The Cobb County Braves
On Monday, November 11, residents of the city of Atlanta were surprised to learn that their baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, will move to a new suburban stadium in 2017. When the lease on the team's current home at Turner Field expires in 2016, the Braves will move to a new ballpark at the northwest intersection of I-75 and I-285 in Cobb County.
|Turner Field, April 6, 2013. Photograph by Zpb52. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.|
The Braves moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966 and have played in downtown Atlanta ever since their arrival. Before they began playing at Turner Field in 1997, the home of the Braves was Atlanta-Fulton Stadium; this ballpark was demolished and transformed into parking spaces when the team moved to Turner Field. The ballpark was named after team owner and CNN founder Ted Turner, who purchased the team in 1976.
The Associated Press reports that the Braves have long expressed dissatisfaction with Turner Field. As Maria Saporta wrote in the Saporta Report, an absence of neighborhood development, limited parking facilities, and the fact that the closest Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station is a mile away contributed to the Braves' unhappiness with their current facility. Atlanta Braves vice president of operations Mike Plant stated, "We . . . recognize 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. . . . We are underserved by about 5,000 parking spaces." Many Atlanta residents are concerned that the new stadium site will not be easily accessible via MARTA. As Edward A. Hatfield has noted, residents of Cobb County, an epicenter of suburbanization and white flight in the Metro-Atlanta region, have long opposed government spending on public transportation.
In a press conference and statement Mayor Kasim Reed explained the lack of an agreement to keep the Braves in downtown Atlanta, citing demands by the Braves for "hundreds of millions of dollars" in new infrastructure spending. Reed argued these would have left the city "absolutely cash-strapped" and exacerbated the current backlog of planned infrastructure projects. He also announced plans to redevelop the Turner Field site, promising "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had."
|Distribution of Atlanta Braves fanbase and location of Turner Field and proposed new stadium, November 2013. Map courtesy of the Atlanta Braves.|
|Percentage of metro Atlanta white residents by 2010 census block group, 2013. Data from Social Explorer.|
Forbes contributor Maury Brown claims that the new stadium will follow a current trend in stadium development in the United States. As teams build new ballparks with smaller capacities, ticket prices rise as demand increases. Furthermore, according to the Associated Press, census data reveals that the team is moving to a much wealthier area that is in the heart of the team's fan base. Median household income in the proposed area in Cobb County sits at approximately $61,000, with a poverty level of 8.6 percent. This contrasts dramatically with the median household income of $23,000 and nearly forty percent poverty level in the neighborhood around Turner Field.
|Centennial Olympic Stadium, 1996. Photograph by Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library, 1485.|
Originally called Centennial Olympic Stadium—the site was constructed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics—the stadium hosted athletics competitions and opening and closing ceremonies. S. Zebulon Baker and Kerry Soper noted in 2006, the tenth anniversary of the Atlanta Olympics, that its construction dramatically changed Atlanta, displacing the residents of Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Summerhill neighborhoods. An important piece of Atlanta's history, Turner Field has left an indelible mark on the city's cultural and economic landscape.