Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Braves Move: Many Misconceptions

I lived near downtown Atlanta for 15 years, at Georgia Tech, Little Five Points, and Morningside. I’ve walked to games at Atlanta Stadium. I have attended Braves games my entire life -  including multiple games for the past 30 years. I am as familiar with the Turner Field area as any resident now living outside the perimeter. Every weekday I commute 40 miles back and forth to work through rush hour traffic. Like many long-time Atlantans, I know numerous routes around many parts of the city to avoid traffic.

Since the Braves announced yesterday they were moving twelve miles up the road, most of the comments I have read have been erroneous, if not ignorant. Questions with obvious answers from people from Charleston and Colorado. People without knowledge of the history and circumstances of the politics, jurisdiction, and business involved. As a fan, all this bothers me much more than it should. People aren’t reading the reason the Braves published as to why they’re moving.  

NOTHING WRONG WITH TURNER FIELD: By the time the Braves current stadium lease expires Turner Field will need over $150 million worth of work merely to maintain the facility. With no hope of improving the area around the stadium, the team would invest their money in a place where their customers would feel safer and enjoy the experience more. The fact that Atlanta City Council members and MARTA board members were caught completely unaware, which indicates that they weren’t doing their job very well. The City and State are kicking in hundreds of millions for a new Falcons stadium. The Northside Drive area around the dome was never enhanced, either. The football team will use this facility about ten times per year, though a new dome would also be used for other events/games/concerts as well. The Braves stadium is used 85-90 times a year. Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed wishes the Braves well, but inexplicably says the Turner Field area will be rebuilt as a middle class neighborhood. How?

NEIGHBORHOOD BLIGHT: Many people don’t realize the Braves do not own Turner Field and don’t have the rights to develop the area around the stadium. The team has commissioned plans for development, but the City of Atlanta and the business community don’t think it’s a wise enough investment to invest. Past developments were poorly conceived and run, like the failed entertainment center / putt putt course. For some reason MARTA has tried to back out of their game day shuttle busses. For the entire length of the Braves current stadium lease the City has done nothing to enhance the value of the Turner Field area, despite the pleas of the community residents and the repeated monetary offers by the Braves organization.

TRAFFIC WORSE! Many say traffic at the new location will be an issue, forgetting the daily nightmare of traffic on the downtown connector. Getting to the new stadium will be no harder than getting to Turner Field. And since the new stadium will be closer to the majority of the ticket-buying fan base, the commute will actually be easier. Even fans coming from Gwinnett County won’t have a longer or worse commute to the new stadium. The Cobb Transit Authority runs busses that connect with MARTA, but many forget there isn’t a train station within a mile of Turner Field. For this reason only a tiny percentage of fans ever took public transportation to Turner Field.

BUT THE SUBURBS? Another misconception is that the Braves are moving to the all-white suburbs. The new site is only ten miles north of the city center. The Cobb Parkway / Cumberland Mall area is no white-bread suburb. It’s actually an area I’d rather avoid. Most of the stores currently open at Cumberland Mall are more reminiscent of an inner-city Greenbriar Mall than the upscale Phipps Plaza. Like Norcross and most of Marietta and Roswell, most of Atlanta’s northern arc has become as multicultural as almost anywhere else in the metro area. I wouldn’t mind moving further north, north of Alpharetta toward South Forsyth. There’s a good chance the new stadium will feature an even nicer Atlanta skyline view than Turner Field. The view beyond the outfield fences would include the Perimeter Mall skyscrapers, Buckhead’s impressive skyline, Midtown, and downtown. Even Stone Mountain could been seen in the distance.

SMYRNA BRAVES? People also don’t understand that the new stadium will continue to have an Atlanta address. There have been rumors that the Braves will make minor changes to their branding/logos/uniforms. I have seen nothing official, though the idea makes sense. The Washington Redskins will be changing their names after this season, the there is a move afoot for the Indians to get rid of the Chief Wahoo logo. The Indians have already quietly added alternate uniforms without the Chief Wahoo patch, and caps with a C. While the Braves tomahawk uniforms have become almost as iconic as Yankee pinstripes or the Cardinals’ redbirds on the bat, the move may be the time to drop the tomahawk in favor of the already popular cream-colored 1960’s era unis. Or not.

DAMNED OWNERS! Many are blaming the Braves absentee owners Liberty media for the move. In fact, they had nothing to do with it. When Braves officials informed their parent company of the direction they were considering, Liberty only agreed. They did not initiate or involve themselves in the negotiations. Liberty has agreed to increase payroll between 11-22% for next season, a fact also overlooked by the fans.

PAYROLL TOO LOW! Uneducated fans are always saying the Braves need to increase payroll in order to win World Series championships. While payroll and championships are not directly related (otherwise the Yankees and Dodgers would win every year), these fans should welcome the move: higher attendance and increased revenues means a higher payroll. Comments also call the Braves losers, despite their 96 wins this season. Over their entire histories, the Braves have consistently won a greater percentage of games than the Falcons.   

While I will enjoy following every story about the move, I do dislike all the misinformation and uneducated comments.

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