That was my reaction after reading the breaking news headlines this morning:
The Atlanta Braves plan to build a new stadium in Cobb County and move there from Turner Field at the start of the 2017 season, team officials said today.
Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller said the new ballpark will be built near the intersection of I-75 and I-285 in the Galleria/Cumberland Mall area. They said the team has “secured” 60 acres of land for the project.
Because Turner Field is… ?
That’s weird and crazy. The Ted is a good stadium, one I would objectively consider among the better stadiums in baseball. This would make the lifespan of that stadium 20 years. Let’s also consider that the team has pumped millions into Turner Field in the past few years, adding the huge scoreboard and new types of luxury seating behind home plate.
My best guesses on why this move it taking place:
- The team is doubling down on the commuter stadium. Since MARTA does not directly connect with Turner Field, they might as well decouple all transit options from accessing games. Ironically this move could spur MARTA’s long-held plans to extend a rail line into Cobb County, with the Galleria/Cumberland Mall area being the logical entry point.
- The need to find more revenue. Since their TV deal is below industry standards and locked in place for years to come the team must see a new stadium as a way to add more high-dollar seating options to help fund the team. Luxury seating upgrades have been added every year for the past few years to Turner Field, but an entirely new stadium gives the team the opportunity to add lots of high-dollar seating and possibly get an advantage over other teams. Consider that the Braves don’t currently sell out their luxury suites, but many of those suites are in non-preferential locations towards the outfield.
- This could be a negotiating tactic to secure a more favorable lease with the City of Atlanta. John Schuerholz is using a similar tactic to the one the Falcons used to secure funding from Atlanta for their new stadium, claiming that many millions of dollars worth of “upgrades” are needed… see point 2 above for what he probably means by upgrades. Of course, by doing most of this deal with Cobb County in secret the Braves seem to be removing the leverage they would have. On the flip side of that argument they could feel that there is fatigue for a new stadium in Atlanta after the Falcons debacle and that they don’t even want to float the idea with the city.
- They want to build a facility that incorporates more than just baseball, with a mixed use network of facilities (that they own) surrounding the stadium (and generating more and more revenue). The parking lots currently surrounding Turner Field are owned by the City of Atlanta, and any traction for a development plan for them has been non existent, and might encounter the same problems of political red tape that a new stadium would.
- The Braves want a new stadium and feel that Atlanta was a non-starter since they would be effectively competing with the Falcons for limited city funds.
- A new highly favorable stadium deal increases the team’s overall value should Liberty Media seek to sell the franchise.
Click here for the message from John Schuerholz on the move. He seems serious.
This is a big story, and many people will focus on the move to Cobb, but also consider that this will effectively end Atlanta’s Olympic legacy buildings — the Georgia Dome will be demolished after the new Falcons stadium is built, and Turner Field is the former Olympic Stadium.