green hills have other advantages, chief among them proximity to the Braves’ fan base — a mostly suburban crowd whose children play softball and hardball on impeccably manicured fields. Baseball struggles to attract young players in cities where basketball is particularly popular. In some places, like Atlanta, the central city is not where most fans live, especially those who can afford major league prices. Derek Schiller, a Braves executive, said the new stadium “will be near the geographic center of our fan base.”

The Braves understandably want to get as many of those fans to the ballpark as possible. Despite the Braves’ continued success on the field, they don’t particularly draw crowds in their current stadium. In 2013, they averaged 31,465 in attendance per home game, although Turner Field can hold less than 50,000. The new Cobb County Stadium will hold approximately 41,000 to 42,000 spectators.

Downtown Atlanta is currently lagging behind the nationwide trend of revitalizing urban centers. Unlike Miami, which is full of shiny new high-rises, Atlanta hasn’t attracted a large pool of new downtown residents in recent years. Atlanta is also a high crime city by national standards. There is very little going on downtown after dark. Downtown empties out as people take the freeways to get out of the city or into more popular urban neighborhoods like Buckhead, Little Five Points, and Druid Hills.

While I can’t fault the team’s management, the departure of the Braves looks like a financial disaster for the city. The Braves and Turner Field were one of the early draws to downtown Atlanta. The decision also undermines the position of skeptics who say that publicly funded sports facilities do not add much value to an established large city, whether the stadiums are built for the Olympics (as in Atlanta or this year, in Rio de Janeiro) or for franchises. professional sports.

However, a major league team can put a smaller municipality on the map. It happened in Arlington, Texas, which hosts the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys. It happened in Anaheim, California, home of the Los Angeles of Anaheim and an NHL team, the Anaheim Ducks. It could happen soon in Marietta. As Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, Atlanta’s loss would be Cobb County’s gain, making it “a major destination in the entire Southeast.” (1)

Downtown partisans can take solace in a consolation prize of sorts — a new downtown stadium that houses the drawing boards of the city’s National Football League franchise, the Atlanta Falcons. The team plans to move a little farther from its current home, the 21-year-old Georgia Dome, on the outskirts of downtown.

Football is more popular than baseball around the country, and nowhere is it more different than in Georgia, where even high school teams report their scores on the front page of a metropolitan newspaper. No doubt many will argue that the NFL is a treasure chest and the Braves are the consolation prize in baseball. But the Falcons only hit eight regular-season home games a year, compared to the Braves’ 81. They also mostly play on Sundays when traffic is less of a factor. You can get people to travel almost anywhere for an NFL game, but an eight-day schedule isn’t much to build a city around.

The Braves are a day-in, day-out recruit. It’s too bad the city doesn’t offer a more attractive place to keep them.

Sources:

1) Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Shocking News: Atlanta Braves Move Cobb”

2) House of the brave

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