Storin: Atlanta stadiums have short shelf-life

storapse@aol.comNovember 14, 2013 

Braves Stadium Baseball

In this March 29, 1997 file photo, fans fill the stands as the Atlanta Braves play an exhibition game against the New York Yankess in the first baseball game ever played at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves are leaving Turner Field and moving into a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium complex in Cobb County in 2017.

RIC FELD — File -- The Associated Press

What is it about Atlanta that causes its stadiums to become obsolete less than 20 years after they open?

A year ago the Falcons announced they planned, with taxpayer help, to build a $1 billion stadium. It would replace the Georgia Dome, which has been the home of the pro football team since 1992.

This week the Braves revealed plans for a new home in Cobb County, about 14 miles north of Turner Field, the baseball team's home in Fulton County for all of 17 years. It is not clear yet how much of the $672 million ballpark will be paid for by the Braves and how much by new taxes.

I guess that buildings just deteriorate faster in Atlanta than they do in such places as Boston and Chicago, where the Red Sox and Cubs play in stadiums more than 100 years old.

Of course that is not the case at all.

The Braves put it this way in a statement on its web site:

"The reason for moving is simple. The current location has certain issues that are insurmountable and will only become more problematic over the years. These fundamental issues involve how you, our fans, access Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates."

In addition the website added: "the suburban stadium would be closer to the geographic center of the team's fan base in the city's sprawling northern suburbs."

My question about that statement is: what is different with the Fulton County location now than in 1997?

From 1966 to 1996 the Braves played in Fulton County Stadium, then moved across the street to Centennial Olympic Stadium erected as a 85,000-seat home for the Olympic Games. It was downsized to a 50,000-seat baseball park after the Olympics.

It all made sense back then. The 1996 Olympic Committee got a stadium built with private funds for the highlight events of the Olympic Games -- opening and closing ceremonies and track/field competition.

And the Braves got a brand new ballpark at very little cost to the franchise.

However, Braves management should have known before moving into Turner Field in 1997 that "access" to the ball park was going to be a problem. They should have known there was "a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates."

And above all else, they should have been aware that Turner Field was not the "center of the team's fan base." The proposed park is in the suburbs, closer to the team's ticket-buying fan base.

It is interesting that when the Georgia Dome and Olympic Stadium (alias Turner Field) were built there was talk of tremendous development in the neighborhoods surrounding the structures. That revitalization has failed to take place.

With the aid of new hotel/motel taxes (estimated $300 million), the Georgia Dome will be torn down and the Falcons will get a state of the art billion dollar-plus stadium next door.

The Braves asked for $150 to $250 million for infrastructure improvements to keep the team downtown. They were denied and can't understand why the Atlanta politicians would raise taxes for the Falcons and not for them.

So it is off to Cobb County where the lion's share of the $672 million 42,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof will somehow be financed by the county (i.e. taxpayers).

Still to be addressed is two of those "insurmountable" issues that the Braves mentioned in their reasons for moving -- "access" to the ball park and "lack of consistent mass transportation."

The new venue will be at the intersection of I-75 and I-285, which is already a congested area. Cobb County has no mass transportation and has resisted the expansion of rapid transit (MARTA) into its domain since its inception.

Sounds to me like more taxes for infrastructure to reroute traffic.

Oh, and by the way, like the Georgia Dome, Turner Field will be demolished in 2017 -- just 20 years after it opened.

This will bring the record for the two franchises combined to:

Stadiums destroyed -- 3.

World Series/Super Bowl titles -- 1.

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